With unexpected cravings and bouts of nausea, pregnancy can be a tough time for healthy eating. But it's important to maintain a good, balanced diet to ensure that you and your baby get enough nutrients and stay healthy. The foods you eat impact your baby's development — and they can also affect your oral health during pregnancy. Though it may seem easier to reach for a handy but unhealthy snack in the middle of the day, taking the time to prepare nutritious, healthy pregnancy lunches pays long-term dividends.
1. Vegetable Soup
A bowl of warm, comforting vegetable soup and a wholemeal roll could settle an upset stomach while also providing plenty of vitamins and minerals. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), pregnant women need vitamin A and potassium. Carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, red sweet peppers and spinach all contain these nutrients, so be sure to include at least one or two of them in your soup.
2. Chicken Salad
A chicken salad may seem like a light option for a hungry mom-to-be, but if you include ingredients that are filling, such as avocado and cooked beans, it can be a satisfying dish. What's more, the American Dental Association (ADA) advises that, during pregnancy, half of your diet should be made up of vegetables and fruit. The ADA also recommends eating lean proteins, so skinless chicken is a suitable option.
3. Baked Potato With Cottage Cheese
A baked potato is easy to prepare, and a cottage cheese topping provides some of the calcium pregnant women need for their babies' development. In fact, the ADA recommends cottage cheese as a healthy dairy product for pregnant women. Add flavor by sprinkling finely sliced scallions on top.
4. Burrito Bowl
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that pregnant women are at a higher risk for gum disease and cavities. This means that they should avoid processed foods, which are often high in sugar, whenever possible. One alternative that may help to satisfy any fast food cravings is a healthy burrito bowl. Mix cooked brown rice with slices of roasted red pepper and tomatoes. Then add some beans and cooked lean beef for protein, as recommended by the ADA. Layer some avocado on top, add a splash of lime juice and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
5. Indian Dal
In Indian cuisine, dal is a thick soup or stew made from dried legumes. The ADA recommends legumes for pregnant women because they are high in protein, as well as folic acid — which reduces the risk of birth defects. You can choose whether you prefer your dal mild or spicy, and you can also include all kinds of nutritious, vitamin-rich ingredients, such as sweet potatoes, spinach and tomatoes. Eat your dal with whole grain bread or cooked brown rice, which the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests as healthy carb options for pregnant women.
6. Fish Kebabs
Herring, salmon, trout, pollock and sardines are included in the USDA's list of recommended fish for pregnant women. However, avoid eating swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tilefish, which have high mercury levels. To help fulfill the ADA's recommendation of eating 8 ounces of seafood per week during pregnancy, thread cubes of fish with pieces of zucchini, peppers and onion on skewers, drizzle with olive oil, and broil the skewers until cooked and tender.
7. Stuffed Squash
The USDA recommends winters squash as a great source of vitamin A and potassium during pregnancy. Stuff half a squash with chopped veggies, lean meat and black beans, and sprinkle a little Parmesan or mozzarella cheese on top before popping it into the oven.
Being pregnant doesn't have to mean missing out on delicious foods. Eating these and other healthy pregnancy lunches helps your baby's development and protects your oral health — and your overall health, too.