Pregnancy is one time in your life when nutritionists will literally tell you to snack. Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Harvard University, Karin Michels says pregnant women should have three small meals and three snacks a day. The growing baby needs ” a continuous source of energy.”
Of course this doesn’t mean handfuls of Doritos and M&Ms.
In general, healthy pregnancy snacking consists of good, fresh food such as fruits and vegetables and calcium-rich yogurt and milk. But there are lots of healthy dry snacks, too, that don’t require much in the way of storage or utensils but are packed with essential nutrients. And that’s what this list is all about. These are basically some alternatives to Doritos and M&Ms (though you may be surprised to see chocolate on this list!); these are snacks you can stash in your office drawer. And they’re tasty, too. They’re not too smelly, slightly sweet and cold– food characteristics that tend to appeal to the super sensitive or morning sick.
I’m not sure all of these foods are all technically “super” foods — whatever that is — but overall the snacks on this list are low in the bad stuff (refined sugars, saturated fats, etc) and high in the good stuff (including key pregnancy nutrients such as protein, calcium, iron, folate and vitamin D). Some may even be “super” enough to help with things like pregnancy-induced slow digestion, leg cramps, heartburn or anemia.
1. Organic White Mulberries
Mulberries are one of the few fruits to be considered a protein source — they have 3 grams of protein per ounce. They’re also a great source of iron, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber as well as a high concentration of Resveratrol, an antioxidant. All of this is great for pregnancy but what you should also know is that they are really delicious and low in fat and sugar. Eat them alone or in one of the Trail Mixes from Nativas that has gogi berries (packed with vitamin C!), cashews and coco. It’s addictive and seriously good for you. When does that happen?
You can get the mulberries or trail mix at some grocery stores or at NavitasNaturals.com.
2. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is a great source of iron and calcium, and is often recommended for anemia. To encourage the iron-absorption avoid eating dairy products at the same time and instead mix a tablespoon of molasses with almond milk. (Yum.) It also has tons of magnesium which can make you feel more energized; it helps with digestion too and can help reduce constipation.
Blackstrap Molasses is at many supermarkets or healthfood stores or at Amazon.com.
3. Papaya And Dried Papaya
Papaya contains papain, an enzyme that helps with digestion. It’s also full of fiber potassium, vitamins C & A, and folate. Eating fresh, ripe papayas helps with swollen ankles, digestion, and your baby’s eye and cell growth. Dried papaya or papaya enzyme is sometimes recommended for heartburn.
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are high in protein, iron, fiber and vitamin A and zinc (great for helping your muscles/healing). An excellent low-fat/low-sugar source of protein these seeds are actually more potent roasted. But to avoid unnecessary saturated fats and too much sodium, roast them yourself with a little olive or macadamia nut oil and only a touch of salt, tumeric (an antioxidant and great for pregnancy!) or cayenne pepper. Pepitas are very popular in Mexico where they are toasted and spiced with salt and chile or ground into pipian, a type of mole. Another beneficial seed is the sunflower seed, which is packed with Vitamin B6 and folic acid.
5. Coconut Water
Low calorie coconut water hydrates and delivers lots of potassium which may help reduce leg cramps in pregnancy. Zico’s website informs: “One ZICO has more potassium than a banana 15 times more than most sports drinks to prevent cramping.”
Coconut water is widely available, or check out Zico.com.
It’s a stretch to call this a superfood, but several studies have shown benefits to eating chocolate during pregnancy. In one study, women who ate 5 servings of (mostly dark) chocolate per week in the third trimester had a 70% reduced chance of developing preeclampsia. In another study, chocolate eating moms gave birth to babies that were more easily soothed and able to calm down than the babies born to chocolate abstainers. It’s hard to say what’s at work here– it may be one of the ingredients in chocolate or the fact that it’s a stress-reliever; eating chocolate triggers the release of some very nice brain chemicals (duh). Moderation is key though, as chocolate comes with two not-so-super ingredients: sugar and caffeine. Chocolate milk is a good way to get your mood boost and a dose of calcium.
7. Organic Sour Cherries
Cherries are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, iron, and fiber. They also contain melatonin and therefore may help with sleep and, amazingly, stretch marks. (Vitamin C also boosts collagen production). Eat them fresh or dried as a snack or over salads with nuts. Sour is better than sweet, but either is great.
8. Macadamia Nuts And Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts have a lot of vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and copper and they’re low in saturated fat. Macadamia nuts are rich in magnesium which helps with calcium absorption. In general, raw nuts (not roasted with oils and/or salted) are a massively good source of nutrients, minerals and protein. Some other pregnancy-favorable nuts include almonds, peanuts, soynuts and walnuts. Mix them with dried fruits like cherries or cranberries.
9. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Known for it’s uterine toning properties, red raspberry leaf tea is often recommended as you approach your due date. From the American Pregnancy Association: “Medical studies have shown that red raspberry leaf can be consumed safely during pregnancy and can decrease the length of labor and decrease the number of interventions used such as artificial rupture of membranes (AROM), assisted delivery, and cesarean delivery. Red raspberry leaf also seems to help prevent pregnancies from pre-or post-term gestation (delivering too early or too late).”