6 Pregnancy-Friendly Food-Swaps at Your Favorite Restaurant Chains

Eating better in pregnancy does not mean you have to ditch that craving for fast-food or starve when you're on-the-go. It just means choosing the right thing. Fit Pregnancy and Baby asked ob-gyn and ABC News chief women’s health correspondent Jennifer Ashton, M.D., to share some smart swaps from her new book, Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting.

Blond Woman Unsure About Eating Fast Food solominviktor/Shutterstock
Food plays a big part in being pregnant. Either you're hungry all the time, or you don't even want to look at your once-favorite dishes for fear of throwing up. Add to this the long list of what you should and shouldn't eat, and it's enough to have you giving up and reaching for that grilled cheese, again. 

A preggo has every right to be confused. First we were told we could eat for two, then that bubble was burst. Next we're told to eat more for Baby, but not too much to keep your pregnancy weight in check. Then there are those cravings and aversions to contend with (why is it always the healthiest foods that gross us out the most in pregnancy?). It can be exhausting just taking one bite, let alone deciding what's healthy to eat when you're out and about.

Jennifer Ashton, M.D., is here to help. As one of the only practicing OB/GYNs to be board-certified in obesity medicine and have a master's in human clinical nutrition, she's put together a plan to help pregnant women make healthier decisions about what they eat, without sacrificing one iota of a craving.

Her book, Eat This, Not That! When You're Expecting, out May 17, 2016, is a quick-reference guide to healthy, but realistic eating during pregnancy—even at your favorite fast-food restaurants. Dr. Ashton knows you'll give into an IHOP craving once or twice, she's just here to help your order go the furthest for you and your baby.

"I encourage my patients to ask three simple questions before they walk into any restaurant, or prepare any meal: 'Where's my protein, where's my fiber, where's my healthy fat,'" she tells Fit Pregnancy. "And if you're eating at a restaurant, I'd add one more: 'Do I need this carb? Like, do I really need this carb?'"

Her Two Key Rules

Pass on huge portions. “Split an entrée with your partner or ask the server to divide your order in half and bag it for later before you even dig in,” recommends Dr. Ashton.

Watch for added sugar. “Try to keep your sugar consumption to about 25 grams per day,” she notes.

To help you on your way, here is an exerpt from Dr. Ashton's book, featuring six of our most crave-worthy eating establishments.

Drink this

Red Mango Strawberry Sonata smoothie

Red Mango Strawberry Sonata

(24 oz, 230 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated, 5 g fiber, 28 g sugar, 3 g protein)

With almost 100 fewer calories and more fiber than the "Not That," this all-fruit pick will give you a steady stream of energy and keep you feeling full until your next meal.

Not that

Red Mango Strawberry Energizer smoothie

Red Mango Strawberry Energizer

(24 oz, 320 calories, .5 g fat, 0 g saturated, 4 g fiber, 65 g sugar, 5 g protein)

That "energizer" feeling is the sugar coursing through your veins. Believe it or not, this super-sweet yogurt-based smoothie is on Red Mango's "Body Balance" menu. Just say no.

Eat this

IHOP Simple & Fit Vegetable Omelet with Fruit

IHOP Simple & Fit Vegetable Omelet with pre-cut fruit mix

(350 calories, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated, 905 mg sodium, 7 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 27 g protein)

Simple is the key here. You'll get iron, calcium, protein, and other pregnancy power-nutrients through the omelet and plenty of fiber through the fruit. No muss, no fuss, no bacon on the side.

Not that

IHOP Harvest Grain N Nut Egg White Combo

IHOP Harvest Grain 'N Nut Egg White Combo

(610 calories, 35 g fat, 8 g saturated, 1,490 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 25 g protein)

From the name alone, you'd think egg whites would be the star of this meal, and some unhealthy bacon along but they're not! Instead, you're getting carb-heavy pancakes with a small portion of egg whites.

Eat this

Chipotle Soft Corn Tortilla Tacos

Chipotle Soft Corn Tortilla Tacos with Steak, Cheese, Lettuce, and Fresh Tomato Salsa

(530 calories, 16 g fat, 7 g saturated, 1,135 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 39 g protein)

Your body uses iron to make extra blood for your little one, and steak delivers more than 20 percent of the amount you need in a day. Plus, this protein and fiber combo will fill you up without weighing you down with rice.

Not that

Chipotle Burrito

Chipotle Burrito with Steak, Black Beans, White Rice, Cheese, Sour Cream, and Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa

(1,115 calories, 39.5 g fat, 15.5 g saturated, 2,165 mg sodium, 19 g fiber, 58.5 g protein)

The calorie count skyrockets when you've got two big starch items on your plate—in this case, a large flour tortilla and a heaping scoop of rice. Do your body and your baby a favor and go for one or the other—not both!

Eat this

Panera Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread

Panera Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread, served hot

(300 calories, 12 g fat, 6 g saturated, 460 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 13 g protein)

Not only does the schmear of cranberry sauce punch up the flavor profile of this sandwich, cranberries have also been known to help fight back against heartburn. And at just 300 calories, you'll still have room for dessert!

Not that

Panera Roasted Turkey, Apple and Cheddar Sandwich

Panera Roasted Turkey, Apple, and Cheddar Sandwich

(730 calories, 32 g fat, 12 g saturated, 1,260 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 34 g protein)

This pick has more than four times the amount of sodium as a large order of McDonald's fries. Aren't you feeling bloated enough as it is?

Eat this

Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich

Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich

(440 calories, 18 g fat, 4 g saturated, 1,390 mg sodium)

The sodium level here is off the charts, but if you're really needing that deep-fried crunch, this is the way to go.

Not that

Chick-Fil-A Cobb Salad

Chick-Fil-A Cobb Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing

(500 calories, 27 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 1,360 mg sodium)

Because there's more surface area, there's more fat and fried bread covering the chicken. You'd be better off with the sandwich.

Eat this

Ben & Jerry's Banana Peanut Butter Greek Frozen Yogurt

Banana Peanut Butter Greek Frozen Yogurt

(1⁄2 cup, 210 calories, 8 g fat, 3 g saturated, 23 g sugar, 5 g protein)

Greek fro yo—newish to the menu—offers the same creamy goodness of regular ice cream, minus most of the saturated fat.

Not that

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

(1⁄2 cup, 370 calories, 26 g fat, 14 g saturated, 25 g sugar, 7 g protein)

Ben and/or Jerry managed to cram more than half a day's saturated fat into this peanut butter-chocolate bomb, making it the worst scoop on the menu.

For hundreds more food swaps from your favorite restaurants, and a complete aisle-by-aisle shopping guide and trimester-by-trimester diet plan, check out Eat This, Not That When You're Expecting, $21.95, Amazon.com.