Why fruits and vegetables are so important
Packed with essential nutrients and full of fiber, fruits and vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet – and should be especially abundant in your kitchen when you're pregnant.
Have a slice of cantaloupe or a bowl of strawberries for a snack, and you'll provide your baby with vitamins and minerals for growth, while keeping yourself healthy too. Pair the fruit with a little protein, like cottage cheese, and you'll get a sustained energy boost to get you through a long afternoon.
Key vitamins supplied by fruits and vegetables include:
- Beta carotene for your baby's cell and tissue development, vision, and immune system
- Vitamin C for your baby's bones and teeth as well as the collagen in your baby's connective tissue
- Potassium to regulate blood pressure
- Folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects and promote a healthy birth weight
How much you should eat
Aim to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day. Here's what counts as a cup:
- 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables
- 2 cups raw leafy greens (or 1 cup of leafy greens and 1/2 cup of other vegetables)
- 1 cup raw, canned, or frozen fruit
- Two small bananas (less than 6 inches) or one large (8 to 9 inches)
- 1/2 cup dried fruit
- One medium to large piece of fruit (one large orange, one medium pear or grapefruit, two large plums, 1/2 large apple)
- 1 cup 100 percent fruit juice, vegetable juice, or fruit-vegetable juice
For maximum nutrition, include plenty of leafy greens, and vary the color of the produce you choose, making sure to include dark green and deep yellow, orange, purple, and red. (Also try to include legumes two to three times per week.)
Fresh is best, but frozen and even canned are good (as long as you avoid fruit packaged in sugary liquid). Think beyond apples, oranges, and bananas too. Here are some other tasty and nutritious possibilities.
Some excellent fruit choices
- Raspberries and blackberries
Some excellent vegetable choices
- Bell peppers
- Endive or escarole
- Green peas
- Dark leafy greens (collard greens, kale, leafy lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard)
- Summer squash
- Sweet potatoes or yams
- Winter squash
Easy ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
Grab and go: Keep produce washed and ready to eat, so it's easy to grab a bowl or handful of fruit or vegetables for snacking.
Mix them up: Make dishes that can include several kinds of vegetables, such as stir fries, omelets, and salads. (This works for fruit salad too.)
Boost flavor: Roast or grill vegetables to enhance the flavors, and season with herbs and spices.
Plan leftovers: Make an extra amount of your side vegetable, and put it in a salad for lunch the next day. (Steam your broccoli lightly, then serve half with dinner and make a broccoli salad with the other half.)
Enjoy with dip: Make a low-fat dressing or dip to serve with your fruits and vegetables. Or simply dip them in plain yogurt.
Keep it handy: Some fruit – like bananas, citrus fruits, and stone fruits – can be kept in a bowl on the counter (as long as the fruit hasn't been cut into pieces). Fruits and vegetables such as berries, carrot and celery sticks, or broccoli can be kept fresh and ready to go in the refrigerator, stored in reusable produce bags or containers, or in plastic bags with air holes cut out.
Top off breakfast: Add fruit to your morning cereal, pancakes, or waffles.
Drink up: Make a smoothie with yogurt, fruit juice, and fruits like strawberries, bananas, blueberries, papaya, and mango.
Be adventurous: Try a new fruit and a new vegetable the next time you shop for groceries.
- Pregnancy nutrients you need to help your baby grow
- Healthy pregnancy snacks
- Energy-boosting foods