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You had a hearty breakfast before you left for work an hour ago, but your stomach is already growling. Sound familiar? Pregnancy can ramp up your appetite significantly.
The challenge is that you get only a limited number of "extra" calories per day to play with, but they need to be nutrition-dense.
We've put together our top 10 snacks for moms-to-be. They all help meet your need for essential pregnancy nutrients, are easy to assemble, are generously sized, and clock in between 200 and 300 calories. And they're all tasty, too!
1. Apple and cheese
1 medium apple with hard cheese like cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Swiss
Most women don't get enough fiber in their diet to begin with, and pregnancy increases your requirement to about 28 to 30 grams (g) of fiber daily. That can be a tall order when you're dealing with morning sickness in the first trimester (or maybe beyond) or that full and bloated feeling later on. To make sure you're hitting the fiber mark, it's smart to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet, which also help to keep you hydrated.
One medium apple has more than 4 g of fiber and is just 95 calories. Apples are pleasantly crunchy and couldn’t be more portable. Plus, apple peel is full of pectin, a soluble fiber that may improve digestive health.
Another must-have pregnancy nutrient is calcium. Moms-to-be need 1,000 milligrams (mg) of this mineral each day. Not only is calcium necessary for keeping your bones and teeth strong, it's essential for your baby's bone structure. And if you don't get enough through the foods you eat or a supplement, your growing baby will take it from your bones. Note: Prenatal vitamins – though packed with other important nutrients – typically don't contain much calcium, so don't count on yours to meet this need.
Each 1-ounce slice of cheddar cheese has 200 mg of calcium, netting you 20 percent of your daily requirement. Each slice is about 110 calories and 9 g of fat, so stick to one or two slices.
2. Egg on an English muffin
1 egg (scrambled or fried) on an English muffin or toast
You've probably been reading lots in the news about vitamin D. It helps calcium get absorbed in the body, and it has been linked to preventing cancer, boosting immunity, and reducing inflammation.
During pregnancy it's vital to get enough vitamin D to help support your baby's growing bones and teeth, and to make sure your little one's immune system functions properly outside the womb. Pregnant women need 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Up to 4,000 IU per day is safe, according to the Institute of Medicine.
One egg serves up 20 IU of vitamin D. The vitamin D is in the egg yolk, so don't ditch the yolk but do make sure it's cooked through! Other good sources are fortified milk (98 IU per 8 ounces), salmon (360 IU per 3.5 ounces), and canned tuna (200 IU per 3 ounces).
Egg yolks also contain choline, which is essential for your little one's developing brain and can help prevent birth defects. You need 450 mg daily of choline, and you can knock out 125 mg with just one egg.
3. Homemade trail mix
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup dried tart cherries, 1/2 cup raw almonds, and 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks (makes 2 cups; 1/2 cup = 1 serving)
1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, 1/2 cup dried diced mango, and 1/2 cup cashews (makes 2 cups; 1/2 cup = 1 serving)
Note: Store the trail mix in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresh.
There are many varieties of trail mix you can make, but these recipes offer a tasty mix of pregnancy boosters containing calcium, vitamin D, and the mineral magnesium, which helps build bones and teeth. Moms-to-be need about 300 mg of magnesium daily (depending on their age), and pumpkin seeds offer that amount in just a quarter of a cup. Other good sources of magnesium include cooked spinach, black beans, and Brazil nuts.
Trouble drifting off at night? Most women find it hard to sleep at some point in their pregnancy. Dried tart cherries contain naturally occurring melatonin, which may improve the quality and duration of sleep. Try mixing them into your trail mix or cereal for a bedtime snack.
Dark chocolate contains heart-protective cocoa flavanols and has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Plus, it contains small amounts of the bone-building minerals magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and phosphorus.
Make sure to include almonds in your diet – especially if you're not big on dairy products. Per ounce, almonds contain 76 mg of calcium, plus 1 mg of iron and 3.5 g of fiber. And the fat they contain is almost all heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Snack on them whole, or use them atop yogurt, oatmeal, and salads.
4. Greek yogurt parfait
A small container of plain Greek yogurt topped with 1 cup blueberries and 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
There are many reasons why Greek yogurt has become the star of the dairy aisle. It's loaded with protein (it requires twice as much milk to make), boasting about 14 g of protein per 5.3-ounce single-serving container. For the same reason, it provides 15 percent of your daily calcium requirement. It also contains probiotics, which help you maintain a healthy digestive system. All that, plus a smooth and creamy texture that makes even nonfat taste decadent.
Topping Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries adds nearly 4 g of fiber and only 84 calories, plus an antioxidant boost. Two tablespoons of chopped walnuts (half an ounce) adds 93 calories, 1 g of fiber, and healthy omega-3 fats. Walnuts also contain the B vitamin biotin, which helps you get energy from the food you eat.
5. Veggies or chips and guacamole
1/2 cup cucumber slices, 1/2 cup carrots, and 1/2 cup celery sticks with 1/4 cup guacamole
1 ounce (about 10 chips) of lower sodium tortilla chips with 1/4 cup guacamole
Most women have some swelling in their hands, feet, ankles, and calves at some point in their pregnancy. Avoiding excess sodium will help you beat the bloat. When you've consumed too much salt, your body holds on to more water to help keep the sodium levels in your body balanced. Drinking more water and eating food with a high water content will help you flush the excess salt from your system.
Both cucumber and celery are low in calories and contain a lot of water (96 and 95 percent respectively; carrots are 87 percent water). And guacamole is packed with potassium, a vital mineral that helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in your body's cells. Make your own to control the sodium –mash a ripe avocado with the juice of a lime, then stir in some chopped red onion and cilantro.
If you really love your guac with tortilla chips, look for chips with less than 100 mg of sodium per 1 ounce serving.
6. Cottage cheese, fruit, and granola
A small bowl of 1 percent-fat cottage cheese topped with 1 cup of diced mango and 2 tablespoons of high-fiber granola
A snack-size cup of cottage cheese (4 ounces) nets you 69 mg of calcium and 14 g of protein for just 81 calories. Mix it with 1 cup of bright, juicy mango and you'll get the added bonus of 71 micrograms (mcg) folate, a B vitamin that plays a key role in the development of your baby's spinal cord and nerves.
During pregnancy you need 600 mcg of folic acid/folate daily. Of course your prenatal vitamin will include folic acid, but folate from food sources is beneficial too. One cup of fresh mango also contains almost 3 g of fiber to help combat constipation. Other high-fiber fruits include apples, pears, and oranges.
Many types of store-bought granola are high in sugar and don't have a lot of fiber. Look for one with at least 3 g of fiber per 1/3 cup serving and no more than 9 g of sugar.
7. Mashed avocado on crackers
Half an avocado spread onto 1 slice of rye crisp bread or crackers
If you've been plagued by leg cramps during your pregnancy, it's time to eat more avocado. A lack of potassium can cause leg muscles to cramp. And as mentioned above, avocado is a potassium powerhouse. (Half of this creamy, delicious fruit contains 345 mg of potassium, 114 calories, and nearly 5 g of fiber.) During pregnancy you need 4,700 mg of the mineral each day, which sounds like a shocking amount, but most fruits and vegetables contain at least some potassium.
Keep up with your fiber needs by noshing on whole-grain, low-sodium crackers or rye crisp bread, which offers up nearly 2 g fiber per 37-calorie cracker.
8. Tortilla with hummus and tomatoes
1 whole-grain tortilla or pita, 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes, and 1/4 cup hummus
For something savory in that stretch between lunch and dinner, grab a whole-grain tortilla or pita and load in halved cherry tomatoes and hummus. Tomatoes are super low-cal (just 25 calories per cup) and have a substantial amount of beta-carotene, which is important for a healthy immune system.
Hummus packs just over 100 calories per 1/4 cup and provides 3 g of protein, 2 g fiber, and nearly 1 mg of iron, helping you reach your daily goal of 27 mg per day.
9. Toaster waffle with almond butter and pear
1 toasted, whole-wheat frozen waffle or slice of whole-wheat toast topped with 2 tablespoons almond butter and sliced pear
Sometimes you just need something to satisfy your sweet tooth. Pump up the nutrition of a frozen waffle or toast by smearing it with natural almond butter, which has no added sugar. Almond butter offers 3 g of protein and more than 1.5 g of fiber in each 98-calorie tablespoon. Layer pear or apple slices on top for some natural sweetness and extra fiber.
10. Melon with lime
Watermelon or other melon with a squeeze of lime
Watermelon is 92 percent water, so it'll help you stay hydrated during pregnancy while also providing a sweet treat. And each cup of diced watermelon has 170 mg of potassium. You can also make homemade watermelon juice by blending it with some fresh lime or lemon juice and then straining the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Then just chill and sip!
Frances Largeman-Roth is a nationally recognized nutrition expert and bestselling author. She has written Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide and Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family.