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10 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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Published June 13, 2024
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What should you eat when pregnant? It’s a big question, and there’s no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. Most likely, you’ve only been told what foods to avoid. That’s why we worked with nutrition experts to curate a list of healthy pregnancy meals for every occasion—a “best-of awards” for recipes that contain nutrients important for pregnancy, like folate. Read on for our favorite expert-approved healthy meals for pregnancy.

Best Protein-Rich Breakfast to Cure Hanger

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, which have 22 grams of protein, 4 milligrams of iron and 101 micrograms of folate per serving. “This is the kind of breakfast where I’d make a few batches of it beforehand and put it in the fridge,” says Erika Lenkert, coauthor of Healthy Eating During Pregnancy with Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN. “Sauté 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 pregnancy heartburn.

Image: Courtesy Will Heap

Portobello and black bean breakfast burritos

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 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)

Steps:

  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 sauté pan until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, eight 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 three burritos. Serve hot.

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 [satiated], but the dish is also light and cool.” The gazpacho, which contains 5 grams of fiber, 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.

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Image: Courtesy Will Heap

Gazpacho with shrimp

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 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

Steps:

  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 sauté the shrimp for two to three 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 sautéed shrimp in the center of 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 and serve.

Best Breakfast to Help Baby Grow

Healthy pregnancy meals that are as good for baby as they are for you? Sign us up! “Packed with choline and protein from eggs, calcium from cheese and folate from spinach, this quiche is a prenatal nutrition superstar,” says Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE, bestselling author of Real Food for Pregnancy. “Choline is essential to fetal brain development, protein requirements are higher in pregnancy and support healthy blood sugar levels, calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth, and folate supports healthy development and may reduce the risk of neural tube defects.”

Image: Courtesy of Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE

Spinach-and-cheddar frittata

Serves 6

You’ll need:

  • 1 tbl. butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 10 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 8 eggs (with the yolks!)
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1⁄8 tsp. black pepper

Steps:

  1. In a large cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat, cook onions in butter until soft (about five to eight minutes).
  2. Stir in spinach and allow excess moisture to evaporate. Turn off heat and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Pour into the pan and use a spatula to gently stir it into the spinach mixture.
  4. Bake in a 350˚F oven until eggs set, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Best Comfort-Food Meal That Sneaks Fiber Into Your Diet

“Fiber is so important for various health concerns—but in pregnancy it can be so helpful in preventing and even treating constipation that’s often triggered by our fluctuating hormones,” says Natalie Carroll, RDN, a registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching and lactation counselor specializing in women’s health. “This veggie-packed pasta sauce is a great way to get in some fiber—serve on top of whole wheat or protein-plus pasta for even more!”

Image: Courtesy of Natalie Carroll, RDN

Veggie-packed turkey bolognese

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 1 tbl. olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 2 carrots, finely grated
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely grated
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • Parmesan cheese to top
  • Fresh basil, finely sliced to top
  • 1 lb. high-fiber pasta

Steps:

  1. Heat oil in pan and cook ground turkey until no longer pink.
  2. Add in shredded veggies and sauté until soft.
  3. Pour in jarred sauce and stir until combined.
  4. Decrease heat to simmer and let sauce cook until pasta is done.
  5. Cook pasta per instructions on box and drain.
  6. Pour pasta into the sauce once drained, and stir to coat the pasta.
  7. Top each serving with some Parmesan cheese and basil.

Best Morning Sickness Cure

For a different take on salad, try this healthy pregnancy meal or side dish: a 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.” FYI: You can eat feta cheese during pregnancy as long as it’s pasteurized.

Image: Courtesy Will Heap

Watermelon, arugula, feta and mint salad

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 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

Steps:

  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.

Best Third-Trimester Can’t-Be-Bothered Smoothie

“Smoothies can be so helpful in pregnancy when our appetite is increased, but our ability to eat larger quantities is limited as baby grows,” says Carroll. “This smoothie provides plant-based protein, fiber and folate—all of which are imperative in pregnancy to help support a healthy baby and mama!” If you’re looking for healthy smoothie recipes for pregnancy that are also filling, check out Carroll’s recipe.

Image: Courtesy of Natalie Carroll, RDN

Green smoothie

Serves 1

You’ll need:

  • ½ -1 banana
  • ½ cup frozen mango
  • 1 cup leafy greens (spinach or kale are good!)
  • 1-2 scoops of natural nut butter
  • 1-2 tbl. hemp seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Steps:
Blend all ingredients to the consistency of your liking.

Best Super Food That’s Actually Flavorful

“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—and this recipe has 18 grams of protein and over 5 grams of fiber. The grain is also a fantastic source of iron (this recipe has 4 milligrams), which is important both during pregnancy and beyond. “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,” Lenkert adds.

Image: Courtesy Will Heap

Mushroom quinoa risotto

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 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

Steps:

  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 serving bowls and top with the trumpet mushrooms. Serve immediately, with additional Parmesan cheese for sprinkling.

Best Meal That Tastes Just Like Takeout

“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.”

Image: Courtesy Will Heap

Korean beef broccoli

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 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

Steps:

  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 two to three hours.
  2. Steam or boil the broccoli until cooked but still firm. Set aside to cool.
  3. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef, shaking off any marinade, and cook, stirring frequently, for three to six minutes, or until done. Add the broccoli during the last two 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.

Best Decadent—and Healthy—Dessert

This dessert from Lenkert isn’t just sweet and tasty—it’s packed with fiber (4.5 grams of it) and vitamins thanks to the raspberries, so you’re getting a lot of important nutrition.

Image: Courtesy Will Heap

Raspberry turnovers

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 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

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking sheet with butter.
  2. Place the berries, 4 teaspoons 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 three 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.

Best Filling Snack to Take Everywhere

These homemade peanut-butter-chocolate-chip energy bars are the ultimate yummy snack to take with you everywhere. “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, each bar has over 5 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of fiber. And dates provide a natural sweetener.

Image: Courtesy Will Heap

Peanut-butter-chocolate-chip energy bars

Makes 20 bars

You’ll need:

  • 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

Steps:

  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. You can store the bars in an airtight container for a week in the refrigerator and a month in the freezer.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Sources

Natalie Carroll, MS, RDN, CDN, CLC, is a registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching and lactation counselor specializing in women’s health. She specializes in working with people with prediabetes, gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Erika Lenkert is a food critic, cookbook author and travel journalist. She’s the coauthor of Healthy Eating During Pregnancy and the founder of GFF Magazine, a publication about gluten-free living.

Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.

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