7 Healthy Meal Ideas for Pregnancy

Tired of being told what you can't eat? Here are foods that are totally good for you—and tasty too.
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Updated April 14, 2017
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Image: Photo: Will Heap

Protein-Rich Breakfast

If you’re always on the go in the mornings, you don’t need to start your day with boring meals. Try these portobello and black bean breakfast burritos. “This is the kind of breakfast where I would make a few batches of it beforehand and put it in the fridge,” says Erika Lenkert, coauthor of Healthy Eating During Pregnancy. “Saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms, and cook the brown rice on Sunday, and then put the rest together when you’re ready to grab it and go.” You might want to cut back on the garlic and onion if you’re experiencing too much heartburn.

Portobello and black bean breakfast burritos
Serves 4

4 large flour tortillas
1 Tbl. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1 cup onion, diced (from 1 small onion)
1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
2 large portobello mushrooms, diced
3 Tbl. lemon juice
1 Tbl. brown rice miso paste
1 Tbl. hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 dash Tabasco (or more to taste)
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup brown rice, cooked
4 egg whites
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated (optional)
1/2 cup salsa (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap the tortillas tightly in a large sheet of foil and warm in the oven until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes. Keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saute pan until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, miso paste, hoisin sauce, salt and Tabasco. Pour over the mushrooms. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse until well chopped but not pulverized. Return to the pan and add the black beans, brown rice and egg whites. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the egg whites are fully cooked.
  4. Place a warm tortilla on a plate. Spoon 1/4 of the mushroom mixture, 1/4 of the cheese and 1/4 of the salsa (if using) in vertical rows across the center, leaving room on the bottom and sides of the tortilla. Fold the bottom over most of the filling, and then fold over the sides, overlapping them. Repeat with the other 3 burritos. Serve hot.

Per serving: 642 calories, 12.52 g fat, 84.48 g carbs, 7.50 g fiber, 21.6 g protein, 255 mg calcium, 4.1 mg iron, 1,125 mg sodium, 101 mcg folate

Image: Photo: Will Heap

Best Dish for Overheated Mamas-to-Be

“This gazpacho with shrimp is a refreshing and healthy meal,” says Lenkert. “It’s perfect for summer pregnancies because you’ll feel full, but the dish is also light and cool.” The gazpacho is also a great choice if you have morning sickness, since it’s not too filling and less likely to upset your stomach. And even though a gazpacho might seem tricky to make, it’s really not. “You don’t cook that much,” says Lenkert. “You can simplify it and not make your own croutons. You can also go light on the olive oil if you want to eat a lot of helpings.” And if you’re wondering about eating fish, it’s safe as long as you cook it properly.

Gazpacho With Shrimp
Serves 4

For the gazpacho
2 lb. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup water
6 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbl. sherry vinegar
1 to 1 1/2 slices of bread, torn into small pieces
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

For the shrimp
1 Tbl. olive oil
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Pinch of kosher salt
For the croutons and garnish
4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices of bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Tbl. olive oil
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Kosher salt, as needed
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 Tbl. shallot, diced
1 Tbl. chives, minced, to garnish
Sea salt, to garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed


  1. Place the gazpacho ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth, adding more water if necessary. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and chill.
  2. Make the shrimp: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut the shrimp lengthwise about halfway down so they open into a Y shape (this allows the shrimp to cook more evenly). Once the oil is hot, add the salt and saute the shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Put the bread cubes in a mixing bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat evenly. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden, turning once or twice with a spatula, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the plum tomatoes, cucumber, salt, red and green bell peppers, and shallot, and mix well.
  5. To serve, place three sauteed shrimp in the center each soup bowl. Arrange some of the tomato-cucumber mixture around the edge. Sprinkle with chives and sea salt and top with some croutons. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil. Transfer the chilled gazpacho to a pitcher. Set the bowls in front of your guests and pour the gazpacho at the table.

Per serving: 384 calories, 28.55 g fat, 22.68 g carbs, 9.53 g protein, 5.16 g fiber, 68 mg calcium, 2.32 mg iron, 426 mg sodium, 90 mcg folate

Image: Photo: Will Heap

Morning Sickness Cure

For a different take on salad, try this watermelon, arugula, feta and mint salad. “Watermelon is great for morning sickness and helps with bloating because it’s a natural diuretic and has fiber,” says Lenkert. “This salad has an amazing flavor, combined with savory elements from the feta and the herby mint and lettuce. It’s super-low in calories too.” You can eat feta as long as it’s pasteurized.

Watermelon, Arugula, Feta and Mint Salad
Serves 4

1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly and halved (about 1/4 cup)
2 Tbl. fresh lime juice
1 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
6 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 1/2 cups ripe seedless watermelon, cut into thin triangles
1 1/2 cups arugula, loosely packed
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped and loosely packed
1/3 cup crumbled pasteurized feta cheese


  1. In a serving bowl, combine the onion, lime juice, olive oil and olives, and mix until combined and the onions are coated. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the watermelon, arugula, mint and feta. Toss so the dressing coats the lettuce and serve.

Per serving: 104 calories, 6.53 g fat, 9.48 g carbs, 2.91 g protein, 1.27 g fiber, 99 mg calcium, 1.16 mg iron, 209 mg sodium, 28 mcg folate

Image: Photo: Will Heap

A Super Food That's Flavorful

Replace rice with quinoa (the grain is pretty trendy right now too!). “This mushroom quinoa risotto is one of my favorite recipes anytime — you don’t have to be pregnant to love it,” says Lenkert. Quinoa is considered by many to be a super food because it’s a great source of protein and fiber. It’s also a fantastic source of iron, which is perfect for health during pregnancy and in general. “It also has a natural flavor that rice doesn’t. You don’t lose any of the deliciousness with quinoa, and you gain more nutrition,” she adds.

Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
Serves 4

3 cups mushroom or chicken broth
1 Tbl. plus 2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbl. shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups white quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup white wine
8 oz. shiitake or white mushrooms, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. trumpet mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1⁄3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra shavings for serving


  1. In a medium pot, heat the broth over low heat and simmer while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  2. In another medium pot, heat 1 Tbl. olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic, and saute until soft and translucent, stirring often to prevent browning. Add the quinoa and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the grains are coated in oil and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Ladle 1/2 cup of hot broth into the quinoa, stir and simmer until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Continue the process, adding 1/2 cup broth at a time, until the quinoa is fully cooked and there’s no more broth, about 25 minutes. This is your risotto.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tsp. oil in a small saute pan, add the shiitake mushrooms and cook, until browned. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Repeat with the trumpet mushrooms.
  5. Stir the shiitake mushrooms and Parmesan cheese into the risotto. Spoon into 4 serving bowls and top with the trumpet mushrooms. Serve immediately, with additional Parmesan cheese for sprinkling.

Per serving: 386 calories, 11.43 g fat, 47.55 g carbs, 17.95 g protein, 5.39 g fiber, 152 mg calcium, 4.12 mg iron, 553 mg sodium, 141 mcg folate

Image: Photo: Will Heap

Your Quick and Healthy Asian Fix

No need for takeout, here’s the healthier version. “This Korean beef broccoli only takes a few minutes to prep and then you marinate it for a couple of hours,” says Lenkert. “After it’s marinated, it only takes six minutes to finish the dish. It’s a really satisfying and super-fast healthy meal.”

Korean Beef Broccoli
Serves 4

1 lb. beef top sirloin or rib eye, thinly sliced
1 heaping Tbl. garlic, minced
2 Tbl. onion, grated
3 Tbl. soy sauce
1 Tbl. sugar
1 Tbl. honey
1 Tbl. sesame oil
1 Tbl. sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
4 cups broccoli florets, halved lengthwise
Water, as needed
1 scallion, sliced into thin strips, for garnish


  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the beef, garlic, onion, soy sauce, sugar, honey, sesame oil, sesame seeds and pepper. Seal and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Steam or boil the broccoli until cooked but still firm. Set aside to cool.
  3. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef, shaking off any marinade, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 6 minutes, or until done. Add the broccoli during the last 2 minutes of cooking, to heat and coat it with the cooking juices. If the pan gets too dry, add a little water. Garnish with sliced scallions and serve.

Per serving: 247 calories, 9.39 g fat, 10.64 g carbs, 28.16 g protein, 0.19 g fiber, 70 mg calcium, 2.81 mg iron, 649 mg sodium, 67 mcg folate

Image: Photo: Will Heap

Decadent Dessert (Without the Guilt!)

“There’s no skimping with these raspberry turnovers,” says Lenkert. “But they’re small, so you’re not overindulging. It’s not the healthiest dish you could ever eat, but if you’re going to indulge, this one’s good because it won’t push you over the edge.” And think of it this way: Raspberries have fiber and vitamins, so you’re getting some nutrition!

Raspberry Turnovers
Serves 4

Butter for greasing pan
2 cups fresh raspberries
4 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbl. water, plus more for puff pastry
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
4 (3-inch-square) pieces of puff pastry, thawed but chilled


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking sheet with butter.
  2. Place the berries, 4 tsp. sugar and water into a saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the berries break down. Add the lemon juice and cornstarch, and stir until the berry mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Stretch out each piece of puff pastry to 4 inches square and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Place 1/4 of the raspberry mixture in the center, leaving 3/4 of an inch of dough on each side. Using a pastry brush, dampen the exposed dough with water. Fold the dough in half diagonally, over the filling. Press the edges to seal and crimp them with a fork. Brush the top of each turnover with water and sprinkle evenly with the remaining sugar. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. With the tip of a paring knife, cut three small slits in the top of each pastry. Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.

Per serving: 210 calories, 10.53 g fat, 25.99 g carbs, 2.82 g protein, 4.44 g fiber, 18 mg calcium, 1.16 mg iron, 71 mg sodium, 35 mcg folate

Image: Photo: Will Heap

The Ultimate Go-To Snack

These peanut-butter-chocolate-chip energy bars are the ultimate yummy snack to take with you everywhere. You’re using fresh ingredients and not consuming processed foods. “What’s so cool about this recipe is you make it one time, cut it into 20 bars and grab and go,” says Lenkert. “They’re delicious, and it feels like you’re having something sweet and satisfying.” Plus, there are good amounts of protein in the peanut butter and chocolate. And dates provide a natural sweetener.

Peanut-Butter-Chocolate-Chip Energy Bars
Makes 20 bars

1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
20 Medjool dates, pitted
2 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch-square baking pan with vegetable oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Put the oats, peanuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds and dates in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs together with the salt and vanilla. Add the mixture to the food processor and pulse until it becomes a coarse, chunky paste. Fold in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and spread evenly, gently pressing down to flatten. Bake for 35 minutes, or until firm and golden.
  4. Cool and cut into 20 bars. The bars can be stored in an airtight container for a week in the refrigerator and a month in the freezer.

Per bar: 164 calories, 10.31 g fat, 14.51 g carbs, 5.39 g protein, 2.57 g fiber, 16 mg calcium, 1 mg iron, 153 mg sodium, 28 mcg folate

All recipes from Healthy Eating During Pregnancy by Erika Lenkert with Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN (Kyle Books; 2012)

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