Are you pregnant and confused by all the dietary guidelines? Are you hoping you don’t have to worry about them if you pop your daily prenatal vitamin?
If the only thing that sounds good to you during your pregnancy is a vending machine full of junk food, you need to convince yourself to eat the good stuff too. If you’re pregnant, fruit should be part of your daily diet — but for more reasons than you probably think.
Read on for everything you need to know about why fruit matters, how much you should be eating, and which ones to pick — along with which ones to skip.
The Importance of Prenatal Nutrition
Those prenatal vitamins you take are packed with all the nutrients your baby needs, so why do you need to pay attention to your nutrition?
- It affects your baby’s lifetime health: What you eat while pregnant can affect your baby for a lifetime, so it’s important to eat well. There are even some studies that suggest eating a salty, fatty, and sugary diet affects your baby’s taste preferences, potentially setting them up for a lifetime of struggle with their own eating habits, health, and weight (1).
- Food helps your body absorb healthy nutrients: Bodily absorption of nutrients is a tricky business. While your prenatal vitamin would ideally be formulated to promote maximum absorption of all the nutrients listed on the box, that isn’t always the case. For example, iron is best absorbed when combined with Vitamin C, while other nutrients need fat present to absorb properly. If you’re eating a balanced diet you’re more likely to be getting — and absorbing — the nutrients your body needs.
- Healthy food helps your body function better: There’s way more to fruit than the nutrients inside them. There’s the fiber in the skin, water in the flesh, and a satisfying texture that can help stave off cravings. When you’re eating well, your body will thank you. You’ll have more energy, feel better, and maybe even avoid some of the more common discomforts of pregnancy.
6 Benefits of Fruit During Pregnancy
Do you want a healthy pregnancy?
Then there are many reasons to eat fruit while pregnant, including:
- It Provides Important Nutrients: Your baby needs certain nutrients to grow properly. Those most notably provided by fruits include Vitamin C and folate (2). Vitamin C is necessary to build collagen and connective tissue (3), helps boost your baby’s immune system and allows them to increase their iron stores to help prevent anemia. Folate is necessary for healthy spinal development and helps prevent neural tube defects in a developing fetus.
- It Helps Satisfy Your Sweet Cravings: One of the hallmarks of fruit is it can be incredibly sweet or sour, both of which are common pregnancy flavor cravings. Opting for fruit instead of a bowl of ice cream can help you give into your cravings in a way that’s both satisfying and healthy.
- It Is Palatable When You Feel Nauseated: If you struggle with pregnancy nausea, it can be hard to keep certain foods down. Sweet and cold foods are generally more palatable if you’re wrestling with morning sickness, so fruit you keep in the fridge could be a great breakfast solution. When I was pregnant and lost my taste for coffee, all I wanted each morning was a cold glass of orange juice. The sweet-and-sour flavor helped tame my tummy at the beginning of the day and allowed me to eat normally from there on out.Another craving that I had throughout pregnancy was apples. The crunch satisfied my need for a snack, and the tart, juicy flavor appealed to me even when I was going through my 20 weeks of nausea.
Editor's Note:Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN
- It Helps Manage Your Blood Sugar: Whole fruits contain fiber, which helps to regulate the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. If you eat a candy bar, the sugar hits your bloodstream quickly, resulting in a huge spike and subsequent crash. But eating a piece of fruit can give you the burst of glucose energy you need without the huge crash later. This long-lasting energy effect is even more helpful if you pair your fruit with a protein like a piece of cheese or beef jerky. This is especially helpful advice for those who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
- It Can Keep You Hydrated: You need to drink plenty of water when you’re pregnant, but it can get pretty boring sipping water all day. Fruit is composed of more than 80 percent water, so it’s a creative way to keep your body hydrated (4).
- It Can Relieve Constipation: When you’re pregnant, digestion slows (5). This can result in constipation, which is a common pregnancy complaint. If you’re taking iron supplements during pregnancy, even in your prenatal vitamin, that can also cause constipation. Severe constipation is uncomfortable and it can even cause hemorrhoids. One of the best ways to improve constipation is to increase your consumption of fiber and water — fruit contains both!
How Much Fruit Should I Eat While Pregnant?
While fruit is a healthy, whole food, it still contains natural sugar which needs to be limited when you’re pregnant. The general recommendation for a pregnant woman is 2-4 servings of fruit per day.
But watch those serving sizes to make sure you aren’t accidentally super-sizing them.
One serving of fruit equals (6):
- 1 cup of cut fresh, canned, or frozen fruit.
- ½ cup of dried fruit.
- 8 ounces of fruit juice.
- ½ cup of pureed fruit.
Fruit is seasonal, so it can be hard to get good-quality fruit all year long. If your favorite fruit isn’t on the shelves, frozen is a fantastic substitute since it’s usually preserved at the peak of freshness, and the nutrients may be even denser than the fresh fruit you find in the produce section.
Are Organic Fruits Better While Pregnant?
There is a lot of debate about organic vs. non-organic produce. However, pregnancy isn’t the time to mess around with your health so if you can afford it, we take the conservative approach and recommend opting for organic fruit to stay as safe as possible.
If you can’t afford to buy all of your fruit from the organic section, buy conventional but prioritize organic for the fruits named on the “dirty dozen” list — these are considered to have the highest concentration of pesticides (7).
There are vegetables on the list as well, if you’re interested. The fruits listed on the “dirty dozen” are:
And if you can’t afford any organic fruit at all, please don’t just cut it from your diet altogether. Your body and your baby need the nutrients found in fruit, and eating conventional fruit is far better than eating no fruit at all.
If you’re really concerned, opt for fruits with a thick exterior as they tend to have fewer pesticides in the edible portion, or stick with fruits listed on the “clean fifteen” list, including (8):
- Honeydew melon.
The 10 Best Fruits for Pregnancy
- Bananas: Bananas are a pregnancy superfood. They are filling, have a satisfying texture that can cure those high-fat cravings, and contain calcium and potassium which can help ward off those middle-of-the-night leg cramps. You can choose a banana to meet your customized dietary needs. The riper the banana, the higher the sugar content. If you’re craving healthy sweets, choose a fully ripe banana. But if you’ve got gestational diabetes and need a low-sugar option, choose one on the green end.
- Apples: Apples pack an extra punch since the peel is edible. They contain Vitamins A and C, lots of water, and both soluble and insoluble fiber to keep things moving in the bathroom.
- Watermelon: There’s a reason the word “water” is in this fruit. It has one of the highest water contents of any fruit — weighing in at a whopping 92 percent. If you’re struggling with dehydration during pregnancy, this can be a handy fruit to eat. The sweetness and crunch are satisfying, and watermelon contains potassium, zinc, and folate to battle your nighttime leg cramps and help with your baby’s spinal development.
- Oranges: Oranges can be either sweet or sour, which tend to be pleasing to women suffering from pregnancy nausea. They also have high water content and are an excellent source of Vitamin C, which not only boosts your — and your baby’s — immune system, but also helps build connective tissue necessary for your baby’s physical development.
- Avocado: They may not be sweet, but avocados are still technically a fruit — and a fantastic one at that. The texture will help you calm your cravings for fat in a healthy way while still giving you a good amount of fiber. Plus the iron can help stave off anemia while the magnesium and potassium help with leg cramps and nausea.
The advantages of eating healthy fats in pregnancy are just now being recognized. Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fat that you should be eating while pregnant.
- Berries: Berries are a great source of antioxidants, and also contain lots of fiber and folate, which are great for both you and your baby. Berries come in a variety of shades and colors, so try them all — they each offer a different mix of nutrients.
- Pears: With an edible peel that contains pectin, which is a digestion aid, pears are a great source of fiber that can help prevent constipation. They’re also a great source of Vitamin C, along with iron, magnesium, and folate.
- Plums: You know what prunes are, right? Dried plums. And you know what prunes have a reputation for, right? Yup — getting your bowels moving. So if you’re having some serious constipation struggles, try eating a plum a day — and if you can’t find them due to availability issues, opt for dried prunes. You should be regular in no time.
- Mangoes: Mangoes are a fantastic source of both Vitamin C and A, which help your baby’s immunity. While it’s technically possible to get too much Vitamin A, it’s incredibly rare so as long as you’re enjoying your mangoes in moderation, you should be fine.
- Cherries: They may only have a short season in summer, but cherries are an amazing pregnancy food. Not only do they have loads of Vitamin C and contain melatonin to help regulate your sleep, but they also help with your little one’s brain development. Plus, they’re one of the most low-calorie fruits out there, so you get a lot of nutritional bang for your calorie buck.
Should I Avoid Any Fruits While Pregnant?
Pretty much no fresh, ripe fruits are off-limits when you’re pregnant. However, it’s important to make sure you wash your produce thoroughly before consuming it to avoid contaminants (9). Fruit can be easily washed with a commercial fruit spray or by mixing a solution of vinegar and water, soaking your fruit, and then rinsing it off and allowing it to dry.
You should also limit the amount of the following that you consume:
Fruit juice may contain some of the nutrients from fruit, but it contains none of the fiber. When you drink a glass of fruit juice — even the “no sugar added” variety — you are drinking ultra-concentrated sugar from the fruit.
With the pulp and skin removed you are also missing out on a whole lot of the nutrients, too. It takes about 3 to 4 apples to produce one 8-ounce cup of apple juice, so in one sitting you’re consuming the same amount of sugar as if you were drinking a regular soda (11).
And without the fiber from the whole fruit, it doesn’t have anything to keep it from immediately hitting your bloodstream and spiking your blood sugar.
Dried fruit is super yummy, but that’s because the sugar is also concentrated. When fruits are dried, the water is removed so they take up considerably less mass. The nutrients and fiber are preserved, but the water is no longer present to help hydrate you and fill you up.
It’s easy to eat the equivalent of several whole fruits in one sitting, meaning you’re consuming a large amount of sugar and calories, too.
Canned fruits are a great way to get nutrients when fresh fruit isn’t in season. Canned fruits maintain their Vitamin C better than fresh fruits (12). However, a few years ago canned foods came under scrutiny thanks to the discovery that many of them were lined with a substance that contains bisphenol A (BPA), an estrogen-mimicking chemical.
While consuming canned foods on occasion isn’t likely to be harmful, if you consume them frequently you may want to reconsider. Instead, opt for fruit canned in glass jars. You should also check the label and sugar content of canned fruit. If your fruit has been canned in heavy syrup, skip it. Instead, choose fruit that has been canned in water or its own juice.
Smoothies can be a tempting alternative to eating whole fruit, but it can be easy to rack up the calories and sugar content without even realizing it. Make sure you’re using an unsweetened or lower-sugar mixer — some suggestions include unsweetened almond milk, coconut water, or oat milk.
The Bottom Line
Fruits are an essential part of a healthy pregnancy diet, packing a nutritional punch far more significant than simply popping your prenatals. They not only provide vitamins necessary for healthy growth and development, but also lay a foundation for your baby’s lifelong health.
Plus, they help you to stay healthy, too!
Consuming fruit during pregnancy helps to:
- Give you and your baby essential nutrients.
- Satisfy your sweet cravings.
- Manage your pregnancy nausea.
- Regulate your blood sugar.
- Keep you hydrated.
- Relieve constipation.
Some of the best fruits for you to eat when you’re pregnant are: