In a previous post, I mentioned a few of the foods that are helping me get through my pregnancy, stay healthy and keep me filled between meals. As a nutrition student about to graduate and become a PHEc, I have some knowledge on the nutrition requirements during pregnancy and what constitutes a healthy snack. Today I wanted to share a few of my favourite snack ideas and why they are a great choice during pregnancy!
First, I want to note some important nutrients to consume during pregnancy and why you need them.
Health Canada recommends taking a multivitamin that contains 16-20 mg of Iron (along with 400 mcg of folic acid). Although some women may require more, be sure to consult your doctor.
One’s diet should also contain iron from a variety of sources.
There are 2 types of iron: heme and non-heme.
Heme iron is available in meat, poultry, and fish and is more bioavailable to the body. Whereas non-heme iron is found in eggs, plants, legumes, vegetables, grains, and nuts.
To better absorb iron from non-heme sources consume inhibitor foods along with the non-heme foods. For example, vitamin C (found in broccoli, potatoes, or sweet peppers) greatly increases absorption along with calcium over 300 mg or phytate (found in breakfast cereals or legumes) or heme sources of iron (poultry). Be sure to avoid consuming caffeine within one hour of eating iron-rich foods as it decreases the amount of iron able to be absorbed.
Why do I need iron?
Iron is an essential part of proteins such as enzymes and hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin moves oxygen to our cells to facilitate metabolism, so basically, oxygen provides energy for our cells to function.
During pregnancy the amount of blood in a woman greatly increases to support the developing baby, therefore more iron is needed daily.
Once the baby is born it has a 6 month supply of iron, that is why at 6 months of age it is recommended by dieticians to feed your baby iron-rich foods.
How do I get more iron in pregnancy?
Aside from obvious sources of iron like red meat, iron can also be found in legumes and vegetables which are a great way to save money and increase your fibre and vitamin intake.
lentils: 3/4 C contains up to 4.9 mg
chickpeas: 3/4 C contains 2.4 mg
spinach: 1/2 C cooked, contains up to 3.4 mg (also a source of vitamin C which aids in iron absorption)
For a more complete list of foods that contain iron click here.
To increase my iron intake I like to make the following salad. It’s great to store in the fridge for a quick lunch or as a side to supper (pairs great with salmon). It also contains cheese to aid in calcium consumption.
Savory Lentil Salad:
1 cup lentils, black beans, or chickpeas
2 cups spinach, chopped (or substitute frozen)
2 cups carrots, grated
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sodium reduced soy sauce or tamari sauce
1-2 teaspoons ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 cup diced cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Havarti or gouda, I typically use what I have on hand)
Drain beans thoroughly under cold running water or cook according to stove top instructions on package.
Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
Toss beans with mixed ingredients to cover in dressing.
Adapted from: All You Need is Cheese, Spring 2012
As I noted above it’s imperative to take a prenatal vitamin prior to conception in order to supply your body with adequate folate (400mg). Also, ensure your prenatal vitamin contains B12.
Why do I need folate?
Folate is a B vitamin essential for cell division, spinal cord development and synthesizing nucleic acids like DNA and amino acids. Furthermore, folate also prevents the risk of developing a neural tube defect such as spina bifida or anencephaly.
A neural tube defect (which can occur in the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant) is when the neural tube does not close properly.
How do I get more folate in pregnancy?
In light of folates important role for fetal development, the Canadian government has mandated fortifying white flour, enriched pasta, and enriched cornmeal.
However, Health Canada recommends that in addition to taking a prenatal vitamin pregnant women also consume folate from their diet. Some sources of folate include:
- lentils 175 mL
- black beans 175 mL
- okra 125 mL
- asparagus and spinach, cooked 125 mL
- orange juice from concentrate 125 mL
- eggs 2 large
- corn 125 mL
- kiwifruit 1 large
- clementine 1 fruit
A great tool to use to ensure your eating is on track is the My Food Guide Servings Tracker or the website or app eaTracker. The eaTracker app helps with meal planning, setting goals, analyzing your food intake and tracking activity.
My Favourite Pregnancy Snacks + Why They are a Healthy Choice
- veggies (cucumbers, carrots, peppers) + hummus
- the vegetables provide fibre which is important to help combat constipation during pregnancy and the hummus is a great source of folate, iron, protein, and fibre
- bagel with peanut butter
- a whole wheat bagel contains fibre and is fortified with folate, plus 2 T of peanut butter contains 8 g of protein
- try to buy all natural peanut butter because it contains just peanuts without added sugar, be sure to store it in the refrigerator after opening to prevent the oils from separating
- plain yogurt with 1 tsp honey, berries + ground flaxseed or chia seeds
- plain yogurt is a source of calcium and contains no added sugar, plus 1 C contains 8.5 grams of protein and yogurt contains probiotics essential for digestion
- the berries are a source of antioxidants
- the flaxseed + chia seeds both contain omega-3 fats needed for brain and eye development
- overnight oats
- oats provide soluble fibre which aids in digestion and controlling cholesterol levels, plus it helps you feel full and avoid snacking on less nutritious foods
- smoothie with 4 T peanut butter, 1 banana, 1/2 C oats, 1 C plain yogurt, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/2 C liquid (almond beverage, milk)
- the peanut butter contains 16 g of protein
- calcium is provided in the yogurt which aids in heart, nerve and muscle growth along with bone and teeth development
- these pancakes include both protein and fibre to keep you feeling full and energized all day long
- I like to make a batch of pancakes and then snack on them when I’m feeling hungry
- this recipe is a high protein mix, you can save money instead of buying the store version, plus it’s a lot healthier!
- sliced apple with cheese + whole grain crackers
- the apple with skin on contains fibre + vitamin C
- the cheese contains protein and calcium
- a whole grain cracker provides fibre
- not only is this snack cost effective, it’s low in calories (without butter), and this whole grain provides fibre
- oatmeal bites
- besides the source of fibre, these bites contain protein from the peanut butter or chia seeds and omega-3 fats from adding ground flax seed or chia seeds
- These are so easy to make and are great to snack on when you have a craving for something sweet!
Remember you are growing a baby and as you progress through pregnancy and even as you breastfeed your caloric intake is higher than before pregnancy. The dieticians from Eat Right, recommend the following calorie intake each trimester:
1st trimester-no increase
2nd trimester-an additional 350 calories per day
3rd trimester-and additional 450 calories per day
Try to include foods such as lean meats, whole grains, dairy, vegetables, and fruit to ensure you are getting adequate nutrients.
Pregnancy is a lot of work! Eating healthy, nutritious foods will only make your experience better and give your baby the best chance of thriving.
What are/were some of your favourite pregnancy snacks?
Canada, H. (2013). Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines for Health Professionals – Folate Contributes to a Healthy Pregnancy – Canada.ca. Canada.ca. Retrieved 8 September 2017, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/reports-publications/nutrition-healthy-eating/prenatal-nutrition-guidelines-health-professionals-folate-contributes-healthy-pregnancy-2009.html
Eating for a healthy pregnancy – Eat Right Ontario . (2017). Eatrightontario.ca. Retrieved 11 September 2017, from https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Pregnancy/Eating-for-a-healthy-pregnancy.aspx
Food Sources of Iron. (2016). Dietitians of Canada. Retrieved 13 July 2017, from https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Minerals/Food-Sources-of-Iron.aspx
Healthy Weight during Pregnancy. (2017). www.eatright.org. Retrieved 8 September 2017, from http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/pregnancy/prenatal-wellness/healthy-weight-during-pregnancy
Thinking About Having a Baby. (2017). Dietitians of Canada. Retrieved 13 July 2017, from https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Pregnancy/Thinking-of-having-a-Baby.aspx
Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines for Health Professionals: Iron Contributes to a Healthy Pregnancy [Health Canada, 2009]. (2017). Hc-sc.gc.ca. Retrieved 5 April 2017, from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/pubs/nutrition/iron-fer-eng.php