Restaurant nachos are loaded with calories, fat, and sodium, but you can make a healthier version at home whenever you're craving chips and cheese. Just take a handful of baked tortilla chips, sprinkle on a little shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and microwave a few seconds until the cheese melts. Top with a little jarred salsa (which is generally fat-free and low in calories) and you have a delicious snack in minutes. Have a few more minutes? Make your own salsa with fresh tomatoes.
Almost all cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, making them a simple snack that provides lots of nutrients. And if you don't like drinking milk, pouring it over cereal will help you get the calcium both you and your baby need. When buying cereal, choose one that's high in fiber and made with whole grains. Basic cereals are best since those with crunchy clusters or sweet coatings tend to be higher in fat, calories, and sugar. Top the cereal with fresh berries for additional vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.
Smoothies you buy at your local store are often high in sugar and low in fruit. Whip up your own at home using nonfat yogurt and your choice of fruit and you'll get a healthy serving of protein, calcium, and other important nutrients. Frozen fruit will give your smoothie a thicker texture, so use fresh fruit if you like a thinner consistency. And don't go overboard on the juice. The calories and sugar in juice -- even 100 percent fruit juice -- can add up quickly.
An apple a day is good for everyone, including pregnant women. Apples are a great source of both insoluble fiber, which fights constipation, and soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. All that fiber also keeps you full. Add in a small slice of protein-rich cheese for an even more satisfying snack. When buying apples, you might want to consider organic apples since the regular ones tend to have lots of pesticide residue on the skin.
When you crave something crunchy with a hint of sweetness, these homemade chips will do the trick. They're coated in a little cinnamon and sugar instead of salt, and then baked, which makes them much lower in sodium and fat than regular potato chips. Plus you'll reap the many health benefits of sweet potatoes, including fiber, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and B6.
When you're craving a cookie, try this classic Italian biscotti recipe. Each piece has just 100 calories and 3 grams of fat but comes with lots of sweet banana flavor and a satisfying crunch. Made from a banana bread mix, these are quick and easy to make. Mix in the dried cherries for a hint of sweetness and some additional fiber.
A cup of this tender, colorful fruit has just over 100 calories, making it a tasty snack when you want something sweet. In fact, most of its calories come from its naturally high sugar content. In addition to a sweet taste, you'll also get 3 grams of fiber per cup of mango, along with vitamin A and a good amount of vitamin C. A known antioxidant, vitamin C is important for the building and repair of body tissue and also helps support a healthy immune system.
Potatoes are another smart portable snack. They're easy to make in the microwave but can also be eaten cold. The potato skin is high in insoluble fiber so can help with constipation. Potatoes also have potassium, folate, and iron. Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body and plays a role in brain development. Vitamin C, another nutrient in the potato, helps your body better absorb iron -- yet another reason to eat potatoes. Instead of using butter or sour cream to top your potato, try plain nonfat yogurt and a sprinkle of chives.
Rich in calcium and protein, yogurt is a nearly perfect pregnancy food. Some yogurts contain live active cultures, which are beneficial bacteria that are believed to enhance digestion, improve nutrient absorption, and boost the immune system. Choose low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt since flavored yogurts tend to be high in sugar. Stir in a little cinnamon for flavor, then add a crunchy cereal topper. Choose whole grain cereals that have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and less than 6 grams of sugar. Sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, and honey, shouldn't be one of the first few ingredients.
You don't have to save oatmeal for breakfast. It's great any time of the day. Full of heart-healthy soluble fiber, oatmeal is portable and easy to make. Just add water or milk and microwave. Avoid flavored instant oatmeal, which is high in sugar and may have artificial flavors and/or colors. Instead, flavor your oats with raisins, which have fiber and potassium, a mineral that regulates fluid balance in the body and helps nerves and muscles work properly.
Top half of a whole wheat English muffin with a thin slice of your favorite cheese. The cheese will help you meet your protein needs, which are almost 50 percent higher during pregnancy. Cheese is also high in calcium -- another nutrient that's especially important during pregnancy. You could also try topping your muffin with some honey and your favorite fruit. Most English muffins and other breads are fortified with iron, vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, and the whole wheat version will also have several grams of fiber. When buying bread products, always check the label -- whole wheat flour should be listed as the first ingredient.
Portable and high in protein, hard-cooked eggs are a great snack when you're on the go. If you're an egg white-only type of gal, now's the time to eat that yolk. While the white is high in protein, the yolk is full of valuable nutrients, including choline, which plays a role in fetal brain and nervous system development, and folate, which helps prevent neural tube defects. Cook up a batch of eggs once a week so you can easily grab one when time is short.
Almonds are nutritional powerhouses filled with fiber, protein, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They're rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals and have good amounts of nutrients such as fiber, iron, and calcium that are especially important for pregnant women. You can eat almonds raw but their flavor really comes out if you toast them in the oven for just a few minutes. Combine with dried cranberries for a tasty trail mix or just grab a handful when hunger strikes.
Bananas are naturally higher in sugar than some other fruits, which makes them a little higher in calories as well. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't eat them. Bananas give you a good dose of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps form red blood cells, and some studies have shown that it may help with morning sickness. Roll your banana in a little wheat germ and you'll get additional B vitamins, the antioxidant vitamin E, and fiber.
Rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, carrots satisfy the need to crunch without resorting to high-fat chips. For convenience, choose baby carrots or carrot chips. To make a healthy dip, stir some ranch dip mix into low-fat sour cream. Serve with the carrots, and presto -- you have chips and dip without all the calories and fat.
Apricots are high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives the fruit its bright orange color. In the body, beta-carotene converts into vitamin A -- a vitamin that helps develop and maintain healthy teeth, bones, and skin. Apricots are delicious when eaten fresh but are usually only available in the spring. Dried apricots are available year-round, so keep some on hand for when you crave something sweet. And for a special dessert, top them with a little melted dark chocolate.
Here's a tasty way to get your veggies in. These power-packed mini muffins are made with fiber-rich whole wheat flour, naturally sweet raisins, and heart-healthy walnuts. Sunflower seeds go on top and provide you with vitamin E (an antioxidant), vitamin B6 (which helps with morning sickness), and folate (which helps prevent neural tube defects). The recipe makes 36 mini muffins, so you'll have plenty to snack on throughout the week.
When you just need something to munch on without a lot of calories, try a cup of grape tomatoes. You can snack on an entire cup for less than 50 calories -- a lot less than a handful of potato chips. Packed with vitamin C, tomatoes also deliver a big dose of lycopene, an antioxidant associated with lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Plus tomatoes contain a fair amount of fiber, some vitamin A, and even a little folate.