News to no one: Labor is sometimes long and always grueling. If you’re pregnant and anxiously awaiting the big day, you might be wondering how best to prepare yourself for the herculean effort that lies ahead. So let’s talk about the hospital bag. You’ve got your adult diapers and comfy clothes ready to go; your birth plan is printed and packed, too. The only thing missing is a good nosh. Yep, there’s a strong chance you’re going to get peckish in between labor pains—and even if you don’t, a little fuel can go a long way towards preventing serious fatigue. (Just kidding, you’ll feel that anyway.) Good news: We tapped the wisdom of a registered dietician, a labor and delivery nurse and a whole bunch of moms to come up with a list of the best snacks for your hospital bag—you know, so you aren’t hangry when the [insert bodily fluid] hits the fan.
The Best Snacks For Your Hospital Bag, According to a Nutritionist, a Labor and Delivery Nurse and Moms Who Have Been There
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1. Trail Mix
According to Liesel Teen, a labor and delivery nurse and founder of Mommy Labor Nurse, it’s important to choose snacks that are high in protein when labor first starts—and trail mix fits the bill. You likely won’t feel like eating once active labor kicks in, says Teen, but the protein you consume earlier in the process will “help sustain your energy and strength” so you can make it across the finish line.
3. Protein Bars
Another non-perishable snack that delivers the protein you’ll need to push through (so to speak).
Of course, you can’t bring a filet mignon to the hospital to meet your protein needs, but a stick of jerky will do the trick—though Steiner recommends “jerky without any added flavorings, artificial sweeteners or unnecessary preservatives.”
5. Honey Sticks
Honey sticks are Teen’s top snack pick for labor: “They carry well in your hospital bag and provide a quick boost of energy. [They’re also] especially great for active labor when you can’t stomach a ton of food, but need a pick-me-up.”
Dip it in nut butter, or enjoy it on its own; bananas are another one of Teen’s go-to snacks—namely because “they travel well, are easy to eat…[and] contain natural sugars, which can be just the energy boost you need if your labor is long.”
7. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is nutritious and satisfying, but unlikely to leave you uncomfortably full. It’s also mess-free and shelf stable. Easy peasy.
Teen is a fan of hard candy during labor: “It’s great for mamas who aren’t permitted to eat during labor…[and it] keeps your mouth moist and may curb nausea.”
In case you prefer all sweet and no sour.
10. Granola Bars
Granola bars are not only convenient and easy to pack in your labor bag, they’re also a “great source of fiber and carbohydrates, which slowly releases energy to keep your stamina up throughout labor,” says Teen.
Like granola bars, muffins have plenty of carbohydrates; they’re also a bit more indulgent (and yes, you deserve the reward).
If you have access to a fridge, Steiner recommends unsweetened greek yogurt—combined with fruit, granola, or a drizzle of honey for sweetness—as it’s filled with protein and healthy fat.
13. Cheese Sticks
Again, a cooler bag or mini fridge is required here. That said, Steiner suggests cheese sticks as another easy-to-eat source of protein and fat.
14. Ginger Ale
When active labor starts and your appetite vanishes, small sips of ginger ale can help relieve nausea, whilst providing just enough sugar to keep your energy level up.
15. Apple Sauce
Applesauce pouches boast many of the same benefits as a piece of fresh fruit (see, banana), but they’re easier to suck down and won’t get bruised in your hospital bag.
Per Steiner, “cereal is easy to pack and can be eaten plain as a snack or with added milk from the hospital, which provides a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate.” (Hint: Skip the Lucky Charms—the whole wheat, healthy stuff is best.)
Individual oatmeal packets require nothing but hot water, which the hospital can provide. Plus, the dietician tells us that they’re also “a good source of fiber, which will help keep you full in addition to providing energy and nourishment…[and can] help boost lactation as an added bonus.”
Teen suggests mamas-to-be pack some chewing gum in their hospital bag because, aside from freshening your breath, it “can also serve as a decent distraction when those contractions ramp up.” (Three cheers for distractions during labor!)
Bouts of nausea are very common during labor, which is why it’s best to stick with snacks that are both easy to pack and easy on the stomach. Crackers check both boxes.
The labor and delivery nurse (and common sense) tells us that staying hydrated throughout labor is incredibly important.
If you want to wet your whistle with something a little more flavorful than plain old water, Gatorade is an obvious choice. Plus, the sugar content might provide a well-timed energy boost to boot.
22. Coconut Water
When it comes to staying hydrated, coconut water is Teen’s top choice because “it is low in calories, has a ton of electrolytes and doesn’t contain added sugars like other electrolyte drinks.” (Sorry, Gatorade.)