All Posts

Prenatal Nutrition: 5 Reasons Why Vegetables and Fruits Are a Win for Mom & Baby

Written by Tori Schmitt, RS, RDN, LD

Undercooked meat and eggs, soft cheeses from unpasteurized milk, fish high in mercury…for a pregnant woman, it might seem that prenatal food and nutrition advice is an exhausting list of the foods and beverages expecting moms shouldn't eat.  But, what moms should eat is just as important in the prenatal nutrition conversation since the mother’s eating pattern can impact her health and that of her baby.   

Vegetables and fruits are foods that pregnant women should say “YES!” to more often.  Here’s why! 


Fruits and vegetables deliver fiber!

Why fiber is important in prenatal nutrition: An increase in the hormone progesterone during pregnancy relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract, which can slow down digestion and bring about digestive woes for moms-to-be including bloating, gas, constipation and even heartburn.  Thankfully, fiber supports a healthy digestive system by moving waste through the intestines, providing an opportunity for healthy fermentation in the colon, and supporting a good gut microbiome.1  Pregnant woman should aim to eat at least 28 grams of fiber per day.2  Fiber is found in plant-based foods including vegetables and fruits. 

Prenatal power pick for fiber: Try this Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Salad.  In this delicious recipe, leafy greens, quinoa, pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds deliver digestive-friendly fiber!

 

Fruits and vegetables feature folate!

Why folate is important in prenatal nutrition: Folate, an important nutrient found in dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, legumes and whole grains, helps form baby’s neural tube (i.e. the beginnings of baby’s brain and spinal cord).  Neural tube formation begins very early on in pregnancy -- even before some women may realize they’re pregnant!  That’s why it’s so important that women of childbearing age – pregnant or not – eat enough foods with folate. 

Prenatal power pick for folate:  This Green Kale Salad with Candied Cashews and Sesame-Ginger Dressing delivers a crispy and sweet mix that features folate-filled foods including kale, mandarin oranges and edamame.

 

Fruits and vegetables are home to lutein!

Why lutein is important in prenatal nutrition: In the last trimester of pregnancy, baby’s brain grows rapidly!  Found within the brain – especially in the areas that support memory, learning and language – is lutein.3   In nature, lutein is found in yellow, orange, and green foods, especially green leafy vegetable, egg yolks, pistachios and some grain foods.3 

Prenatal power pick for lutein: With kale and avocado, this Southwestern Lacinato Kale Salad offers a flavorful and easy choice for expecting mommas to get more lutein!  Can’t seem to find enough energy daily to pack lunch now that baby is on board?  Make this as a salad in a jar!  Simply add equal parts of each ingredient to three separate jars at the beginning of the week for quick grab-and-go lunches for busy weeks ahead.  Watch how to make salad in a jar here:


 

Fruits and vegetables offer choline!

Why choline is important in prenatal nutrition:  Choline is an essential nutrient that supports baby’s organ development, especially during the third trimester of pregnancy.4 But, it’s not just baby that needs choline.  Mom does too!  Choline supports the necessary growth of mom’s organs – like her kidney’s and uterus – in early pregnancy.4  Yet, data shows that approximately 90-95% of pregnant women get less choline than what some experts recommend.5  Moms-to-be can find choline in animal-based foods like eggs, salmon, meat, poultry, and dairy products plus in plant-based foods including beans, nuts, seeds, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.4 

Prenatal power pick for choline: These Egg Muffins can serve as inspiration for your own choline-packed egg muffins.  Simply add more vegetables and fruits, like spinach, kale and cauliflower into your egg muffins for even more choline!  Or, try this Simple Cauliflower Fried Rice for lunch or dinner at home.

 

Fruits and vegetables support iron absorption!

Why iron and vitamin C are important in prenatal nutrition:  Expecting mommas know that they need iron to support the increases in blood volume that happen during pregnancy!  But not all iron is absorbed equally – the iron found in animal foods is better absorbed than the iron found in plant foods – which can be a concern for those who eat primarily plant-based.  Turns out, vitamin C can support the absorption of type of iron found in plant foods like beans, lentils, whole grains, and leafy greens.  For better absorption of plant-based iron, pair iron-rich plant foods with foods that offer vitamin C. 

Prenatal power pick for vitamin C: Featuring vitamin C in strawberries and plant-based iron in BroccoLeaf, this BroccoLeaf Berry Smoothie features a food synergy that can support iron absorption.  A similar food synergy can be found with the iron in edamame and the vitamin C in dippable veggies like cauliflower and broccoli in this Zesty Edamame Hummus -- another great choice for a mom-to-be! 


As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and fellow mom-to-be, I understand that saying “YES!” to vegetables and fruits more often can be a challenge – especially during pregnancy!  But with delicious, easy recipes and nutritious produce options from Foxy, eating well for your health and the health of your baby is a little bit easier!  Do you have prenatal nutrition questions?  What helps you say “YES!” to Foxy’s fresh vegetables and fruits during pregnancy?  Send me a message – I’d love to hear from you. 


References: 

  1. Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome.  Practice Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014 July:1-13. https://www.eatrightpro.org/~/... 
  2. Dietary Reference Intakes Table: Macronutrients Summary. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Accessed 22 October 2018 from http://nationalacademies.org/h... 
  3. R. Vishwanathan, M.J. Kuchan, S. Sen, E.J. Johnson, Lutein and preterm infants with decreased concentrations of brain carotenoids, J. Pediatr. Gastroenterol. Nutr. 59 (2014) 659–665. [84] Y.L. Qiao, S.M. Dawsey, F. 
  4. Caudill MA. Pre- and postnatal health: evidence of increased choline needs. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(8):1198–1206. 
  5. Brunst KJ, Wright RO, DiGioia K, Enlow MB, Fernandez H, Wright RJ, et al. Racial/ethnic and sociodemographic factors associated with micronutrient intakes and inadequacies among pregnant women in an urban US population. Public Health Nutr 2014;17:1960-70. 
Healthy Living

The Do's and Don'ts of Juicing

Read Article