If you aren’t familiar with falafel, it’s a tasty Middle Eastern food made from spiced, ground chickpeas formed into balls or patties and fried to crispy perfection. It’s often stuffed into warm pita bread or served over salad. The main ingredients are chickpeas, onion, herbs like parsley or cilantro, and yummy spices like cumin, coriander, paprika, and black pepper.
Falafel is a popular street food and a hearty, meatless source of protein. It makes for a satisfying plant-based meal!
Table of Contents
- Is Falafel Considered Safe in Pregnancy?
- Any Precautions With Falafel in Pregnancy?
- Tips for Safely Enjoying Falafel While Pregnant
- Is it Safe to Eat Falafel from Restaurants and Street Vendors?
- Prenatal Vitamins and Falafel
- Satisfy Falafel Cravings With These Tasty Pregnancy Recipes
- The Verdict on Falafel When You’re Expecting
- Frequently Asked Questions about Falafel in Pregnancy
Is Falafel Considered Safe in Pregnancy?
The FDA says most plant-based foods like falafel made with thoroughly cooked ingredients can be safely enjoyed during pregnancy as part of a balanced diet (1). Here’s a more in-depth look at why falafel gets the green light when you’re expecting:
It’s Nutritious for Mom and Baby
Those little chickpeas packed into falafel provide a dose of plant-based protein, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals that you and your growing baby need.
According to the CDC, falafel’s main ingredient – chickpeas – contains iron, folate, zinc and more to help meet increased nutritional needs during pregnancy.
The aromatic spices used, like cumin and parsley, also deliver some benefits. For instance, studies show cumin may boost immune function, while parsley contains high levels of vitamin K.
- Calories: 190
- Fat: 7g
- Carbs: 28g
- Fiber: 5g
- Protein: 7g
- Iron: 2.4mg
- Folate: 55mcg
It Contains Lean Plant Protein
Protein needs ramp up during pregnancy to support fetal growth and development, as well as breast milk production. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 75-100g of protein per day while expecting.
The chickpeas in falafel can contribute non-meat protein to help you meet those needs. This makes it a nice option if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
It’s a Convenient Source of Key Nutrients
We all have busy days when sitting down to a perfect pregnancy meal seems impossible. Grabbing some tasty falafel from a food truck or restaurant can be an easy way to get in beneficial nutrients for you and your little one on the go.
Just be mindful of portion sizes, since the calories can add up, especially if it’s fried. According to the Mayo Clinic, 1-2 falafel balls or patties is a reasonable serving.
It’s Satisfying When Cravings Strike
Cravings can strike any time when you’re expecting. If you find yourself craving protein or the flavorful spices and flavors in falafel, it makes for a more nutritious choice than processed foods. Just be sure to pair it with healthier sides like salads and avoid eating too big of a portion in one sitting.
Any Precautions With Falafel in Pregnancy?
While falafel is perfectly fine for most pregnant women, there are some things to keep in mind:
1- Fried Falafel Contains More Fat and Calories
According to WebMD, deep frying adds more calories and fat than baking or pan frying . To limit fat intake, the American Pregnancy Association recommends opting for baked falafel or removing excess oil by draining fried falafel on paper towels.
Of course, we all deserve a special treat now and then while pregnant! So enjoying the occasional fried falafel from your favorite restaurant in moderation is just fine.
2- Foodborne Illness is a Risk With Raw Ingredients
Like many foods, raw or undercooked falafel can potentially cause food poisoning from bacteria like salmonella, listeria or E. coli.
The FDA warns against consuming raw or lightly cooked sprouts, one of the only ingredients sometimes added to falafel raw (9).
To play it safe, the CDC notes thoroughly cooked falafel and chickpeas should be steaming hot, and reheated leftovers should reach 165°F (10).
3- Allergies Should be Considered
Those with an allergy to chickpeas or sesame seeds should avoid falafel, according to Food Allergy Research and Education.
If you have known food allergies, the Mayo Clinic recommends discussing them with your doctor before adding new foods like falafel to your pregnancy diet .
4- Gestational Diabetes
Pregnant women with gestational diabetes may need to limit high carb foods like falafel and pita bread.
Tips for Safely Enjoying Falafel While Pregnant
If you don’t have any food restrictions or concerns, falafel can be part of a healthy pregnancy diet. Here are some tips:
- Choose baked or air fried over deep fried
- Watch portions and pair with veggies, whole grains
- Pick busy restaurants with fresh, hot falafel
- Avoid raw sprouts or undercooked patties
- Handle and reheat leftovers properly
The key is enjoying it in moderation along with a variety of other wholesome foods for balance.
And be sure to take your prenatal vitamin every day for nutritional insurance even if your diet includes nutritious options like falafel.
Is it Safe to Eat Falafel from Restaurants and Street Vendors?
You may wonder if it’s safe to eat falafel from food trucks, street vendors, or restaurants during pregnancy. Here are some tips:
- Choose busy, reputable vendors with high turnover to ensure freshness. Avoid sketchy spots.
- Check that it’s steaming hot and cooked through. Undercooked falafel raises risk of food poisoning.
- Avoid garnishes and sauces that may harbor bacteria like raw veggies, unpasteurized tahini, and contaminated hummus.
- Look for visible opening/cooking areas so you can assess cleanliness and safe practices.
- Ask about ingredients if you have allergies or follow a vegan diet. Chickpea flour is sometimes used instead of raw chickpeas.
- Consider takeaway to reduce exposure to other sick customers in cramped spaces.
- Use hand sanitizer before and after eating street food.
Prenatal Vitamins and Falafel
It’s important to take your prenatal vitamin daily even if your diet includes nutrient rich foods like falafel. Here’s why:
- Insurance for adequate nutrition. Your diet may fall short some days so your prenatal fills nutritional gaps.
- Key pregnancy nutrients. Prenatals contain adequate iron, folate, calcium, and DHA omega-3s which are crucial for you and baby.
- Morning sickness. Your vitamin ensures you get enough nutrients on days when morning sickness interferes with your diet.
- Convenience. Taking one prenatal supplement is easier than trying to eat a perfect pregnancy diet every single day!
Satisfy Falafel Cravings With These Tasty Pregnancy Recipes
If you’re craving the delicious flavor of falafel, try one of these yummy and nutritious recipes:
1- Baked Falafel Patties
Made with chickpeas, herbs and spices, then baked until crispy outside and tender inside. Enjoy in a whole grain pita with veggies and hummus.
2- Falafel Power Bowl
Falafel crumbles served over mixed greens, roasted veggies, chickpeas, and avocado with a tangy tahini dressing.
3- Falafel Egg Sandwich
A baked falafel patty, over easy egg, and melted cheese served on an English muffin makes a hearty breakfast.
4- Falafel Meal Prep Bowls
Get your plant-based protein for the week by prepping bowls with baked falafel, brown rice, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, and lemon tahini sauce.
The Verdict on Falafel When You’re Expecting
To sum up, here’s the scoop on falafel during pregnancy:
- It offers a good amount of plant-based protein, fiber and nutrients.
- Fried falafel is higher in fat/calories – opt for baking to lighten it up.
- Be mindful of food safety with raw ingredients and cooking temps.
- Avoid if you have a chickpea allergy.
- Can help satisfy cravings when paired with veggies and whole grains.
So go ahead and dig into this tasty Middle Eastern specialty in moderation! Falafel can be part of an overall balanced diet that supports your health and your growing baby.
Let me know if you have any other pregnancy nutrition questions! Wishing you a happy and healthy nine months.
Frequently Asked Questions about Falafel in Pregnancy
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating chickpeas daily during pregnancy is fine as they provide key nutrients like protein, fiber, and iron .Enjoying 1-2 portions of falafel daily can be included as part of a healthy pregnancy diet. For variety, rotate with other vegetarian protein sources like legumes, eggs, yogurt and tofu.
Spicy, fried foods can trigger heartburn in some pregnant women, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Limiting portion size of falafel and avoiding laying down soon after eating may help minimize discomfort.
The American Diabetes Association says women with gestational diabetes can likely eat carbohydrate-containing foods like falafel in moderation. Focus on balancing it with non-starchy vegetables and proteins. Monitor your blood sugar response when trying higher carb foods.
Yes, baking is a healthier cooking method, according to Healthline, as it requires little or no added oil . Aim for baking at 400°F for 18-20 minutes until the exterior is crisp and interior is fully cooked. Air frying is another good option to reduce fat and calories versus deep frying.
Yes, the CDC warns that thoroughly cooking falafel is important, as raw or undercooked chickpeas could potentially lead to foodborne illnesses like salmonella or E. coli. Only consume falafel that is freshly cooked to piping hot temperatures all the way through.