Healthy snacks during pregnancy

AndieM.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200

Snacks are an important part of a healthy pregnancy eating plan, especially in the second and third trimesters when your calorie intake needs increase to support the growth of your baby. The quality of your diet is key – you’re not really “eating for two”, but rather “thinking for two.” So be mindful and adjust the size of your regular meals to accommodate more snack time. Reaching for snacks at regular intervals will help you throughout your pregnancy by:

  • Increasing your intake of protein, fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains, as well as calcium, folate, iron and other vitamins and minerals important during pregnancy
  • Ensuring you’re eating enough calories, especially in late pregnancy when early satiety (feeling full after eating a small amount of food) becomes an issue as your growing baby takes up more space in your middle, leaving less room for food in your stomach
  • Preventing you from becoming too hungry, which can lead to overeating and unnecessary weight gain
  • Managing common pregnancy discomforts like nausea, heartburn, uncomfortable fullness, and exhaustion
  • Keeping your energy up!

What to Do

Eat every few hours

Try to eat three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) plus two to three snacks each day. Typically this means eating a mid-morning snack between breakfast and lunch and a mid-afternoon snack between lunch and dinner. Or, you may prefer eating two snacks in the morning and/or one snack after dinner. Listen to your body, and don’t worry so much about watching the clock. If you feel like you need a little something, then grab a snack!

Snacks are an opportunity to increase your nutrient intake

Snacks can be smaller portions of the healthy components you would include in a regular meal. Rather than falling for the trend that snacks are an invitation to eat junk food, use snack time as an opportunity to incorporate a wide variety of the vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and lean protein you and your baby need.

Avoid processed snack foods

If the label contains a laundry list of refined ingredients, replace it with naturally sweet (like fruit) or savory (like 1 slice of cheese or 1 Tablespoon of almond butter on a whole grain rice cake) food items to satisfy your cravings.

Focus on eating snacks, not drinking them

With the exception of whole fruit and veggie smoothies (which can be full of fiber, vitamins and minerals), calories from drinks are often void of nutrients and loaded with sugar, additives and caffeine.

Practice good food safety even with snacks

Perishable foods should be refrigerated or kept on ice in a cooler if you are out of the house or away from your desk. Remember to reheat any leftovers and deli meats until steaming hot. Choose pasteurized dairy (or dairy alternative) products, juices and ciders and avoid any foods that are off limits when pregnant.

Plan ahead!

Make sure you have healthy and appealing snack choices at your disposal and the tools you need to safely enjoy them (for example, a microwave for reheating). Always pack snacks for while you are out and about and keep your favorite healthy foods stocked at home.

Try these healthy snack ideas and recipes:

  • ½ cup plain, low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese with your favorite toppings like fresh fruit or berries, dried fruit, nuts, seeds or granola
  • Unlimited raw vegetables like carrots, celery, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini or summer squash dipped in 2 tablespoons of tzatziki, hummus, baba ganoush or guacamole
  • 1 cup vegetable-based soup like lentil, hearty vegetable or three-bean chili
  • A nutrition bar: Look for one where the only ingredients are whole foods like fruit (dried fruit is fine) and nuts.
  • 1 piece of fresh fruit
  • 1 serving of whole grain rice cakes, bread, or crackers with 2 tablespoons plain (no salt or sugar added) nut or seed butter like almond, cashew, sunflower or peanut butter, or feel free to substitute an apple, banana or celery for the whole grain
  • ¼ cup trail mix with nuts and dried fruit. Need a salty fix? Throw in a few pretzels (bonus if they are whole grain!). Looking for something sweet? Toss in a few chocolate chips (bonus: go for 70% or higher cacao content)
  • 1 ounce crumbled feta cheese (pasteurized, of course!) over 2 cups of cold watermelon pieces
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1½ cups of kale chips
  • 2 cups of steamed edamame pods
  • 1 cup frozen grapes
  • 1 string cheese
  • 1 serving of roasted chickpeas*
  • 1 frozen banana dipped in dark chocolate
  • 1 serving of chia pudding*
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce with a dash of cinnamon
  • 1 small sweet potato baked and topped with ¼ cup Greek yogurt and scallions
  • Dried Seaweed*, especially plain, toasted sheets of nori
  • ½ cup of whole grain cereal (less than 5g of sugar per serving) with milk or milk-alternative
  • 1 slice of whole grain toast with 1½ tablespoons ricotta cheese and 2 sliced figs
  • ½ cup oatmeal with fresh blueberries and cinnamon
  • 1 whole grain waffle plain or topped with 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries
  • 1 serving of popcorn*: look for brands that limit fat and salt or even better, make your own on the stovetop (layer the bottom of a heavy duty pot with olive oil, add 1½ tablespoons corn kernels, cover, heat over medium-high heat giving an occasional shake until there are 2 seconds between pops) or in the microwave (put 1½ tablespoons corn kernels into a brown paper bag, fold the bag over, and microwave until there are 2 seconds between pops) top your homemade popcorn with olive oil, a dash of salt and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Avocado smeared on whole grain toast and topped with chia seeds and lemon juice
  • 1 cup fruit smoothie: blend your favorite fruits (think bananas, berries, mango, etc) and ice with milk, milk alternative or yogurt; looking for an extra boost, try adding spinach or kale or 1 tablespoon of nut butter, ground flax seeds or chia seeds
  • Homemade quesadilla: melt 1 ounce cheese on ½ whole wheat tortilla and sprinkle with black beans and chopped tomatoes or salsa
  • Homemade pita pizza: layer ½ whole wheat pita with tomato sauce, 1 ounce cheese, veggies and bake or microwave
  • No Bake Fruit Crisp: microwave ¼ cup granola (less than 5g sugar per serving) with ½ cup blackberries and voila!
  • Egg Muffins: beat eggs and add in your favorite chopped veggies, pour into a greased muffin tin and bake 10-12 minutes at 350*F

*See Nutrition Facts for serving size information.