The Best Smoothies For Your Pregnancy
- Written by Kelly Harris
- April 2, 2021
- 8 min read
Preparing to welcome a child into your world is such an amazing and special time for any soon-to-be parent. It’s exciting and also a bit scary because of the information overload out there.
Many pregnant women become extremely stressed about their diets and wonder whether their growing baby (or babies!) will receive the right nutrition to grow and develop optimally.
My first piece of advice is to just relax…and breathe. Remember, that you probably already know how to eat to keep your own body healthy and strong.
During pregnancy, your additional needs include folic acid, vitamin D, protein and omega 3 fatty acids. If you’re vegan or can’t eat dairy, you’ll also need to include plant milks fortified with calcium and iodine, as well as additional supplementation of iron, zinc and selenium.
Otherwise, just try to eat regular meals, include a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables at every meal of the day and feel free to include a snack or two in-between meals if you need it.
By the third trimester, your baby only needs around an additional 200 calories a day in addition to your body’s own usual caloric needs, so no need to double up on portions. That will likely only contribute to heartburn and digestive discomfort!
Can I drink smoothies during my pregnancy?
You can absolutely include smoothies as a safe and healthy part of your pregnancy diet. This is as true for long-term smoothie drinkers as it is for those new to smoothies. In fact, if you’re feeling any morning sickness during your pregnancy, homemade smoothies can be a good way to sneak extra nutrients into your body without inducing the queasiness that many solid foods can induce.
Here are some tasty and nutrient-boosting ideas to think about when whizzing up your smoothie at home:
1) Add Extra Protein
You need lots of extra protein when pregnant because protein will give you the building blocks required for growing a whole tiny human being inside you! You could add a ½ cup of Greek yoghurt into the blender with your other smoothie ingredients, giving you an extra 12 g of protein and making your smoothie more of a meal.
If you’re dairy-free you might find it easier to add a scoop of vanilla protein powder into your smoothie. Be mindful to avoid “nutritional shakes” and protein powders with lots of extra vitamins and minerals, sugars or artificial sweeteners added. During pregnancy, it’s safer to just stick to a pure protein powder with a natural sweetener like stevia, or better yet, no sweetener at all.
Peanut butter and nut or seed butters will also add more protein content as well as lending a creamy richness to your smoothie. Raw oats are another great protein-rich addition to smoothies.
2) Add some beta carotene
Vitamin A is required for cell and tissue differentiation and growth. The American Pediatrics Association cites it as one of the most critical vitamins during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, especially in terms of the baby’s lung function and maturation. I can hear you thinking “but isn’t vitamin A harmful to my baby?” And yes, while too much vitamin A in the retinol form (found in supplements, eggs, dairy and meat) can harm your baby’s development, beta carotene (found in plants) is only converted to vitamin A by your body in the quantities it needs.
So, try to add a variety of beta carotene-rich ingredients like raw sweet potato, apricots, cantaloupe, mangoes, squash, spinach or kale into your smoothies. You can eat as many of these fruits and vegetables as you care to, and you’ll only produce as much vitamin A as is safe for you and your baby. Also, as a bonus for you, beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant and is great for skin health.
3) Throw in some avocado chunks
While frozen banana chunks will make your smoothie deliciously creamy and sweet, fresh or frozen avocado will give a similarly creamy texture without all the extra fruit sugars. Most of the big supermarkets sell bags of prepared frozen avocado chunks. Try swapping some of your frozen sweet fruits for a few chunks of frozen avocado. This creamy, fibre-rich fruit is high in plant sterols, folic acid and vitamin K as well as healthy fats like Omega 3 which will help with baby’s brain development.
4) Use milk or fortified plant milks
Calcium and iodine are important nutrients during pregnancy, so I recommend using dairy or fortified plant milks to add the necessary liquid to your smoothie. Iodine is important for fetal brain development so check that your preferred milk or fortified plant milk contains iodine, and if it doesn’t, make sure it is an ingredient in your prenatal supplement.
5) Swap fruit for vegetables
You might not want an entirely savoury smoothie (unless that’s your thing) but by swapping out some of the sweeter elements of your smoothie for lower carbohydrate fruits and vegetables, you’ll be less likely to risk spiking your blood sugar. You’ll also be widening the opportunity for a more phytonutrient-rich and fibre packed smoothie.
We’ve already talked about the benefits of sweet potato and avocado, both of which can be found as pre-cut frozen chunks in the supermarket freezer aisle. Start gradually by adding in a chunk or two of avocado and sweet potato into your smoothie. Make sure they’re blended in thoroughly and you’ll end up with a lovely creamy texture. Frozen courgette chunks are another great ingredient to try out in smoothies, especially if you’re trying to keep your sugar content low.
6) Add berries
I know I’ve just talked about ways to reduce the number of sugary fruits in your smoothie, but berries are surprisingly low in sugar, high in antioxidants and contain all sorts of beneficial phytonutrients, as well as vitamin C. They’re also a great source of fibre and because they contain a lot of water, they’ll help keep your hydration levels up. Frozen bags of berries are particularly cost-effective so, feel free to go wild with the berries in your favourite smoothie.
7) Include some nuts and seeds
Nuts and nut butters are a great way to add extra healthy fats and fibre to your smoothie. I’m a big fan of adding a scoop of peanut butter or almond butter into the blender, or sometimes drizzled on top of my smoothie bowl. Cacao nibs sprinkled on top can be a bit like natural chocolate chips!
And let’s not forget about seeds. I know, they’re not very trendy or cool. But while we’re being uncool, let’s have a chat about poop. Some women find that as their pregnancy progresses, they start to suffer from constipation. My first tip is to make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water, but also, you can use chia seeds or flax seeds to increase the soluble fibre content of your smoothie.
Soluble fibre will absorb water as it passes through your digestive system, turning into a gel which ‘scrubs’ your GI tract, making your bowel movements softer and easier to pass while also dealing with higher glucose levels and binding to cholesterol particles, helping to reduce overall cardiovascular risk.
Chia seeds are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids which are great for baby’s brain development, but flax seeds are much less expensive and are also a good source of omega 3. I recommend adding 1-2 tsp of either chia or flax seeds (or both) to your smoothie. Just drink plenty of water throughout the day.
8) Drink the smoothie you’ll actually drink
I’ve talked about some ways to make your smoothie less sweet and how to increase the variety of beneficial nutrients by adding nuts, seeds and vegetables to your smoothie, but all this is a moot point if you aren’t going to drink it. I’m a practical kind of girl, and if you’re suffering with morning sickness and a strawberry banana smoothie is the only thing you can stomach at the moment, then have that smoothie.
It is better than an unloved green smoothie languishing away at the back of the fridge. Or alternatively, if you’re struggling with sweetie cravings, a delicious bowl of peanut butter and banana or cacao ‘nice cream’ is a far healthier choice than polishing off a tub of Ben & Jerrys.
9) Prepare your own smoothie kits
Once you’ve found your favourite smoothie recipe, I recommend setting up an assembly line on your kitchen counter and adding all the ingredients (except for any liquids, seeds or powders) into plastic bags or reusable silicone pouches so your own DIY smoothie kits are ready to go in the freezer for when you need them.
If your leisure time for making DIY smoothie kits is a bit…non-existent…then you might find it easier to order from The Honestly Good Smoothie Company. They deliver Soil Association Organic certified frozen smoothie kits directly to your door and offer a wide range of smoothies from fruity to green to veggie-packed (and everything in-between).
So really, the best smoothie for pregnancy is the one you enjoy drinking (or eating, if, like me, you enjoy a thick smoothie) and it’s the one you look forward to preparing in the morning. The best smoothie for pregnancy is also the smoothie which you know is providing plenty of the nutrients needed for you and your baby to thrive during your pregnancy.
If you’re new to smoothies, I’d suggest starting with the Good Morning Sunshine recipe and then you can start adapting it to suit your tastes and dietary needs. You can try swapping the strawberries for blueberries, then add in a few chunks of avocado and/or sweet potato or squash.
Disclaimer: This is common sense, but we thought it worth mentioning that any mamas-to-be who have gestational diabetes or diabetes will just need to be mindful of the fruit to vegetable ratios of their smoothie ingredients and should keep their smoothies richer in vegetables and/or greens. If you don’t find your vegetable-rich smoothie sweet tasting enough for your preferences, just add some stevia or a scoop of stevia-sweetened vanilla protein powder. Likewise, for any other health issues, you may have, please adjust your smoothie ingredients to suit your individual dietary and health needs.