If you’re a “Fruit/Veggie Resister” like me, pregnancy manuals can induce a lot of guilt. We’re supposed to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.1 Some sources say it should be more like 9-13 servings per day.2 When not pregnant, it’s just us, and the consequence of not eating enough of the right foods only affects our bodies. But add a baby who needs us to be well-nourished, and that’s a recipe for stress and guilty feelings.
Ever since I got pregnant the first time 8 years ago, I’ve been struggling with this. As a child I’d developed some very picky habits and now find the taste and texture of many fruits and vegetables to be nearly intolerable. Worse, the ones I hate most are the ones always touted as “superfoods,” things like blueberries and spinach. Pretty much the only fruits I would eat back then were grapes, apples, oranges, and cantaloupe. Peas, corn, and beans (all steamed) were the types of vegetables I preferred. Rather limited when you’re trying to pack in as much good nutrition as possible.
Over the years I have figured out a few ways to make this part of my nutrition easy to achieve…and enjoyable.
The most basic way to help me keep my fruit and vegetable consumption up is to have these foods sitting in the fridge, prepared ready to eat. If I take the time to wash and stem a big bowl of grapes, or have baby carrots in an easy to reach place, I have no excuse not to eat them. They’re already there, even in the middle of the day I can’t say I don’t have time to eat such foods, because all I have to do is reach into the fridge and grab a handful.
A more labor-intensive method involves the use of a blender. I don’t know why I resisted smoothies for so long, but I finally tried someone else’s and thus began my Smoothie Journey. Now, there are many smoothies that are not particularly healthful. The loads of sugar they contain pretty much defeats the purpose of ingesting the fruit. But homemade smoothies can be amazingly delicious, as well as healthy. I found that smoothies have helped with the texture issues that I had with so many fruits. I still can’t choke down peaches or a peach smoothie, but I have come to love strawberry smoothies, though I rarely eat fresh whole strawberries. Once I figured out a good smoothie base (strawberry and unsweetened cranberry juice, in my case) I started experimenting with adding in other fruits, and on occasion, spinach. I used my favorite non-sugar sweetener or honey to avoid the detrimental effects and extra calories of sugar. I found that I could guzzle down a smoothie containing fruits I normally hated, getting several servings of my fruit/vegetable requirement for the day. I’ll still pass on a bowl of fresh strawberries or blueberries, but nothing beats a cold, frothy strawberry/blueberry smoothie. It’s refreshing, thirst quenching, sweet-tooth-satisfying, and most importantly, good for Mom and Baby.
As hard as it is to get over long-standing habits and food preferences, when it comes to pregnancy it’s worth the effort to make these dietary changes in order to give you and your baby the best chance at good health. Five servings a day seems like a lot, but with just a little creativity, it can be easily managed, and not only that, it can be a delight to the taste buds!
1Pregnancy Nutrition, staff, Mayo Clinic
2Vegetables and Fruits: Get Plenty Every Day, staff, Harvard School of Public Health