Eat the rainbow
Unearthing facts about fruit and veg
Packed with essential vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit and vegetables are a vital part of a healthy pregnancy diet. Find out how eating your 7-a-day can influence your baby’s future development and learn how to include more fruit and vegetables at mealtimes.
Going green (red, orange and yellow)
As well as adding variety and colour to your diet, fruit and vegetables are packed with powerful nutrients that support you and your baby during pregnancy.
Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of many well-known vitamins and minerals, in addition to fibre and antioxidants. They provide key nutrients, such as ascorbate, carotenoids, folate and magnesium, which all contribute to your baby’s growth and development.
A role to play in your baby’s birth weight
During pregnancy, your diet can have a direct impact on your baby’s birth weight. A well-balanced diet that meets the recommended calorie and nutrient intakes is more likely to result in a healthy birth weight, which can reduce your baby’s risk of disease and other health issues.
A good way to achieve this is to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables throughout pregnancy. As the most nutrient-dense of all the food groups, fruit and veg provide a comparatively high level of nutrients per calorie. At a time when your recommended intakes of many nutrients
Vegetables, in particular, have been shown to have a beneficial effect on baby’s birth weight, so include plenty of these in your diet to support your baby’s growth and development.
The protective properties of fruit and vegetables
The antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables can help protect your baby's cells from damage caused by harmful compounds present in the environment.
A good intake of fruit and vegetables as part of a well-balanced pregnancy diet may also help to protect your baby from developing allergies and allergic symptoms later in life.
Studies have found various connections between a mother’s fruit and veg intake and their baby’s health:
- A higher intake of leafy vegetables and apples in pregnancy has been linked to less wheeziness in infancy
- Vitamin E, which can be found in spinach, broccoli and butternut squash is thought to help prevent wheezing and asthma
- Some research suggests that green and yellow vegetables, citrus fruit, and those containing orange-hued beta-carotene, such as sweet potatoes, carrots and oranges may reduce the risk of childhood eczema
Fruit and vegetables
Packed with essential vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit and vegetables are a vital part of a healthy pregnancy diet.
Key nutrients provided by fruit and vegetables
Vitamin C: Important for normal immune protection. Sources include:
- Citrus fruits
- Red, green and yellow peppers
Potassium: Helps to maintain blood pressure. Sources include:
- Dried apricots
- Dark leafy greens
- Coconut water
Folic Acid: Helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Sources include:
- Brussels sprouts
Calcium: Contributes to your baby’s developing bones and teeth. Vegetable sources of calcium include:
- Dark leafy veg, such as broccoli, kale, watercress
- Green French beans
- Brussels sprouts
Fibre: Aids digestion and prevents constipation. All fruit and vegetables provide some fibre, with some being especially good sources, including:
- Sweet potatoes
7-a-day (or more) for a range of nutrients
You’re probably well aware of the 7-a-day guideline. This is based on the fact that fruit and vegetables help to lower the risk of serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
Eating at least 7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day as part of a healthy pregnancy diet will provide many of the nutrients needed to support your own health and your baby’s development.
With regards to which fruits to eat during pregnancy, fresh, frozen, dried and tinned varieties all count, and the skin is often a good source of fibre. A glass of fruit juice counts as 1 of your 7-a-day, but due to the nature and quantity of the sugar it contains, can only be counted once towards your 7 a-day.
Folate: A first trimester essential
Folate, the food source of folic acid, is a B vitamin that occurs naturally in certain vegetables and other foods.
Due to its role in protecting against neural tube defects, it’s recommended that all pregnant women get 400mcg of folic acid per day 3 months before conception until the 12th week of pregnancy. It would be difficult to get this through food sources of folate, so a folic acid supplement is advised. Folate-rich foods help to increase your intake even further.
Folate-rich vegetables to eat during pregnancy include:
- Brussels sprouts
There is no limit on vegetable intake, the campaign was originally intended to help people meet a minimum of 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. In fact, eating more than seven portions each day could be even more beneficial for yours and your baby's health.
One portion equates to:
- 30g of currants, dates or figs
- Half a fresh grapefruit
- 2 broccoli spears
- 4 heaped teaspoons of cooked kale
- 1 medium pear
- 3 apricots
Try these easy ways to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables:
- Buy frozen fruit and veg – it’s often cheaper than fresh varieties, doesn’t go off, and the nutrient content is well preserved
- Snack on vegetables, such as carrot or celery sticks with hummus
- Add extra vegetables to home cooked soups and sauces
- Try tinned fruit and vegetables – make sure they’re in natural juice or water with no added salt or sugar
- Use fruit and vegetables to make nutritious smoothies
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
Our midwives, nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch.