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KUSA - Healthy snacking is important during pregnancy. Eating well during pregnancy is more than just increasing how much you eat, but also paying attention to what you eat.

When you're pregnant, the food and drinks you consume are the main source of nourishment for your baby. Therefore, the extra food you eat shouldn't just be empty calories - it should provide the nutrients your growing baby needs.

There are several very important nutrients to consume during pregnancy for healthy fetal development. You will need about 300 extra calories a day in the second and third trimester of pregnancy and those calories should come from nutritious foods filled with important nutrients in order to positively contribute to your baby's growth and development.

Keep in mind that 300 calories may sound like a lot but it actually does not amount to too much extra food. It only takes about 3 apples, a handful of nuts, or a tuna sandwich to acquire the extra calories needed. Your body will also require more of all the essential nutrients once you become pregnant.

Some significant nutrients needed for pregnancy and your developing baby include protein, folic acid, calcium, Iron, as well as Vitamin A, B6, B12, C, and D and omega-3 fatty acids.

These nutrients with help with the development of strong bones and teeth, muscle contraction, nerve function, red blood cell production and formation, nervous system health, healthy skin, good eyesight, effective enzyme function, and the proper use of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

We've all heard about the women who crave ice cream and pickles during pregnancy. Dealing with cravings during pregnancy can be hard. It is still unclear why these urges occur, but those who are pregnant or have gone through a pregnancy know what they are like. The desire for that certain food is extremely strong and overpowering. Some pregnant women crave chocolate, spicy foods, fruits, pickles and/or different comfort foods.

In order to help with those food cravings don't fully limit yourself, but try to find an alternative that provides the most nutrients possible! For example, if you are craving chocolate, try a chocolate protein shake (which tastes like a milkshake) instead of a high calorie, low nutrient piece of chocolate cake.

Following your cravings is fine in moderation, and just remember your portion sizes. Eating one doughnut is vastly different than eating an entire dozen, so buy foods in single servings to make it easier on yourself to stick to a moderate amount.

Some women also crave non-food items, such as clay and cornstarch. The craving and eating of non-food items is known as Pica. Consuming things that aren't food can be dangerous to both you and your baby; therefore if you do have urges to eat non-food items please notify your doctor.

Craving certain flavors or textures? Here are some healthy foods to try within each category:

SWEET

  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake
  • Greek yogurt with fruit and one 60 calorie Dove ice cream bar
  • Dark chocolate Hershey kisses
  • Oatmeal (Add milk, cinnamon, berries, almonds, walnuts, peanut butter, dark chocolate, etc.)

SAVORY/SALTY

  • Cheese and whole grain crackers
  • String cheese
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Trail mix
  • Popcorn

SPICY

  • Chicken/Pork dipped in hot sauce
  • Hot tamales candy
  • Chips and spicy salsa ( w/ jalapenos)
  • Spicy Edamame

CRUNCHY

  • Pretzels with hummus
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Veggies and hummus
  • Apples with Peanut Butter and Fiber Cereal or Granola

Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD is a nutrition scientist and registered dietitian at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, University of Colorado Denver. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MichelleCardel for daily nutrition tips!

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