During pregnancy, your baby-to-be depends on you to provide the nutrition they need. For this reason, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
The benefits of eating fruit during pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, it’s important to eat nutritious food and avoid empty calories. In fact, if you eat mostly junk food during your pregnancy, you may be setting your baby up for a lifetime of bad eating habits. One study found that babies of mothers who eat junk food while pregnant are more likely to be addicted to a high-fat, high-sugar diet.
If that’s not enough to steer you into the produce section, consider this. Research suggests that unborn babies who do not receive proper nutrition go through permanent changes in their physiology and metabolism in utero. These changes may trigger disease later in life.
Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense. When you add a variety of them to your diet, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll get most of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you and your baby need. Eating fruits and vegetables also helps prevent constipation, a common symptom during pregnancy.
7 nutritious fruits you should eat during pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, you might be craving sweets. But try not to make a habit of reaching for a piece of cake or a candy bar to satisfy your sweet tooth. Fruit is the perfect solution. It offers the sweetness you crave and the nutrition you need. Enjoy these fruits as part of a healthy pregnancy diet.
Oranges help you stay hydrated. They’re also a great source of folate. Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent brain and spinal cord defects, also known as neural tube defects. Oranges are a great source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage. It also helps your body absorb iron.
Mangoes are another great source of vitamin C. One cup gives you 100 percent of your recommended daily allowance (RDA). Mangoes are also high in vitamin A.
Vitamin A deficiency at birth is associated with lower immunity and a higher risk of complications like diarrhea and respiratory infections.
Although rare, it’s possible to get too much vitamin A. Mangoes are a great addition to your pregnancy diet, but eat them in moderation along with a variety of other fruits.
Avocados have more folate than other fruits. They’re also a great source of:
- vitamin C
- vitamin B
- vitamin K
Avocados also contain iron. Some women report avocados help relieve nausea, possibly because of the potassium and magnesium in the fruit. Potassium may also help relieve leg cramps, a common pregnancy symptom. Leg cramps are often caused by low potassium and magnesium.
Choline is important for your baby’s brain and nerve development. Choline deficiency may cause neural tube defects and lifetime memory impairment.
Many women report that sucking on lemons, drinking lemon water, or drinking lemonade helps relieve pregnancy-related nausea. Lemons are also high in vitamin C. They help stimulate the digestive system to relieve constipation. Lemons may erode tooth enamel, so rinse your mouth after eating them.
Bananas are another good source of potassium. They also contain vitamin B-6, vitamin C, and fiber. About half of all women experience constipation during pregnancy. Constipation during pregnancy may be caused by:
- uterine pressure on the intestines
- a low-fiber diet
- iron in prenatal vitamins
Adding fiber-rich bananas may help. Research shows that vitamin B-6 may help relieve nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy.
Berries are rich in:
- vitamin C
They also contain phytonutrients like flavonoids and anthocyanins.
Unless you have gestational diabetes, carbohydrates should account for 50 to 60 percent of your pregnancy calories each day. Carbohydrates give you much-needed energy, and pass easily through your placenta to nourish your baby. It’s important to eat mostly nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates like berries instead of processed, simple carbohydrates like doughnuts, cakes, and cookies.
Apples are high in fiber and a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. Eating apples during pregnancy may also offer a surprising health benefit for your baby. A study published in the journal Thorax found that the children of mothers who ate apples during pregnancy were less likely to have childhood asthma and allergies.
10 creative ways to add fruit to your pregnancy diet
Top your morning oatmeal or cereal with a sliced banana or fresh berries.
Make fruit smoothies.
Mash half an avocado with some lemon juice. Eat with sliced carrots, celery, and cucumbers.
Top a nut butter sandwich with sliced bananas.
Top yogurt (fresh or frozen) with fresh fruit.
Cook apple slices until soft and use as a topping for whole-wheat pancakes or frozen yogurt.
Add crunch to chicken salad with diced apples.
Add lemon slices to your water or make homemade lemonade.
How much fruit should you be eating during pregnancy?
The American Pregnancy Association recommends eating two to four servings of fruit and four servings of vegetables each day.
In general, one serving of fruit is:
- a medium piece of whole fruit (about the size of a tennis ball)
- 1 cup of cut fruit
One serving size of vegetables is:
- 1/2 cup of raw or cooked vegetables
- 1/2 cup of vegetable juice
- 1 cup leafy greens
Why hydration matters during pregnancy
Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluids than you take in. It’s serious any time, but is especially concerning during pregnancy. Water helps form the placenta and amniotic sac. It also supports your baby’s growth.
If you’re experiencing morning sickness, your risk of dehydration is higher. To avoid dehydration, drink eight to 12 glasses of water daily. Fruits contain water and can help you stay hydrated.
Fruit safety tips
If possible, purchase organic fruit that hasn’t been treated with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. But keep in mind, eating nonorganic fruit is better than eating no fruit. To lessen your risk of consuming pesticide residue or bacteria, follow these tips:
- wash fruit thoroughly, even if it’s prewashed
- remove any bruised areas where bacteria may lurk
- only drink pasteurized or boiled fruit juice
- avoid eating precut melons, or eat immediately after cutting
- store fresh fruit in the refrigerator away from raw meat
Eating fruit during pregnancy helps ensure that you and your baby stay healthy. Fresh, frozen, and canned fruits are all good options. Just make sure no sugar is added to canned or frozen varieties. Contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your pregnancy eating plan.
You asked, we answered
- What causes food cravings during pregnancy?
You may have heard that hormones or nutrient deficiencies cause pregnancy food cravings. For example, if you crave green apples, you may be deficient in pectin, potassium, or vitamin A. The truth is, it’s unclear what causes pregnancy cravings. You may simply want something that tastes tart and sweet. As long as you’re craving foods, it’s OK to give in now and then. If your cravings are unhealthy, try to find healthier alternatives. Call your doctor if you crave nonfoods like laundry starch or dirt.- Nicole Galan, RN