Carbs provide the body with energy. The pregnant body needs the power to support a happy and healthy pregnancy. While some carbohydrate foods are less than nutrient-dense, others contain essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber to help expectant mothers meet nutrient needs throughout their pregnancy.
Not all carb foods are created equally. Some foods are better carb choices for pregnant women, and some are best to limit. Better carb choices include berries, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, and more. Let’s go over a roundup of some of the best carb choices for pregnant women and the healthy development of their growing babies.
8 Best Carbs For Pregnancy
To better understand what choices these “better” carbs are for pregnancy, we should first start by talking about the types of carbs. Refined, processed carbs and ‘added sugar’ are generally quick to digest and can cause a more significant blood sugar spike. For example, table sugar, white bread, or sugary cereal. These are carbs to choose from less often during pregnancy.
On the other hand, carbs with a higher fiber-to-carb ratio and free from added sugar are choices to pick most of the time. These foods include fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, and starchy vegetables. They provide more sustained energy for the body and more extended periods. Plus, slower digestion means more balanced blood glucose levels. These are the best carbs for pregnancy.
Let’s go over the eight best carbs for pregnancy without further adieu!
Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries – oh my! There are many berries, and these fruits are an excellent option for pregnancy. Berries are a good source of fiber. One cup of raspberries contains about 8 grams of fiber. In addition to being a good source of fiber, berries are also rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and other essential vitamins and minerals for pregnancy. Berries can even make an excellent addition to a snack for those with gestational diabetes during pregnancy too.
Carbs: 10-25 grams/cup
Quinoa is a source of fiber and folate, a nutrient essential for fetal growth and development. It also adds a few grams of protein to your pregnancy diet. A fiber-rich carb choice like quinoa is also a great food to help maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
Remember that quinoa is not a “low-carb” food, so be sure to balance it with some additional protein and healthy fats to keep it blood sugar friendly. A chicken and vegetable quinoa bowl topped with avocado is always a yummy idea!
Carbs: 39 grams/cup (cooked)
Whole Grain or Sourdough Bread
When first-trimester food aversions strike, a piece of toast often helps! Toast can be a great snack for nausea during pregnancy too. Whole-grain and sourdough bread are also a source of vitamins, minerals, and some fiber. Dress your toast with toppings such as avocado and hemp seeds, nut butter and strawberries, or cottage cheese! Delicious.
Carbs: 15-30 grams/slice
Oatmeal has many health benefits during pregnancy that extend beyond being a complex carbohydrate food. This delicious and nutritious food helps keep you regular, reduces constipation, contains nutrients necessary for our immune system, and helps support a healthy weight gain.
Oatmeal is a more “bland” carb food, making it an excellent choice if you’re experiencing nausea and food aversions. Give your oatmeal toppings like full-fat Greek yogurt, heavy cream, berries, nuts, and seeds for an extra nutritional boost.
Carbs: 27 grams/cup (cooked)
Are you surprised to see bananas on the list? There are many myths about bananas, but they are a nutritious source of carbs! Bananas also contain a multitude of essential vitamins and minerals. These include potassium, vitamins C and B6, magnesium, and fiber. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that can help the body better absorb non-heme iron. Vitamin B6 can help reduce nausea during pregnancy.
Carbs: 27 grams/medium banana
Sweet potatoes are a delicious and versatile starchy vegetable. They also contain about 4 grams of fiber per cup. As we already mentioned, fiber effectively reduces common symptoms of pregnancy like constipation. Fiber is also crucial for balancing out those blood sugar levels.
This carbohydrate food also contains beta carotene (provitamin A), an essential nutrient for proper fetal development. Still, you need to consume both types of vitamin A. Sweet potatoes make a great addition to a breakfast hash or side at dinner!
Carbs: 27 grams/cup
Contrary to myths found online (i.e., hummus), chickpeas are safe to consume during pregnancy. They are encouraged because they contain fiber, potassium, folate, and some plant-based iron – wow! Plus, they are one of the best sources of plant-based protein. Consuming a variety of non-heme and heme iron during pregnancy is encouraged to help prevent iron deficiency and anemia. For more information on natural remedies for anemia, click here.
Carbs: 22 grams per half-cup
Beans and Lentils
Like chickpeas, beans and lentils are one of the best plant-based protein sources during pregnancy. And in addition to protein, beans, and lentils also contain folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, and several B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for developing your baby’s brain and spinal cord and preventing neural tube defects.
Not sure which beans to eat? Check out our blog on the best beans to consume during pregnancy.
Carbs: 20-35 grams of carbs per half-cup, depending on the bean
Every pregnant person will tolerate a different amount of carbs. Blood sugar balance is critical!
Everyone will tolerate a different amount of carbs. You may benefit from a lower carb intake if you have any risk factors for gestational diabetes. That does NOT mean no carbs, though! Aim to focus on primarily real food carb choices like those listed here. Also, keep blood sugar balance in mind.
We like to say here at The Prenatal Nutritionist, “let your carbs have a friend.” For example, berries (carb) and Greek yogurt (protein + fat) or toast (carb) with avocado (fat) and egg (protein). Protein and fat are your carbs “friends”!
Here at The Prenatal Nutritionist, we hope this list of nutritious carbohydrate foods comes in handy as you strive to maintain a healthy diet throughout your pregnancy; for more blogs like this one and tips on prenatal nutrition, head on to The Prenatal Nutritionist Blog. You also don’t want to miss The Prenatal Nutrition Library, a much more extensive database of evidence-based prenatal nutrition answers! We have easy-to-follow meal plans for every trimester and access to the experts for all your food-related questions.
Sign up for The Prenatal Nutrition Library today!
Until next time, wish all the expectant mothers a happy and healthy pregnancy!