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How to snack healthily when you're pregnant

Navigating food aversions, cravings and sickness when you are pregnant can be a nightmare. Sometimes, all you want to eat is junk food - and even the thought of eating greens is enough to make you feel ill. However, it is important to eat well when you’re expecting and snacking can help ease nausea.

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How to eat healthily when you're pregnant

Eating healthily is always important, but it's especially so if you're pregnant as it helps your baby develop and grow.

You should eat a range of foods, including starchy foods such as wholemeal bread and potatoes, fruit and vegetables, fibre and protein such as meat, fish and pulses. Dairy foods such as milk are also important in pregnancy because they contain calcium and other nutrients that you and your baby need.

Healthy snacks can help keep your energy up when pregnant, as it is common to feel tired. Additionally, if you're struggling with nausea or sickness, snacking - or eating little and often - can help.

Susan Nagle, a paediatric dietitian at Dietitian Fit says: "Sickness is an unpleasant side effect of pregnancy that many women struggle with. Eating small, frequent meals of plain foods that are high in carbohydrate and low in fat, such as bread, rice, crackers and pasta may help ease it.

"Nausea is often worse when your stomach is empty so trying a little and often approach may help reduce morning sickness," she suggests. "Try keeping crackers on your bedside table and nibbling on these as soon as you wake up to reduce the onset of sickness."

Patient picks for Diet and lifestyle during pregnancy

So what kind of snacks should you reach for when you're pregnant?

Calcium-rich foods

Firstly, it's important to choose snacks that contain nutrients that are essential in pregnancy, such as calcium.

"Try crackers and cheese, a yoghurt, or hot chocolate with milk," says Nagle. "Fruit smoothies made with milk are also a great option. Most low-fat options contain the same amount of calcium as full-fat options, but often contain more sugar - so these are best avoided. Choose full-fat Greek yoghurt options instead. If opting for a dairy-free alternative, choose one that is fortified with calcium."

Often, yoghurts made with oat, coconut, or soya milk contain added calcium, but it's important to check the label.

Iron-rich snacks

Your body needs iron to create healthy red blood cells for both you and your baby. Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body to your organs and tissues, as well as to your baby. However, in pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases by almost 50 percent and some women become short of red blood cells - a condition called anaemia.

"Opt for a handful of dried fruit such as apricots, which can be eaten on their own or sprinkled on some overnight oats or fortified cereals," says Nagle.

Eggs and green leafy vegetables and wholemeal bread also contain iron, so you could try toast or soup.

It's also important to make sure you're eating foods that help the iron get absorbed into the body. Fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C can help the body absorb iron, which include oranges and kiwi fruit.

Foods that are high in fibre

Foods rich in fibre help to prevent type 2 diabetes, boost heart health and reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy1.

"Try some chopped vegetables such as carrot sticks, cucumber with hummus," says Nagle. "You could also try melon, pineapple or some frozen grapes for warmer days. Try to keep these chopped in the fridge so you can easily grab them in a hurry."

Carrot and chickpea falafels are easy to make and store, so you can grab them when you're feeling hungry.

Popcorn is also a fibre-rich wholegrain. Look for air-popped options and add your own seasonings. You could also try roasting some chickpeas with herbs and spices in olive oil for a healthy alternative to crisps, as they become crunchy and savoury. These contain fibre, iron and protein.

Overnight oats are a tasty, filling snack option. You can find our recipe for apple and cinnamon overnight oats here.

Wholegrain breads, bagels, scones and cereals are also good sources of fibre.

Snacks containing folic acid

Folic acid is essential in pregnancy as it helps to prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida. It's important to take a 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day if you are trying for a baby and continue to do so until you're 12 weeks pregnant.

Nagle also recommends choosing snacks that contain folic acid, such as fortified cereals. If you're struggling with nausea, a handful of dry cereal may help settle your stomach.

"You could also try sprinkling sunflower seeds onto some fruit and yogurt, or a handful of nuts," she says.

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Further reading

1. Zerfu et al: Pregnant women have inadequate fibre intake while consuming fibre-rich diets in low-income rural setting.

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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