Easy, Healthy Pregnancy Lunch Ideas for Work and Beyond
What’s for lunch? The answer these days might be different than before you had a baby on the way. You want something satisfying and nutritious, but some of the staples you may have normally relied on are currently off-limits (looking at you, cold cuts!). And the idea of spending hours prepping something super-elaborate? Hmm, no thanks. Worry not—there are plenty of good pregnancy lunch ideas that are healthy, filling and easy to make and pack up for work. We tapped nutrition expert Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Feed the Belly, for tips on what makes for easy, healthy pregnancy lunches, plus several menu options that’ll see you through to your due date (and beyond). Get ready to dig in.
A solid lunch for pregnant women should tick off a few important boxes. First, it should be made up of nutritious foods—think: fruits and veggies, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats—to nourish both you and your baby. And since you might not be brimming with energy right now, easy lunches for pregnancy are key. And of course, it should be free of any items that pose potential health risks during pregnancy. (More on those later.) Some general pregnancy lunch options that fit the bill include:
• Grain bowls or salads. “They’re fantastic because you can fit a lot of nutritious ingredients into one meal, which is especially important when you’re pregnant,” Largeman-Roth says. Cook a big batch of whole grains for your base (make enough to use all week!) and load up on toppings like roasted veggies, hard-cooked egg, beans or legumes, shredded cheese, cubed chicken or tofu, or canned salmon.
• Frittatas or quiches. Eggs are packed with protein to keep you satisfied, plus they’re a top source of choline—an essential nutrient for baby’s developing brain, Largeman-Roth points out. Make one on Sunday and enjoy individual slices for lunch in the following days.
• Sandwiches. You may not be able to devour deli-sliced turkey right now, but sandwiches are still great lunch ideas for pregnant women. After all, they’re easy and endlessly versatile: Fill them with fruit and nut butter, veggies and hummus or cheese, leftover roasted chicken breast, and so on. Just be sure to use whole grain bread, Largeman-Roth recommends. It’s higher in fiber than white, so it’ll keep you fuller longer and help keep constipation at bay.
• Soups. Like frittatas, a big batch will last in the fridge for days. “They also provide hydration and are a great vehicle for healthy ingredients like beans and lentils,” Largeman-Roth says. If standing at the stove doesn’t appeal to your swollen feet, store-bought soups are good too. Just choose ones with less than 450mg sodium per serving.
• Leftovers. No time to cook? No problem. Last night’s dinner always makes for a yummy pregnancy lunch.
Now that you’ve got some basic pregnancy lunch ideas at the ready, what’s actually on the menu? These are some of the best healthy, easy lunches for pregnancy.
• Quinoa bowls with veggies and egg. The quick-cooking grain is packed with protein and fiber. Top it with choline-rich eggs and roasted Brussels sprouts, along with chopped pistachios for crunch, Largeman-Roth recommends. It’s one of our favorite pregnancy lunch ideas for work, since it’s so portable. No sad desk lunches here!
• Hummus and veggie sandwich. “Hummus is a go-to for pregnant moms. It offers plant-based protein and can be combined with all sorts of veggies,” Largeman-Roth says. Slather it on whole grain bread and top with shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, and baby spinach for a tasty and oh-so-healthy pregnancy lunch.
• Kale frittata or quiche with cheddar cheese. This is a nutrient-powerhouse of a pregnancy lunch. You’ll get protein and choline from the eggs, folate from the kale and calcium from the cheese. Largeman-Roth recommends making two at once and freezing one for after baby is born.
• Leftover salmon or meatloaf. Both options make for great lunches for pregnancy: They’re hearty, satisfying and packed with protein. Plus, the omega-3s in salmon are essential for baby’s brain development, Largeman-Roth says. Serve them over brown rice or whole wheat pasta with a side of steamed veggies, like broccoli.
• Apple and almond butter sandwich. Need some more pregnancy lunch ideas for work? This healthy twist on the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich will be your new go-to. Almond butter is loaded with healthy fats and protein to keep you full, while the apple adds a welcome crunch. “It’s satisfying and portable,” says Largeman-Roth.
• Lentil soup with a sweet potato. Lentils are rich in iron—a good thing, since your iron needs skyrocket to 27mg per day during pregnancy. Round out the meal with a baked sweet potato—it’s a veritable superfood for moms-to-be.
• Tuna salad sandwich. Tuna salad is convenient and packed with protein and omega-3s—and yes, it’s a safe lunch for pregnancy, as long as you don’t overdo it, Largeman-Roth says. Canned light tuna is the lowest in mercury; if you opt for albacore, the FDA recommends keeping it to fewer than six ounces per week.
There are tons of yummy, healthy pregnancy lunch ideas out there that are safe for you and baby, but there are also certain foods that are best to skip while expecting. That’s because they pose a higher risk of foodborne illness, which can potentially lead to serious infections for you and baby. Until your little one arrives, experts recommend steering clear of:
Updated November 2019
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.