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 she’s sharing tips for healthy snacks during pregnancy.
Dear Stephanie: I’m currently pregnant and noticing that three meals a day isn’t enough to satisfy my hunger. What are healthy snack options? – Hungry Mamas Of The World
Dear Hungry Mamas,
Let’s get this straight: creating a baby is hard work! Although you may be consuming satisfying, balanced meals, your increased calorie needs can cause you to be hungry (maybe even ravenous) between meals. This is completely normal and you should listen to your body during this very special time.
While snacking isn’t encouraged during a Whole30, the pregnancy-inspired Whole30 template allows for snacks to help pregnant mamas meet their increased nutritional needs. In fact, Whole30’s Melissa Hartwig Urban and I created a special Whole Mamas kit with Barefoot Provisions, keeping the snacking needs of pregnant mamas in mind. For more info about the kit, scroll to the bottom of this post.
The addition of snacks can help you feel more comfortable towards the end of your pregnancy, keep you energized throughout the day, and provide relief should you have food aversions or nausea.
The Definition of “Snack”
Before I go any further, I want to define what I mean by “snacks.” The term often brings up images of chips, crackers, and granola bars. That is not what I’m talking about here (if you’re a Whole30 alum, you’re not surprised). Just like the food you’re consuming at your meals, the majority of your snacks should be comprised of real food. Many of the same principles you’ve learned through the Whole30 program should be applied to your snacks. This includes choosing snacks that:
- Are minimally processed and nutrient-dense.
- Make you feel awesome (avoid food sensitivities or foods you know make you less healthy).
- Aren’t trigger foods. In the Whole30 community this is known as “food with no breaks.”
- Promote blood sugar control and satiety.
Will all of these rules apply to every snack you eat during your pregnancy? Probably not, especially the first trimester. When you’re nauseous and all you do is choke down a bagel, you just have to do your best. Of course, we still encourage you to stay away from food you know you don’t tolerate. The general guideline is to give yourself grace during this period. When you’re able to tolerate more real-food snacks, take advantage of the opportunity. There will be ups and downs along the way, so navigate these barriers the best you can.
What Does A Healthy Snack Look Like?
Think of your snacks as mini-meals. In fact, it could literally be a few bites of leftovers from your last meal. If you stick to the general guideline of consuming at least two out of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) based off of whole food, you’re on the right track.
I encourage a mix of macronutrients to promote a healthy physiological response. For example, eating carbohydrates alone (like a piece of fruit or even gluten-free crackers), can cause a spike in blood sugar. This may set you up for a blood sugar crash. This blood sugar crash will then cause your body to crave more carbohydrates in order to instantly raise your blood sugar.
Without protein and fat buffering this response, your hunger, energy, cravings, and mood are on a never-ending roller-coaster ride. If you’re experiencing nausea, this constant rise and fall of blood sugar sugar will prevent you from getting the relief you desperately need. While you may feel better immediately after eating that refined carbohydrate-rich snack, it’s only a matter of time before those symptoms pop up again, and again.
Additionally, carbohydrate rich snacks may not leave you feeling satisfied. I often notice that if I eat a piece of fruit on its own, I end up feeling more tired and hungry after. You can remedy this by adding a small amount of protein and/or fat along with the piece of fruit or other source of carbohydrate. For example: an apple with almond butter, a banana with a hard-boiled egg, or half of a baked sweet potato with a few slices of leftover grilled chicken.
Protein or fat alone may do the trick, but blending them with another macronutrient encourages more variety in your diet and helps increase satiety. Have you ever had a handful of nuts and still felt hungry? Consider what would happen if you had that handful of nuts with a bunch of berries or a hard-boiled egg. I would hedge my bets that you’d feel more satisfied with the later.
Some foods contain a mix of macronutrients. For example, chicken thighs contain protein and fat. When building your snacks to contain two out of the three macronutrients, whatever the food is dominant in is the featured macronutrient. In the case of a chicken thigh, there is more protein than fat. Thus, this would be considered a protein component. Could you eat the chicken thigh alone as a snack? Absolutely. This choice would likely keep you full and your blood sugar stable, but adding a small portion of roasted veggies to the snack would make it more nutrient-dense, visually appealing, and satisfying on multiple levels.
Whole30 Compliant Snack Examples
I want to remind you that we do not encourage pregnant women to Whole30 throughout their entire pregnancy. Our Whole Mamas Pregnancy Program provides a healthy, satisfying, Whole30-inspired meal template that women can refer to throughout their pregnancy. It allows for more flexibility than a Whole30 and is designed with the unique needs of pregnant women in mind. If at some point during your pregnancy you simply cannot continue your Whole30 or are only able to consume foods outside of the template, please listen to your body (and your healthcare provider) to make the best decision for you and your baby. There’s no need to “Whole30 harder.” Remember to give yourself grace and do the best you can with your food choices. Know that there will always be a next meal or snack to get back on track.
With that disclaimer, here are some of my favorite Whole30 snacks:
- A piece of fruit with nut butter, coconut cream, or shredded coconut flakes (carbohydrates and fat)
- Raw or roasted veggies with guacamole or sunshine sauce (carbohydrates and fat)
- Rxbars, Wild Zora bars*, Epic bars* (protein and carbs/fat)
- Egg salad (hard-boiled eggs mixed with Primal Kitchens mayo) served alone or on a lettuce leaf (protein and fat)
- A can of sardines in organic olive oil (protein and fat)
- A banana or plantain fried in ghee (carbohydrates and fat)
- A smoothie made with coconut milk, fruit, leafy greens, and collagen peptides (protein, carbs, and fat)
- Olives and deli meat (heated until steaming*) (fat and protein)
- Trail mix made with nuts, blueberries, and coconut flakes (carbohydrates and fat)
- Mashed sweet potato or applesauce mixed with coconut milk and/or collagen peptides (carbohydrates and fat/protein)
*Check with your provider before consuming these foods, which may not be appropriate for some pregnant women.
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.