A balanced diet is vital for a healthy lifestyle, but its importance is highest when you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. A well-maintained diet is beneficial to the development of the baby during pregnancy.
Sugary foods or drinks have been an archenemy to healthy diets for ages. Natural sugar derived from fruits and vegetables are required in a healthy diet but added sugar doesn’t contain any nutrient to be added to our diet.
Too much sugar in your diet can increase weight and cholesterol levels, which can make you prone to cardiovascular diseases.1
It becomes difficult to cut down on snacking altogether. Opting for a low-sugar snack during pregnancy is a good choice.
Key nutrients required during pregnancy
Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Iodine, Magnesium. Vitamin B9, or Folic acid, is one of the crucial vitamins during pregnancy.2
Benefits of low-sugar snacks
Low-sugar snacks offer several benefits that make them beneficial for pregnant women. During pregnancy, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for both the mother and the developing baby. Here's why opting for low-sugar snacks is beneficial:
Stable blood sugar levels: Pregnancy hormones like oestrogen, placental lactogen and cortisol can block insulin.3 leading to fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Consuming snacks that are low in sugar helps prevent rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar, promoting a stable energy level throughout the day.
Gestational diabetes prevention: Intake of extra added sugar is linked to an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes, a condition that can lead to complications during pregnancy and birth. Choosing low-sugar snacks can contribute to better blood sugar control and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.4
Weight management: Low-sugar snacks are often lower in calories and can aid in managing weight gain, reducing the risk of excessive weight gain, which might lead to complications. Maintaining a healthy weight gain during pregnancy is important for the health of both the mother and the baby.
Nutrient density: Snacks have frequently been labelled as "unhealthy" options. Yet, when assessed through the NRF scoring method, this broad classification proves to be misleading. This analysis highlighted that numerous items, such as all yoghurt variants, various types of milk, and an assortment of fruits, nuts, seeds, and even potato chips, exhibited notably high NRF Index scores. Showing an impressive nutrient density.
On the other hand, commonly chosen snacks like sugary beverages, pies, cakes, ice cream, and cookies exhibit negative NRF scores, showing low nutrient density.5
Opting for snacks that are rich in essential nutrients rather than empty calories from sugars can ensure that you are getting the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs for the baby's development.
Heart health: Pregnancy places extra strain on the cardiovascular system. Lowering sugar intake can contribute to better heart health and reduce the risk of pregnancy-related hypertension and other complications.
Positive long-term habits: Making conscious choices for low-sugar snacks can help you set a positive example for post-pregnancy eating habits. It can make it easier to transition to a healthier diet after childbirth.
Incorporating a variety of low-sugar snacks into your diet during pregnancy can provide you with enough calories and nutrients to support the baby's growing needs.
Consulting a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian is recommended to create a personalized pregnancy diet plan.
Low-sugar snack ideas
Fresh fruit salads
Grabbing a fresh banana or an orange or preparing fresh fruit salads is the most accessible and ‘go-to’ way for snacking during pregnancy.
Bananas are rich in potassium and help in relieving cramps, whereas oranges and berries contain folate and anti-oxidants,, making them ideal for the baby’s development.6
Apple slices with almond butter or peanut butter
This one contains good fat and omega-3 fatty acids along with other nutrients like vitamin B6 and magnesium. Do not take peanut butter if you are allergic to it.
Yoghurt with fruits
Yoghurt contains probiotics, and these good bacteria keep your gut healthy. You can add fruits of your choice.
If you are craving too many sweets, have a bowl of fruit with dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is known to contain anti-oxidants, which might help lower blood pressure. But take it in moderation.
Carrot sticks with hummus
Vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals and help bolster the immune system, which experiences a slight dip during pregnancy. For instance, pairing veggies such as carrots and broccoli with hummus provides an additional dose of fibre and protein, promoting prolonged satiety.7
You can also try Cucumber and avocado bites
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great option if you are craving to munch. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are usually found in fish. If you are a vegetarian, you can eat walnuts.
Tips for incorporating low-sugar snacks into the diet
- Meal planning and preparation- Scheduling meals is extremely important as it prevents over-eating and gastrointestinal problems like gastritis.
- Reading food labels and choosing wisely.
- Avoid sugary products and opt for water instead of sugary beverages.
- All spreading fats (such as butter)
- Salad dressings
- Ice cream
- Fizzy drinks
Maintaining a well-balanced diet during pregnancy is essential for both the mother's health and the baby's development. Opting for low-sugar snacks offers numerous benefits, especially when you are pregnant. These snacks help stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, manage weight gain, and provide essential nutrients. Low-sugar snack options include fruit-based snacks, vegetable choices, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and dairy products. These snacks not only contribute to a healthier pregnancy but also foster positive dietary habits for the future. Prioritizing nutrient-rich options and keeping the kitchen stocked with nourishing snacks can make it easier for pregnant women to make wholesome choices effortlessly, ensuring the well-being of both themselves and their babies.
- nhs.uk [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Aug 11]. Have a healthy diet during pregnancy. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/have-a-healthy-diet/
- Jouanne M, Oddoux S, Noël A, Voisin-Chiret AS. Nutrient requirements during pregnancy and lactation. Nutrients [Internet]. 2021 Feb 21 [cited 2023 Aug 11];13(2):692. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7926714/
- Diabetes during pregnancy - health encyclopedia - university of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. [cited 2023 Aug 11]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P02444#:~:text=In%20late%20pregnancy%2C%20the%20hormones,blood%20sugar%20levels%20go%20up.
- AptamilTM Early Life Nutrition & Pregnancy Advice - Join Aptaclub [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2023 Aug 11]. Sugar in pregnancy: how much is too much? | aptaclub. Available from: https://www.aptaclub.co.uk/pregnancy/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-food-groups/the-role-of-sugar-in-pregnancy.html
- Hess J, Rao G, Slavin J. The nutrient density of snacks. Glob Pediatr Health [Internet]. 2017 Mar 30 [cited 2023 Aug 11];4:2333794X17698525. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5406144/
- Kipping R. The Prenatal Nutritionist. 2022 [cited 2023 Aug 11]. 10 fruit snacks during pregnancy. Available from: https://www.theprenatalnutritionist.com/fruit-snacks-during-pregnancy/
- 5 snack foods to eat while pregnant [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 Aug 11]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-snack-foods-to-eat-while-pregnant