10 fast foods a pregnant woman could love (and five to avoid)Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board
Last updated: February 2010
Convenience foods that taste good are one of the luxuries of modern living – it's just unfortunate that so many of them are full of preservatives and other ingredients you should steer clear of during pregnancy. But there are a number of quick and easy foods that are genuinely good for you, especially if what you need is a light meal or snack to tide you over until your next full meal.
Here are ten tasty foods to try – and five to avoid – all recommended by Heidi Reichenberger, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, and Elizabeth Somer, a registered dietitian and the author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy: The Complete Guide to Eating Before, During, and After Your Pregnancy.
Healthy "fast foods"1. Fruit
Grab an apple, banana, pear, orange, or another favorite fruit. Or if you prefer, try those handy little 4-ounce fruit cups, which count as one serving toward your daily recommendation for fruits and vegetables during pregnancy. Choose varieties packed in their own juice rather than in sugary syrup.
- Find out why fruit is one of our ten best foods for pregnancy.
A small (1 1/2-ounce) box provides a little boost of fiber, iron, and potassium while satisfying a sweet tooth.
One 6-ounce container of this classic nutritious-and-convenient food can provide 25 percent of your daily calcium requirement, as well as protein and several necessary vitamins and minerals. If the label says "live and active cultures," you'll also get the benefit of probiotics – helpful bacteria that aid digestion and protect your digestive tract.
- Find out why Greek yogurt is one of our ten best foods for pregnancy.
Add a cup of whole grain cereal to a handful of your favorite dried fruits and nuts (try dried cherries and almonds, or dried cranberries and walnuts). Keep it in a resealable bag in your desk or car for a handy, crunchy snack.
- Find out why walnuts are one of our ten best foods for pregnancy.
Some fast-food restaurants and many grocery stores have salad bars where you can serve yourself practically a whole day's worth of fruits and vegetables. Load up on spinach, carrots, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, and zucchini. Add nuts, chickpeas, and kidney beans for a protein boost, and top with raisins for iron, fiber, and potassium.
- Find out why dark, leafy greens are one of our ten best foods for pregnancy.
Carrots are full of vitamin A and fiber, and you can find them in single-serving bags. Dip them in hummus or yogurt for an extra dose of nutrition or add a dab of salad dressing for flavor. Look for other prewashed veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach to make a quick dinnertime stir-fry.
7. String cheese
If you don't know about string cheese now, just wait until your baby is a toddler – this food is likely to become a favorite snack. Low-fat mozzarella sticks are full of calcium, and one stick provides the same amount of protein as an 8-ounce glass of milk.
8. Orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D
Just half a cup provides half the daily requirement of vitamin C and about 15 percent of your calcium needs. Grab a juice box (check the labels for maximum fortification) when you're on the go.
9. Whole grain cereal or instant oatmeal
Stash a few single-serving packages in your desk at work for a quick, filling snack. Almost all breakfast cereal is now fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, including folic acid.
10. Fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a good source of protein and a fair source of calcium. Look for single-serving containers in the dairy section of most grocery stores. Top with fruit or throw in a handful of nuts and dried fruit to make things more interesting.
Foods to avoid
1. Packaged ramen noodles
Read the label: These quick-cooking noodles are packed with salt, fat, and little else.
2. Soda If you fill up on empty calories and sugar, you won't have any room for more nutritious drinks. Low-fat milk, water, and juice are better choices.
3. Shelf-stable commercial lunches
Sure, they're a quick fix for hunger pangs, but preservatives, salt, and fat make most of them a poor choice. There are some okay packaged lunch options out there, though, so check the labels!
4. Too many frozen prepared meals
There are some good choices out there, but many have astronomical amounts of salt and fat. Instead, pop a potato in the microwave, then top it with cheese and steamed broccoli for a fast, healthy meal. If you can't avoid the occasional frozen meal, look for organic brands that are low in salt and fat.
5. Iceberg lettuce
When it comes to lettuce, choose greens, such as romaine, that are full of fiber, A and C vitamins, folic acid, calcium, and potassium. Iceberg lettuce has only trace amounts of these nutrients.