The information included in Dear Stephanie posts is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation, or if you have any questions regarding conception, pregnancy, or your prenatal treatment plan. For more Dear Stephanie posts, click here. Have a question for Steph? Click here to e-mail her. Today Steph shares how to plan healthy snacks for pregnancy.
In my last post, I wrote about why snacking may be beneficial for pregnant mamas. I also provided considerations for creating healthy snacks. Now I’d like to share some of my top tips for incorporating healthy snacks into your diet. We also asked our Whole30 mamas to share their helpful tips on snacking during pregnancy. Find their tips throughout the post! If you have any strategies that you use to incorporate healthy snacks into your diet or want to share your favorite snack options, connect with us on Facebook or Instagram.
Tip 1: Be prepared
You’ve been battling nausea all morning, barely able to take a few sips of your smoothie, and hustle out the door for work. A few minutes into your commute, your nausea disappears and you’re suddenly ravenous. You weren’t able to pack a lunch (because, nausea), and are now stuck in traffic feeling hangry and hormonal. Sound familiar?
Before I became pregnant, my friends would make fun of me for constantly toting food around. I had food in my purse, in my car, and in my office drawer for times when my meals just weren’t big enough to keep me satisfied until my next meal. (Note: this is the exact reason we encourage Whole30’ers to carry around a bit of emergency food.)
This strategy proved to be extremely helpful when I became pregnant, especially in the second and third trimester when I saw a sharp increase in my hunger. You may find that morning sickness, nausea, and food aversions make packing snacks absolutely necessary throughout pregnancy, if your intention is to continue eating your whole-foods based diet.
Tip 2: Balance Your Meals
If you are hungry every 1-2 hours, you’re likely not eating enough at your meals. This could be due to nausea or the fact that your uterus is pushing on your stomach. If it feels more comfortable to eat multiple smaller meals a day, please do so. However, sometimes that continual hunger can be resolved by eating balanced meals.
Aim to include a healthy protein, fat, and carbohydrate at each meal. (If you’ve done a Whole30, this is the strategy behind our meal template.) If you’re eating smaller meals due to nausea, do your best with this. It may not be possible to focus on balanced, whole-food based meals when you’re having trouble even thinking about food. If you’re feeling full halfway through your meals, do your best to get a mix of healthy protein, fat, and carbohydrates in throughout the day. Don’t overthink it.
Try to avoid meals that are primarily composed of carbohydrates. In addition to carbohydrates, your body needs protein and fat to build a baby while keeping you well-nourished. Pasta and fat-free marinara with a tiny bit of meat mixed in may seem like a decent option, but will likely have you raiding your kitchen an hour or two later. Choosing zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash topped with ghee, marinara sauce, and a palm-sized portion of ground beef will keep you satisfied much longer.
Action step: Be your own food detective. If you’re feeling hungry all day, ask yourself what you ate at your last meal or snack. You may be able to spot trends in the volume of food or the balance of food on your plate. Some mamas find journaling helpful for spotting these patterns.
Tip 3: Stay Hydrated
Your fluid requirements increase during pregnancy to support increased blood volume, fetal circulation, and the creation of amniotic fluid. Outside of these technical reasons, staying hydrated helps you feel more energized, regulates hunger, and makes your skin glow!
Since dehydration can lead to sugar cravings and constant hunger, check in throughout the day to make sure you’re getting enough. I find that many mamas aren’t drinking nearly enough water, often less than half of what I recommend. As soon as they start increasing their water intake, their hunger levels calibrate and they find themselves snacking less. This isn’t meant to discourage you from snacking if you’re truly hungry. Instead, I’m challenging you to meet your hydration needs throughout the day to see if it’s fluid or fuel that you need.
How much should you be drinking? The recommendations vary with this. I typically have women aim for 1 liter (34 fl. oz) of filtered water for every 50 lbs of body weight. If you’re drinking purified or reverse osmosis water, I often recommend adding a few drops of trace minerals since minerals are removed through processing. I place 5-10 drops of Trace Minerals Research concentrated mineral drops in 16 fl. oz of water.
Action step: Keep track of how much water you’re drinking each day and hydrate according to your needs. If your urine is dark yellow (and it’s not due to your supplements), you need to drink more mama!
Investing in a portable water bottle like this one helps keep hydration at your fingertips all day. I fill my 32 fl. oz. water bottle twice a day and drink a few additional beverages (like my pregnancy tea) outside of the bottle in order to meet my needs. Your water bottle can be a great, honest accountability partner.
Tip 4: Avoid the “Continuous Meal”
You’ve had a balanced dinner and are feeling pretty satisfied. You get ready to lounge on the couch after a long day at work and as soon as your favorite Netflix show lights up your television screen, you find yourself in the kitchen. After mindlessly eating a bag of plantain chips, you find yourself back in the kitchen at the next commercial break. You’re dealing with an all-night snack fest. Has this ever happened to you?
The good news is that it’s something you can fix! In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses a neurological loop that’s at the core of every habit. The loop consists of three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. In the example listed above, the cue is sitting down to watch your favorite Netflix show. The routine is grabbing a snack from the kitchen to enjoy while you watch the show and the reward is the delicious taste of those plantain chips, which were even more mind-blowing when you dipped them in maple almond butter.
The first step in breaking this process is to identify the cue, routine, and reward. Maybe I did this for you or maybe you have another cue, routine, reward process happening that leads to mindless snacking. Identifying that process can help you make changes to interrupt that loop and free yourself from the “continuous meal.”
Maybe you decide that after dinner you’ll read a book instead of watching Netflix. Reading typically keeps you more focused and your hands busy so it naturally discourages snacking. Maybe you decide that you can’t live without your nightly Netflix, so instead of snacking you have a cup of hot herbal tea to keep your palate satisfied. Or, maybe you decide to immediately brush your teeth after dinner to remind you that you’re done eating for the night.
If you’re genuinely hungry after dinner, please feel free to eat. Drink a large glass of water and ask yourself if you’re hungry enough to eat steamed broccoli or a plain hard-boiled egg. If the answer is yes, then you’re probably genuinely hungry and you should fix yourself a mini-meal.
Action step: Read about the cue, routine, reward framework and see how you can implement this into your daily life, whether it applies to nighttime snacking or other lifestyle changes you want to modify.
Join our pregnancy program for more help from Steph with planning healthy snacks!
If you find yourself mindlessly snacking when you’re not hungry, ask yourself what you truly need at that moment. You may just need a nap, five-minutes to close your eyes, a few deep breaths, water, more self-care, or time with friends. Think of this as a red-flag that your needs aren’t being met and take care of yourself, mama.
We explore this topic in-depth in our Facebook group as mamas constantly share ideas. Join our program now to gain access to this support throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice, RockYourHormones.com.