Nutritious Lunch Suggestions During Pregnancy

When those cravings take over during pregnancy, it's difficult to resist the temptation to tackle a chocolate bar or devour a bag of salty chips for lunch. Healthy options, though, can satisfy those cravings and lead you on the path to a healthier lifestyle while your little one grows stronger. Adding protein, vegetables and fiber to your meals is a great start. Make your lunchtime menu one that is tasty and hearty with some creative food choices.

A Southwestern Twist

Ensuring you get enough protein is key during pregnancy, says Dr. Jennifer Hanes, a Texas-based physician and the author of "The Princess Plan." She points out that "lots of pregnant women gorge on carbs and neglect protein. This lowers their energy level but also increases the tendency for swollen ankles and general swelling."

Reduce the swelling and enjoy a hearty lunch with a Southwestern twist by sampling a healthy taco bowl for lunch. Simply mix heated fat-free refried beans, red kidney beans and tomato paste and line the bottom of a bowl with the mix. Brown lean hamburger meat and pile it on after seasoning with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin powder. Top with sliced avocados, diced onions or crisp lettuce.

"The protein and fiber will help keep you feeling full longer and provide energy throughout the day," says Hanes. "Eating healthy amounts of protein helps mom's body to clear out the excess fluid and lets her see her ankle bones again."

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Soupy Sensation

Spruce up your midday meal with a hearty soup that is healthy and stocked full of fiber and protein. This 10-minute meal begins with browning a package of turkey-sausage links. Toss in three cans of great northern beans and a large can of chicken broth and heat. Once the soup is ready to serve, top with baby spinach leaves and red-pepper flakes.

"This delightful soup is a great source of protein and fiber to keep you full longer without feeling sluggish," says Hanes. "The spinach adds lots of vitamin A and vitamin K to help your skin, eyes, and bones stay healthy."

Super Salad

For a tasty lunch option rich in nutrients, spruce up your standard salad with a mixed green salad extravaganza. Satisfy your taste buds by adding marinated grilled chicken, salsa, avocados and Greek yogurt, suggests Hillary King, a certified nutritionist and director of nutrition for Atlanta-based Blast900, which offers individualized interval and nutritional training for members.

"The spinach in the mixed greens provides iron, and the Greek yogurt is a great source of calcium and a healthy swap for the traditional sour cream," King says. "The grilled chicken is a complete protein, helping with the development of the baby."

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Fantastic Fish

Who says a full-course meal must be reserved for dinner? Treat yourself to a lunch of grilled salmon with a baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli on the side. This balanced meal of protein, carbs and fiber will fill you up without stuffing you.

The healthy alternative to fried foods will also benefit you and your baby, says King. "The salmon is a great source of protein and omegas, vital for the growth of the baby, while the sweet potato and broccoli provide the nutrients for a well-balanced meal," King explains.

Hummus Sandwich

Toss out the standard lunch meat and savor a hummus sandwich to grab the nutrients you and your baby need. Spread hummus over pita bread and top with your favorite veggies, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. This colorful and delightful sandwich offers needed fiber and the most nutrient-dense carbohydrate source, and it can stabilize blood sugar, says Shana Kurz, a nutrition expert and certified health coach in Denver, Colorado, and the founder of Constructive Health, a private health coaching facility.

Spruce up your sandwich by switching out the pita bread for a wrap or even whole wheat pizza crust with veggies for a tasty treat.

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