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Eating for two? Dietitians share 16 nourishing snacks and tips on foods to avoid during pregnancy

Rebecca Strong   

Eating for two? Dietitians share 16 nourishing snacks and tips on foods to avoid during pregnancy
  • During pregnancy, eating every few hours may help prevent nausea, low energy, and fatigue.
  • Snacks that combine protein, fiber, and healthy fats can boost energy and keep you feeling full.

If you find yourself feeling hungrier than ever during pregnancy, rest assured that's entirely normal. After all, growing a baby requires a lot of extra energy — which you get from food.

But when those hunger pangs hit, it's important to reach for snacks that provide the nutrients you need to handle the extra demands on your body. The right nutrients also promote healthy development for your growing baby.

Plus, maintaining a well-balanced diet can help you avoid common and unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, like nausea and constipation.

Below, registered dietitians share key insights into your nutritional needs during pregnancy — along with a few ideas to get you started and some helpful snacking tips.

16 dietitian-approved snacks for pregnant people

Becca Harris, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice, advises practicing intuitive eating and listening to your body rather than aiming for a specific caloric range for your snacks during pregnancy.

"Focusing too much on caloric value may distract you from your hunger cues. My advice is to eat when you feel hungry and to check in with yourself every 2-4 hours," she says.

Note: Current medical guidelines suggest pregnant women need, on average, about 300 additional calories a day.

With that in mind, here are some satisfying dietitian-approved snacks to try during pregnancy.

1. One sliced apple or banana with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter

2. 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with ¾ cup sliced mango and 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

3. ½ cup cottage cheese with one sliced clementine

4. 1 slice whole-grain toast with ⅓ of avocado, ½ cup arugula, and 1 hard-boiled egg

5. ½ cup oatmeal topped with ½ cup blueberries and 2 tablespoons slivered almonds

6. 1 cup roasted or air-fried chickpeas

7. ¼ cup hummus with 1 serving of whole-grain pita chips or ½ cup carrot sticks

8. 1 frozen banana blended into "ice cream" and topped with ¼ cup walnuts

9. 1 serving of whole-grain crackers and a string cheese

10. One serving (about 15) of homemade roasted or air-fried sweet potato chips

11. 3 dates stuffed with 2 tablespoons almond butter

12. Two brown rice cakes with ¼ cup guacamole

13. ¼ cup pumpkin seeds with ¼ cup dried unsweetened cherries or cranberries

14. 1 cup strawberries dipped in ¼ cup chocolate hummus

15. One serving of multigrain corn chips with ¼ cup black bean dip

16. Chia seed pudding made with 1 tablespoon chia seeds and topped with ½ cup raspberries

Snacking tips

There's no hard or fast rule on how often to snack during pregnancy, but Harris says it's important to listen to your body and eat whenever you feel hungry or lethargic.

She also advises against going more than three or four hours without eating anything.

Eating snacks between meals can help keep your blood sugar from fluctuating too much throughout the day, which can help prevent dips in energy and surges in nausea, Harris says.

Harris advises seeking out snacks that provide a combination of protein and fiber or healthy fat — these combinations tend to be the most filling, and they're less likely to spike your blood sugar.

Here are some of the key nutrients to prioritize during pregnancy, according to Harris.

NutrientWhy it's importantFood sourcesRecommended daily value during pregnancy
ProteinThis macronutrient provides the building blocks for development, Harris says. It also helps balance blood sugar, which can ease nausea.Eggs, lean meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, dairy, tofu, beans, peas, and lentils60 grams (g)
Folate This B vitamin can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Folate also plays a crucial role in neural tube development.Dark leafy greens, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains, eggs, and seafood600 micrograms
IronThe amount of blood in your body increases during pregnancy to support your baby's growth and development, which is why you need plenty of iron.Beans, lentils, tofu, red meat, turkey, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and fortified cereals27 milligrams (mg)
Vitamin CGetting enough vitamin C can help reduce your risk of anemia and preeclampsia during pregnancy. Also, this vitamin helps your body absorb iron better, which is why Harris advises combining iron-rich foods with those high in vitamin C.Citrus fruit, tomatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, kale, bell peppers, and broccoli85 mg
CalciumThe calcium you consume helps your baby's bones and teeth develop, Harris says. It can also reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia. If you don't get enough calcium, your body will take it from your own bones, raising your risk of osteoporosis. Dairy products, almonds, dark green vegetables, fortified oatmeal or cereal, and almonds1,000 mg
Omega-3 fatty acidsAccording to Harris, these fatty acids are essential for your baby's brain and eye development. Experts have linked low intake of omega-3 fatty acids to premature birth and low birth weight.Soybeans, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and oily fish200-300 mg DHA — around 8 ounces or 2 servings of seafood per week

Snacks to avoid or limit during pregnancy

You're at a higher risk of contracting food poisoning during pregnancy, Harris says, which makes it essential to take some extra precautions with what you eat.

Many experts consider the following foods unsafe during pregnancy:

Fish high in mercury

When mercury builds up in your bloodstream, it can damage your baby's brain and nervous system. Fish with the highest levels of mercury include:

  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Tilefish
  • Shark
  • Orange roughy
  • Bigeye tuna

Instead, Mel Spinella, registered dietitian, founder of Well By Mel Nutrition, recommends opting for fish that are low in mercury but high in omega-3s. Examples include:

  • Salmon
  • Freshwater trout
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Pacific mackerel

Premade meat or seafood salads and spreads

During pregnancy, illness from bacteria called listeria may lead to miscarriage, premature labor, low birth weight, and other health problems in your baby. The following premade products at your local deli or grocery store may contain listeria:

  • Chicken salad
  • Ham salad
  • Tuna salad
  • Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads

Raw or undercooked seafood and meat

Undercooked seafood and meat is more likely to contain illness-causing bacteria and parasites — which can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or developmental issues in your baby.

Examples include:

  • Sushi
  • Raw oysters and clams
  • Steaks and burgers cooked medium-rare or rare
  • Cold-cured meats, like salami and prosciutto
  • Smoked fish, like lox
  • Deli meats

Always cook seafood, poultry, and meat to the USDA-recommended minimum safe internal temperature.

Important: Deli meats and hot dogs may come pre-cooked, but they could contain listeria. It's essential to reheat them until steaming hot before eating.

Raw or undercooked eggs

Always cook your eggs until both the yolks and whites are firm. Avoid any products with raw eggs, including:

  • Eggs Benedict
  • Homemade ice cream or egg nog
  • Unbaked dough or batter
  • Hollandaise sauce

Raw or undercooked sprouts

There may be E.coli or salmonella bacteria in raw or undercooked:

  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Clover sprouts
  • Radish sprouts

For this reason, you should always cook sprouts thoroughly before eating them.

Unpasteurized foods

Pasteurization involves heating foods to a certain temperature to kill off potentially harmful bacteria. Many soft cheeses are unpasteurized and therefore, unsafe to eat during pregnancy. Examples include:

  • Brie
  • Feta
  • Queso fresco and queso blanco
  • Roquefort
  • Camembert

Keep in mind that some juices and ciders can be unpasteurized, as well. Always check to make sure the products you consume are pasteurized.

Additional foods you may want to consider limiting include:

Insider's takeaway

As your hunger increases and you ramp up your food intake, experts advise focusing on foods high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats to benefit your health and your baby's development.

Also, aim to choose foods high in essential nutrients during pregnancy, such as folate, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.

At the same time, you may want to avoid raw or undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat, and unpasteurized products.

Whenever possible, substitute processed foods for whole foods, which are much higher in the nutrients that you and your growing baby need.

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