Fruits and vegetables in your pregnancy diet
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 systemVitamin C for your baby’s bones and teeth as well as the collagen in your baby’s connective tissuePotassium to regulate blood pressureFolic acid to help prevent neural tube defects and promote a healthy birth weightHow 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 vegetables2 cups raw leafy greens (or 1 cup of leafy greens and 1/2 cup of other vegetables)1 cup raw, canned, or frozen fruitTwo small bananas (less than 6 inches) or one large (8 to 9 inches)1/2 cup dried fruitOne 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 choicesApricotsAvocadosBlueberriesCantaloupeCherriesGrapefruitGrapesGuavaKiwiMangoPapayaPearsPersimmonsPineappleRaspberries and blackberriesStrawberriesTangerinesWatermelonSome excellent vegetable choicesAsparagusBeetsBell peppersBroccoliEndive or escaroleGreen peasDark leafy greens (collard greens, kale, leafy lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard)ParsleySummer squashSweet potatoes or yamsTomatoesWinter squashEasy 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.
Protein in your pregnancy diet
Why you need protein during pregnancy
The amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of your body’s cells – and of your baby’s body as well. It’s important to get enough protein throughout your pregnancy, but it’s especially critical during the second and third trimesters. That’s when your baby is growing the fastest, and your breasts and organs are getting bigger to accommodate the needs of your growing baby.How much protein you need
Protein requirements for pregnant women can range from as little as 40 grams to as much as 70 grams per day, depending on how much you weigh. To find out how much protein your body needs each day, you can go to ChooseMyPlate.gov and create an individualized meal plan.
You don’t have to get the recommended amount of protein every day. Instead, aim for that amount as an average over the course of a few days or a week.
Most women in the United States regularly eat more protein than they need, so you probably won’t have any trouble meeting your body’s needs during pregnancy. If you don’t eat meat, you can meet your protein requirements through other sources, including dairy, beans, eggs, or soy products.
Weight loss, muscle fatigue, frequent infections, and severe fluid retention can be signs that you’re not getting enough protein in your diet.Food sources of protein
Beans are a great source of protein, as are lean meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, eggs, milk, cheese, tofu, and yogurt. Although animal products contain complete proteins (all nine amino acid components) and plant sources generally don’t, eating a variety of foods throughout the course of the day will help ensure that you get all of the amino acids you need.
Eat three or four servings of protein daily, and you’ll be well on your way to eating right for a healthy pregnancy and baby. (Seventy grams of protein roughly equals the total of two 8-ounce glasses of milk, a 5-ounce chicken breast, and one 7-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt, for example.)
Here are some good protein sources:
Dairy1/2 cup ricotta cheese: 14 g1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese: 12 g8 ounces low-fat yogurt: 9 to 12 g1 ounce Parmesan cheese: 11 g1 ounce Swiss cheese: 8 g1 cup low-fat milk: 8 g1 ounce cheddar cheese: 7 g1 ounce mozzarella cheese: 6 gOne large fresh egg: 6 g
Beans, nuts, legumes1/2 cup raw tofu (firm): 20 g1 cup cooked lentils: 18 g1 cup canned black beans: 15 g1 cup canned kidney beans: 13 g1 cup canned garbanzos: 12 g1 cup canned pinto beans: 12 g2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter: 8 g1 ounce dry roasted peanuts: 7 g1 cup light plain soymilk: 6 g
Meat, poultry and fish
Note that 3 ounces of cooked meat or fish is about the size of a pack of cards.1/2 roasted chicken breast (no skin): 27 g3 ounces baked or grilled sockeye salmon: 23 g3 ounces baked or grilled trout: 23 g3 ounces lean beef hamburger patty, broiled: 21g
Caution: Not all fish are considered safe during pregnancy. Some predator fish – particularly shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish – should be avoided because they contain methyl mercury, a metal believed to be harmful in high doses to the growing brains of fetuses and young children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that you eat 8 to 12 ounces of other fish during pregnancy.
Learn more about how to avoid mercury while eating fish.