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What are Healthy Snacks for Pregnancy?

You want to make sure the baby you're expecting gets a healthy start in life. You and your doctor have probably discussed the number of calories you should include in a daily plan of three balanced meals and three snacks. Each woman's needs are slightly different.

"A healthy diet sets up the foundation for your baby to get all the necessary nutrients to grow and thrive," says Vandana Sheth, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) based in Los Angeles. On average, a pregnant woman adds 300 additional calories daily to meet her nutritional needs. Often those calories come in the form of healthy snacks. Snacks can even function as "mini-meals." If you need a boost to reach your calorie goal, choose healthy snacks from various food groups.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruit is an easy, portable nutritious snack, loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. To amp up the calories pair it with a nut butter dip or add string cheese for protein, says Sheth. Veggies such as carrots, bell peppers and celery are good choices, especially when eaten with healthy dips like hummus. Bananas and avocados can help you reach your daily calorie goal. One medium banana carries about 100 highly nutritious calories with plenty of useful minerals and vitamins, says Sheth. Avocado also packs a lot of flavor and health benefits; a medium avocado contains about 275 calories.

Juice your fruits and vegetables for a more concentrated form with several servings in a single glass of juice. This eliminates the fiber, so balance with high-fiber grains and whole fruit.

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Nuts, Seeds and Soy

Nuts and seeds are heart-healthy fats with plenty of vitamins and protein, Sheth says. Create a homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds, dried fruit and high-fiber cereal.

Soy is low in sodium, cholesterol and fat. The low-sodium soy snack edamame delivers fiber, iron and high-quality protein, making it a good choice.

Grains

Popcorn is a whole grain and a good source of fiber. Cereal isn't only for breakfast. Choose a healthy, whole-grain variety that is low in sugar and high in fiber for an occasional snack.

Quinoa is a healthy grain that doubles as a protein source. Since it has more calories than some other grains, it can help you reach your minimum daily calorie requirements. Low-fat whole-grain crackers and crisp breads are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Spread on some natural, low-fat peanut butter to add healthy calories.

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Dairy

Low-fat yogurt, especially Greek-style yogurt, is loaded with calcium and protein. Choose yogurts that don't have extra added sugar. Eat the yogurt as is or create a yogurt parfait with fruit and whole-grain cereal, suggests Sheth.

You can also grab a piece of string cheese. One serving provides almost the same amount of protein as a cup of milk. Cottage cheese can be enjoyed with fruit or whole-grain crackers. Try creating homemade smoothies with low-fat yogurt and fruit. You'll be getting a healthy dose of calcium, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber wrapped up in a delicious package.

Snacks to Avoid

"Too much of a good thing is not such a good thing," warns Sheth. Often women justify eating a lot more food during pregnancy because of their perceived increased nutritional needs. Avoid overeating by keeping track of calories. Follow food safety guidelines and avoid those not recommended for pregnant women. Raw seafood brings a high risk of developing listeria and salmonella poisoning, says Sheth. Deli meats, including hot dogs, may be contaminated with listeria bacteria. If you choose to eat them, it is safer if you reheat them until they're steaming hot. Avoid raw, unpasteurized milk and juices, raw eggs or dressings that might contain raw eggs. Don't opt for soft cheeses unless they are pasteurized.

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