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Fast food usually isn't the best choice for expecting moms, since it's often packed with excessive amounts of saltadded sugar, and unhealthy fats. But fast food during pregnancy doesn't have to be a nutritional disaster. Here's what to order — and what to avoid — at popular fast-food chains when you're pregnant.
A note on fat: During pregnancy you need more fat, but aim to get monounsaturated "healthy" fats from sources like olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish. Saturated fats come primarily from animal sources like red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream and are best consumed in moderation and from quality sources, if possible.
Mickey D's isn't exactly known for health food, and recently the company removed sal, bagels, and yogurt parfaits from the menu. For pregnant women looking for a nutritious meal, the pickings are pretty slim.
At calories, it includes a crispy chicken fillet, Roma tomato, shredded lettuce, mayonnaise, and a potato roll. To limit excess calories, you can request the mayo on the side and consider removing one of the buns and eating the sandwich open-faced. Round out the meal with apple slices and an ice water or unsweetened iced tea.
Avoid: Chicken McNuggets — they're sky-high in calories, unhealthy fat, and excessive amounts of sodium. Ten pieces have nearly half the fat you should eat in a day; 20 pieces have nearly 1, calories. Other classics aren't great choices, either: A Quarter Pounder with Cheese has calories and 43 grams g of fat, the Big Mac has 29 g of fat, and the shakes and McFlurrys are positively groaning with calories and sugar. See nutrition information. Chipotle is one of the healthier fast-food options: it's fresh and tasty, too. But extras like sour cream and cheese, large portions, and those hard-to-resist chips make it easy to go overboard on calories, salt, and fat.
Best bets: Chipotle now offers some impressively nutrient-dense options including sal, burrito bowls, and Lifestyle Bowls. For example, a Paleo Lifestyle Bowl comes with a "supergreens" lettuce blend, grilled chicken, fajita veggies, tomatillo green chili salsa, and guacamole.
Young little girl with fast food bag near cafe sitting on the bench free photo
Add a small portion of black beans for additional fiber and request sour cream and shredded cheese on the side if you want. Consider subbing the chicken for beef if you're looking for a bump in iron. If you're craving chips, request a small bag or share with a friend and order a small side of guacamole.
Guac is rich in healthy fats, lutein, vitamin E, and fiber — but it's also high in calories. Avoid: A burrito with a flour tortilla, carnitas, white rice, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, and fresh tomato salsa is full of flavor and nutrients — but packs 1, calories the tortilla alone has calories. To make it more manageable, save half for tomorrow or order a burrito bowl instead. For your bowl, ask for less rice and get the sour cream, cheese, and guac on the side so you can add a few spoonfuls to your meal.
Pizza can be tricky. It's easy to consume more calories than you need, primarily from refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Plus, pizza has a lot of sodium. And Pizza Hut defines a "portion" as one piece of pizza — and who orders a pizza and has just one slice? Best bets: Slices with the Thin 'N Crispy crust are lower in refined carbohydrates and calories — especially if you go for the Cheese Only or Veggie Lover's versions.
Two slices of the Veggie Lover's Thin 'N Crispy are calories with 9 g of fat and 10 g of protein. Both are sky-high in calories and unhealthy fats. A single slice of the Stuffed Crust Meat Lover's Pizza has calories, 26 g of fat, and an eye-popping 1, milligrams mg of sodium. Quickie Mexican can be cheap and tasty, and Taco Bell has added more nutritious options to the menu.
But it's still easy to get too much salt, unhealthy fat, and calories on your run for the border.
Best bets: The Power Menu Bowl has fresh veggies like tomatoes and lettuce, fiber-filled black beans, seasoned rice, nourishing fat from guacamole and cheese, and a nice serving of protein from grilled chicken. You can customize it by adding toppings like jalapenos and chopped onion, and request extra tomatoes, lettuce, or seasoned rice. Avoid: The Crunchwrap Supreme and the crunchy and soft tacos Supreme and regular are full of unhealthy fat and sodium. Two of the Soft Taco Supreme have 20 grams of fat plus half the daily value for saturated fat and 43 percent of the daily value for sodium.
For a place famous for fried chicken sandwiches, Chick-fil-A has some surprisingly decent options for expecting moms.
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Sadly, those sandwiches — and the well-loved fried chicken nuggets and waffle fries — aren't nutritional winners. Best bets: Menu items with grilled chicken, which is percent breast meat with no fillers or additives. The Market Salad with grilled chicken provides a nice balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat and features plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables like berries, cabbage, red and green apples, and strawberries.
If a sandwich is calling your name, opt for the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with 30 grams of protein and calories.
Most of the salad dressings are very high in calories, so try using half of the packet. Avoid: Those tempting waffle fries: A large order adds calories and 27 g of non-nourishing fat to your meal a small isn't great either, with calories and 16 g of fat. Also, the fried chicken sandwich and nuggets are full of unhealthy fat and excessive sodium, so skip them if possible.
Subway made a name for itself as a healthy fast-food choice, but it has plenty of not-so-great stuff on the menu. Plus, there aren't a ton of options for pregnant women because of the warning to avoid deli meat unless it's heated until steaming hot. Best bets: The Rotisserie Style Chicken Salad offers a colorful, plant-focused meal with a nice dose of protein from the chicken.
Consider asking for more veggies like cucumbers, spinach, green peppers, olives, and red onion on your salad to ramp up the flavor, nutrients, and fiber content. If you're craving a sandwich, consider a 6-inch Oven Roasted Chicken sandwich packed with veggies like banana peppers, black olives, cucumbers, green peppers, jalapenos, red onions, spinach, and tomatoes. Get it with oil and vinegar instead of creamy sauces, and ask for it heated or toasted.
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Avoid: Any sub with deli meat. Even if you heat your sandwich, processed meat contains sodium nitrate, which some experts say to avoid or limit when you're expecting. Also, skip tuna sandwiches because cold deli sal aren't safe to eat during pregnancy.
Panera is a bakery first and foremost, but skip the sticky buns and scan the menu for healthier choices. With a variety options to choose from, there are plenty of ways to get the pregnancy nutrients you need.
Best bets: The Garden Goddess Cobb salad with chicken offers a nice blend of colors, robust flavors, and healthy fat. With 24 grams of carbohydrate, 29 grams of fat, and 40 grams of protein, a full version of this meal offers a nice balance of macronutrients and will likely leave you feeling satisfied.
Or, consider ordering the You Pick Two and opt for either the Mediterranean bowl with chicken or a strawberry poppyseed salad with chicken, then order a chicken noodle soup or ten vegetable soup as your second option. Go for the apple on the side instead of the chips or French baguette. If breakfast is what you're looking for, consider the steel cut oats with strawberries and pecans or the breakfast sandwich with avocado, egg white, and spinach.
Optimize your sandwich by asking for the whole egg not just the white and adding onion and other veggies to ramp up the flavor, color, and fiber content. Avoid: The treats at the bakery counter.
The cupcakes, pastries, cookies, and scones are nutritional disasters the worst is the vanilla cinnamon roll, with calories, grams of carbohydrate, and 72 grams of sugar. Also, the smoothies provide 40 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and up to 50 grams of sugar. Starbucks has some good options, but plenty of minefields too. Watch out for caffeine : Many Starbucks drinks exceed the recommended limit for pregnant women.
That's mg a day, and a ounce brewed Starbucks coffee can have to mg of caffeine. Best bets: The Protein Boxes are a nice pregnancy snack, featuring things like a hardboiled egg, cheddar cheese, honey peanut-butter spread, multigrain bread, apples, and grapes. The peanut butter contributes healthy fats and protein, as does the egg, which also contains choline for brain development.
Pair it with a fresh orange or banana.
Starbucks also offers several decent energy bar options. For breakfast, a hearty blueberry oatmeal bowl is a nice way to start the morning — consider pairing it with a hard-boiled egg from the protein box. As far as drinks, basic is best — try a decaf coffee or tea, or a less-caffeinated option like iced tea or a tall ounce latte, which has 75 mg of caffeine.
Avoid: Most of the flavored coffee drinks and Frappuccinos are loaded with calories and sugar. The Grande Caramel Frappuccino, for example, has calories, 16 grams of fat, and half the daily value of saturated fat for the day.
But you can make your drink healthier by requesting a smaller serving size, swapping milk for almond or coconut milk, dropping the whipped cream, and asking the barista to go easy on the syrup. Also, pass on the bakery items — they're filled with added sugar and refined carbohydrates. BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals.
We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Nutrition During Pregnancy.