10 Staples For Your Prenatal Pantry

By Published On: May 4th, 2023

With these key ingredients, you can easily add essential nutrients to any meal.

Whether you’re searching for a snack after work or trying to cobble together lunch on a lazy Saturday, there are a few panty staples you can have on hand to ensure you neither go hungry nor fill up on current cravings. (Yes, half-empty bag of chocolate chips, that’s a reference to you.) 

Eleana Kaidanian, RD, CDN, CPT-WFS, owner of Long Island Nutritionist, knows what it’s like to be expecting and ravenous—but she’s also up to date on the importance of getting both pregnant people and growing babes the nutrition they need. She shares her short list of nutrient-dense foods with a long shelf life for healthy eating.


“While most nuts are a good source of vitamin E and fiber, walnuts are the only type of nut with a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that are key in supporting eye and brain development,” informs Kaidanian. Enjoy them solo as a snack, or add them to a leafy green salad or oatmeal with fresh fruit and granola. “Just limit yourself to a handful a day to keep your calorie intake in check,” says Kaidanian.


A gluten-free whole grain, quinoa brings fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and folic acid to the table. “It’s a low-arsenic grain that is also a good source of protein,” says Kaidanian. Quinoa is a quick alternative to brown rice when you’re short on time: “After rinsing and draining, quinoa takes about 10-15 minutes to cook in boiling water.” Use white, red, or tricolor varieties in a quinoa salad, or sneak them into an elevated rendition of crab cakes or meatballs. Bonus: The fiber in quinoa helps with constipation, a common pregnancy complaint that pops up in the first trimester, often from increased iron in your prenatal vitamin.


Beans may be inexpensive, but they’re rich in nutritional value. Varieties like garbanzo, fava, and soybeans offer protein and iron, which becomes increasingly important as your blood volume multiplies. Try whipping up a Tex-Mex-inspired salad with black beans, lettuce, avocado, tomato, and corn, or blend together chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, and zesty veggies, like bell pepper, for an at-home hummus spread.


This vegan source of iron contains vitamin C, too, which conveniently facilitates iron absorption, Kaidanian explains. The edible algae also boast choline (which promotes memory and learning), iodine (which is important for baby’s brain development), and folate (which enables cell division and protects against neural tube defects). Not bad for a swaying sea-dweller, right? Munch on dry-roasted low-sodium seaweed as a snack, suggests Kaidanian, or put together a fresh seaweed salad topped with sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Chia Seeds

Small but mighty, these super seeds are rich in fiber and omega-3s. For a yummy pregnancy breakfast, Kaidanian recommends letting a tablespoon of chia seeds soak in a cup each of almond milk and instant oatmeal overnight with blueberries to produce a no-cooking-required chia seed pudding. You can also sprinkle them on top of cottage cheese to minimize sugar.


Speaking of oatmeal, it’s filling, affordable, and packed with iron, fiber, and about 5 grams of protein per serving. Plus, its starchy composition can help with nausea, says Kaidanian. She touts the simple cereal’s convenient versatility: “It can be consumed dry or cooked, made with water or milk, served alone or mixed with toppings like dried fruit or nuts.”


Itty-bitty flaxseeds are practically tasteless. “You will forget they are even there,” says Kaidanian, “but your cells won’t!” They’re full of fiber, lignans (a plant compound), and omega-3s, all of which are pluses in the pregnancy-diet world. Add a tablespoon to your dairy product of choice (avoiding anything unpasteurized) or a smoothie.

Canned Sardines

“It takes bones to build bones!” exclaims Kaidanian, who advises opting for wild-caught, unsalted sardines with bones in water. These little swimmers are high in vitamin D, protein, and calcium and low in mercury and calories. Enjoy them atop a cracker, or add them to a salad or sandwich with whole wheat bread.


This satisfying whole grain contains antioxidants and more fiber per serving than whole-wheat bread to aid digestion and keep you feeling fuller longer. It’s also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. Kaidanian’s recommendation: Season it with cayenne pepper for a spicy treat, or sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese for a more savory flavor.


“As a complex carbohydrate and excellent source of soluble dietary fiber, barley is broken down slowly during digestion, providing a steady release of glucose (energy) to your cells,” states Kaidanian. In other words, it won’t cause a spike in blood sugar, which makes it especially appealing to pregnant people with gestational diabetes. The whole grain also boasts folic acid, as well as several micronutrients like niacin and copper. Kaidanian serves chewy, nutty-flavored barley as a side dish with lean meats or poultry, or she adds it to soup for a hearty enhancement.

These ingredients are simple, but they each pack a nutritional punch that will serve you well while expecting. So stock up on your next trip to the grocery store and start reaping the benefits for both you and your baby.