Super snacks during pregnancy

Getting the right balance during mealtimes is important while you’re pregnant, but don't forget about snacks - they're just as vital to the healthy development of your baby and your changing body

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Pregnant women often crave sweet things, but that doesn’t mean you have to give in to the cakes and chocolate. These sweet treats also pack a nutritious punch:

Malt loaf:

Low in fat, high in fibre and very filling, malt loaf makes a sustaining mid-afternoon pick-me-up. For an added treat, why not enjoy with a drizzle of honey and / or some chopped walnuts?

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Tofu smoothie:

A great alternative protein source, tofu is low in fat and will help balance those blood sugar levels. Add to juice from pomegranate and mixed berries for a sweet drink that also packs a powerful antioxidant punch.

Almonds and apricots:

A handful of almonds and apricots will provide you with a sweet kick that’s high in protein – this will help to curb cravings as well as keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

Yoghurt and honey:

High in calcium (important during pregnancy for building your baby’s bones) with a sweet kick from the honey, this treat should tide you over without making you sleepy.

Although pregnancy heartburn is usually nothing to worry about, it’s often uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are simple food solutions that can relieve the pain…

Almonds

Scientists aren’t sure why, but chewing a few blanched almonds often helps to relieve heartburn – for some reason the almond oil calms acidic symptoms. Almonds are also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps to protect cell membranes.

Fibre

High-fibre foods are thought to absorb excess acid and gas, help to speed up digestion and empty your stomach faster. Jacket potatoes, Ryvita and any fruit and veg that you eat with the skin-on are good sources.

Figs

Dried figs are laden with digestive enzymes, which should help you to digest your food and ease those heartburn symptoms. They’re also rich in the essential mineral potassium, which helps to maintain the body’s fluid balance during pregnancy.

Ginger nuts

Ginger is said to absorb and neutralise stomach acid. In larger quantities, ginger isn’t safe for pregnant women, but munching on a good-quality ginger biscuit or two to relieve heartburn will do you no harm – and it might also see off any pregnancy induced nausea.

Four easy ways to make summer picnics nutritious and pregnancy-friendly

Mediterranean Tortillas

Roast courgettes, aubergine, red onions and cherry tomatoes in olive oil the night before, then pack with a tub of houmous and tortilla wraps for an easy-to-transport picnic. High in complex carbs and fibre, it’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer – and keep you regular!

Bacon, tomato and basil sandwiches

Cut thin slices of wholemeal bread into four squares and stuff with protein-rich lean bacon, vitamin C-rich tomatoes and fresh basil. Protein has many functions, including the building of muscle and production of antibodies for you and your baby.

Honey-toasted fruit and nut bars

These bars make a great snack; the omega-3 fatty acids in the nuts are important for your baby’s brain and nervous system, as well as your own health. Combine oats, sesame seeds, and almonds with honey and a little nutmeg for a fulfilling sweet snack.

Chocolate strawberries

A good source of folic acid, strawberries are particularly tasty when dipped in chocolate! Scientists in Finland found that eating chocolate when pregnant resulted in happier, livelier babies, but keep your waistline in mind and be conservative when dipping!

With breakfast being touted in the news as the key to successful weight loss, there’s yet more evidence that it’s the most important meal of the day. Eating first thing can also help to quell pregnancy nausea – try these nutritious suggestions…

Boiled egg with wholemeal bread soldiers

Make sure your egg is well cooked (both the white and the yolk should be solid) and enjoy with some vitamin B-rich wholemeal bread. This combination of protein and carbs should keep you going all morning.

Porridge

Make with jumbo oats that will really sustain you, and mix in chopped nuts, a handful of seeds and chopped fruit such as dates and apples. Another high-fibre brekkie that contains protein too, which will help keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Oatcakes and fruit

For a quick fix, spread three or four oatcakes with nut butter (opt for almond or cashew) and top with sliced banana. This high fibre breakfast is also dense in complex carbs – the ‘good’ carbs that keep you going for longer.

Fruity brioche

Toast a slice of brioche (a soft, sweet bread) and spread with a dessertspoon of low-fat Greek-style yoghurt. Then arrange some sliced figs on top for a really luxurious breakfast that’s high in the essential minerals calcium and potassium.

‘Pregnancy brain’ – that mind fog that can make you forgetful and weary – is thought to be due to the hormone progesterone, but including some essential fats in your diet can play a role in helping to counteract the symptoms. Try these brain-enhancing snacks…

Walnut muesli

Keep a jar of chopped walnuts to hand and sprinkle them on your morning cereal for a breakfast brain booster. Add some fibre-rich chopped dates and you have the perfect recipe for a clear head until lunchtime.

Sardines on toast

Sardines are low in mercury and high in essential fats. Try making a spread with low-fat cream cheese, sardines and lemon juice, and enjoy on seeded wholemeal bread.

Flaxseed muffins

Make healthy muffins for your afternoon sugar attack. Use flaxseed flour instead of ordinary flour – the flax plant is a rich source of brain boosting omega-3, and without the pollutant possibility of oily fish.

Mediterranean frittata

Omega 3-rich eggs are produced by hens that are fed a special vegetarian diet of canola, linseed and flaxseed. Try a tasty high-protein, brain-enhancing dinner with eggs, sliced potato, chopped red onions, herbs and feta cheese.

Energy boosters

Trail mix

Most sho bought trail mixes contain plenty of nuts that are high in protein and essential fatty acids – good for your skin and essential for baby’s development. The dried fruit is a great source of fibre, and the combination gives you a sweet treat that won’t make you sleepy!

Banana and orange smoothie

Blend glucose-rich banana with antioxidant orange and some low-fat yoghurt for a quick, nutritious lift. It’s high in immune boosting vitamin C, while the protein in the yoghurt will help prevent further hunger pangs.

Apple and cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is safe during pregnancy and an excellent source of calcium. It’s delicious when eaten with an apple; the protein and the fibre should keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Bounce almond protein ball

Bounce Balls (www.bouncefoods.com ) are the latest in nutritious treats. Calcium and protein rich, they contain around a hundred fewer calories than an average chocolate bar, and will give you a subtle blood sugar boost that you won’t plummet from later.

From fighting infection to helping your body create healthy skin, vitamin C is a vital nutrient for you. What’s more, it binds new cells together, helping your unborn baby to grow and build strong bones and teeth. These snacks will help you get your quota:

Fruit compote

Both oranges and kiwi fruit are great sources of vitamin C, so start your day with this compote. Make syrup with water, sugar, cardamom pods and vanilla extract, and pour over orange and kiwi slices. Chill, then serve with toasted almonds.

Sweet potato salad

As well as being high in vitamin C, sweet potatoes are excellent for balancing your blood sugar. Roast some slices with red onion and garlic, then mix with green beans, balsamic vinegar and a dash of chilli oil. Shave some Parmesan on top for a more substantial, calcium-rich snack.

Grapefruit and prawns

For a low-fat lunch that’s high in protein and vitamin C, make a salad of grapefruit and well cooked prawns. Add shallots and chopped coriander and mint, then dress with lime juice, grated ginger, fish sauce and garlic.

Green peppers stuffed with rice and ground beef

This hearty meal is also high in antioxidants. Stuff the pepper with cooked rice and beef, top with a little grated cheese and bake. Serve with a green salad.

Vitamin B12 is the B vitamin that works alongside folic acid. It’s essential for the formation of nerves and for making red blood cells and is found primarily in meat, fish, yeast-based products and dairy foods. We’ve come up with four easy ways to get your B12 fix.

Breakfast smoothie

Blend puréed apricots and figs, milk, yoghurt, fruit juice and a tbsp of wheatgerm, which packs a quadruple B12 punch! You can add honey for a sweet pick-me-up and freeze in small sections for a mid-afternoon treat.

Parmesan and spinach salad

Combine baby spinach leaves with shaves of Parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and a skinless grilled sliced chicken breast. This filling salad is high in both vitamin B12 and iron – essential for avoiding anaemia, which is a common problem in pregnancy.

Thai salmon

Get your essential fatty acids and B vitamins in one dish. Add cherry tomatoes, spring onions and green peppers to a marinade of soy sauce, crème fraiche, garlic, lemon grass and coriander, baste the salmon fillets and bake for 15 minutes. Serve with rice and salad.

Marmite on toast

It’s close to bedtime and you’re after a nourishing snack. Both wholemeal bread and yeast spreads are valuable sources of B12. Don’t go overboard on the bread or butter, though – they’re high in calories.

Sunflower seeds are often known as nature’s ‘power pack’ due to their high nutrient content. They’re packed with healthy unsaturated fats, protein and much-needed fibre, as well as being a good source of vitamin E, selenium, zinc, folic acid and iron. Here are some great ideas for eating your seeds in style.

Super smoothie

Enjoy a fibre-rich breakfast with an added essential fatty acid punch! Combine a cup of soaked dried apricots with a teaspoon of oat bran, flax seed oil and a dessertspoon of sunflower seeds, and add honey and milk or fresh apple juice. Blend all this and enjoy for a healthy cereal alternative.

Sunflower seed pesto

Make pesto in the usual way with chopped basil leaves, olive oil, garlic and Parmesan, and then add a cup of unhulled sunflower seeds. Enjoy this in pasta with a shaving of Parmesan: the cheese is a good source of calcium while the pasta is a low fat, complex carbohydrate that will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Toasted soy sunflower seeds

Coat sunflower seeds in soy sauce (or opt for the lower sodium, healthier option, Tamari) and roast in the oven until they’re brown, or looking well toasted. If you’re after a bit of variety and a ‘superfood kick’, add pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

‘Healthy’ brittle

Combine seeds, raisins, desiccated coconut, flaked almonds and oats in a bowl and add honey, oil and vanilla extract. Cook on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes and allow to cool before breaking into pieces for a sweet pick-me-up. Go easy, though – it’s not so good for the waistline!

Include beta-carotene in your diet to boost your immunity:

Carrot cake

Try making your own version of this tasty cake by adding fruit such as sultanas, or even apple or prune purée, to bulk it out and make it more fibre-rich. If you want a version that’s easier on the waistline, top with reduced fat cream cheese or fromage frais.

Mango smoothie

Mangoes are a great, tasty form of vitamin A, and blend well in smoothies. Add one large chopped mango with a banana, half a cup of yoghurt and a cup of orange juice to a blender, and blend well for a sweet mid-morning pick-me-up.

Mozzarella, tomato and rocket salad

Mix slices of buffalo mozzarella with cherry tomatoes and rocket for a vitamin A-rich salad. Add some torn basil leaves and olive oil to season for a simple but tasty lunch.

Sweet potato with quinoa

An excellent source of vitamin A, sweet potato is also rich in vitamin C and will keep you full up for longer. Add feta, quinoa and roasted veg.[ N.B: You should avoid the animal form of vitamin A (retinol), found in liver products, while pregnant, as high doses can be dangerous for your baby. The plant form here (betacarotene) is safe, however.]

Iron is vital during pregnancy, so why not try our top iron-rich treats…

Pumpkin and sesame seed mix

Toast pumpkin and sesame seeds in a soy sauce for a healthy snack with a good fix of non-haem iron – the non-animal iron source.

Stewed dried figs with fromage frais

If you want to get your iron quota in the form of something sweet, steam or stew dried figs and enjoy with little calcium-rich fromage frais. And as figs act as a natural laxative, they can also be helpful in the treatment of constipation – a common problem during pregnancy.

Kidney bean and brown rice salad

Kidney beans are a good iron provider and a great source of fibre, helping to prevent constipation. Mix kidney beans with brown rice and chopped onions, red and green peppers, and a chopped celery doe a nutritious light lunch. Add a dessertspoon of grated Parmesan for a bit of indulgence.

Low-fat spicy beef burgers

Red meat is probably the best source of haem iron – the most easily absorbed form of iron from food. A great way to get it is to make some low-fat spicy beef burgers with super lean, ground mince and enjoy in a warm pitta with some chopped mint and low fat yoghurt.

Try these nibbles to pep you up during the day:

Blueberries and yoghurt

If you suffer fluctuating energy levels it is best to avoid starchy carbs in the morning as they can make you feel drowsy. Berries and yoghurt should prevent blood sugar dips. Blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, while yoghurt provides more calcium than milk and helps to keep both your and your baby’s bones strong.

Sesame snaps

Rich in fibre and protein, sesame snaps are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids: vital for your baby’s brain and nervous system. Fatty acids help brain development and work to improve its function, so as well as being nutritious, slow-releasing energy snacks, sesame seeds will help to keep you mentally alert and working well throughout the day!

Smoked salmon on Ryvita

Oily fish is rich in protein, omega-3s and vitamin D. Ryvita is high in fibre and a good source of vitamins B and E. Combining protein with a high fibre food provides slow-release energy that keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

Banana on wholemeal bread

Mashed bananas are a great sweet pick-me-up for the mid-afternoon sugar blues, and are far lower in calories than a bar of chocolate. They are also full of iron and both bananas and wholemeal bread are excellent sources of folic acid – the B vitamin that is vital for your baby’s development.

Folic acid is vital during pregnancy, as it helps to prevent birth defects. It’s easy to get more into your diet – just try these tasty snacks…

Orange, strawberry and banana smoothie

Blend a banana, the juice of one large orange and a handful of strawberries for a sweet mid-morning pick-me-up. Add a teaspoon of wheat germ for an added folic acid punch – it will also bulk up the juice to make a more filling juice.

Chickpea and couscous salad

Beans are high in folic acid and full of goodness. Chop peppers, courgettes and tomatoes and add to a bowl of chickpeas. Season the mixture with cumin, paprika and a pinch of salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Mix with couscous for a light and delicious meal.

Roasted asparagus and salmon salad

Roast some asparagus with garlic and capers and enjoy cold with a poached salmon fillet and plenty of leafy greens. Asparagus is a great source of folic acid, as are most dark greens, such as spinach. The salmon provides lots of essential fatty acids too.

Roast beef sandwich

It sounds a bit basic, but if you’re looking for a folic acid boost, look no further than juicy roast beef. Not only is it a good source of protein, but it’s also packed with zinc and B vitamins. If you can find some brown bread that’s fortified with folic acid to make your sarnie, so much the better.

Try these everyday ‘superfoods’ to give your pregnancy diet a boost:

Oranges

Oranges are one of the best ways to get vitamin C into your diet, which helps your baby to grow and builds strong bones and teeth, as well as helping you to absorb iron. Try an orange salad with red onion, spinach, basil, oil and balsamic vinegar.

Apples

Recent research found that women who eat at least 4 apples a week halve the chance of their kids developing asthma before the age of 5. Apples are also a good source of fibre, so may stave off the dreaded pregnancy constipation! For virtuous snacking, grate an apple into calcium rich yoghurt or cut into slices and enjoy as a pick me up with small cubes of cheddar.

New potatoes

New potatoes are also a good source of fibre and vitamin C, and as they’re a starchy food, they are a good source of carbohydrate and have a slower impact on your blood sugar too. Enjoy some cold new potatoes sliced with some mayo (check it doesn’t contain raw egg), or add them to a Greek salad to provide a snack that’s rich in all three food groups.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a great source of folic acid. Folic acid can reduce certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord by more than 70%. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, and contains small amounts of the B vitamins. Enjoy broccoli florets with houmous in your lunchbox, or lightly sauté it in butter and serve with some flaked almonds as a salad.

Try these calcium rich snacks to ensure you’re getting your quota…

Skinny latte

A latte coffee is a sophisticated way to get a lot of calcium in one hit. A small full-fat serving of this milky coffee contains over 200 calories however, so you might want to think about going skinny – and the good news is that there’s exactly the same amount of calcium in skimmed milk.

Cereal bar

Your baby needs calcium to grow strong bones and teeth, and to support his heart and nervous system. Many cereal bars are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals: Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Raspberry Yoghurty Bar contains a very respectable 200mg of calcium, so grab one for an easy-to-carry fix.

Broccoli and yoghurt

After milk, yoghurt is one of the best sources of calcium. Try a low fat fruit variety, or for a savoury mid-afternoon snack, try dipping broccoli into tzatziki – a yoghurt based dip. Broccoli is a good vegetable source of calcium so you’re getting a double hit.

Salmon on wholegrain crackers

Salmon is rich in calcium, and due to its high protein content it will leave you feeling fuller for longer than some other sources. Whip up a quick snack with a small can and a couple of wholegrain crackers (But don’t eat more than two portions of oil fish a week).

Avoid the dreaded pregnancy piles with these fibre-rich snacks:

Fruit compote

Dried fruit is one of the easiest ways to get an enjoyable fibre fix, so try a compote made from prunes, figs or apricots. During pregnancy, progesterone slows down your digestive system, which can increase the risk of piles if you’re straining to go to the loo. Lots of fibre and water will help!

Avocado slices

Surprisingly high in fibre, avocados are also a good source of vitamin E and potassium. Slice one with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella for a truly indulgent lunchbox snack.

Roasted almonds

Almonds are great superfoods. They have the highest fibre content of any tree nut, and they contain more calcium than any fruit or vegetable. Eat them roasted (just pop in the oven on a baking tray for a few minutes), or try some tasty almond butter (available from health food stores) on a high fibre rye crisp bread for a convenient snack and a real fibre boost.

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Wholewheat pasta salad

Wholegrains are a good source of fibre and a slow-releasing form of complex carbohydrate which means that they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer. Prepare a tub of wholewheat pasta salad that you can carry around with you to snack on when you’re a bit peckish. Add pesto or grated parmesan with a few sundried tomatoes for a substantial snack.

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