Are you pregnant over the holiday season, or just fancy some homemade pumpkin pie? Are you wondering if it’s healthy to eat snacks like pumpkin seeds during pregnancy?
In this article, I deal with whether pumpkin is safe when pregnant, or more likely, answering your questions on what nutrients and benefits it contains. There’s also pumpkin spice and leaves to consider.
The flesh and seeds of a pumpkin are safe to eat during pregnancy, whether raw or cooked. Extra care should be taken to wash pumpkin flesh, even after it’s been cut. Pre-packed pumpkin in a can is fine during pregnancy, but pre-cut fresh pumpkin may need to be avoided.
Here’s a complete breakdown on the safety and benefits of pumpkin flesh and seeds when pregnant. Throughout this article, I’ll use the generic term ‘pumpkin’ but this applies to the bright orange winter squash commonly seen (and in season) at Thanksgiving and Halloween.
Can I Eat Pumpkin Flesh (Raw or Cooked) When Pregnant?
Roasted, baked, boiled or otherwise cooked pumpkin is safe during pregnancy.
Pumpkin flesh isn’t eaten raw very often, but it can appear in some seasonal coleslaws or shredded thinly in salads. If the pumpkin is raw, the only thing to remember if you’re pregnant is that it should be thoroughly washed after cutting it.
When prepping pumpkin from scratch, make sure you wash the flesh after you’ve peeled and/or cut the skin away, as the thick skin may harbor bacteria that then gets cut through the flesh.
Tip: For more on prepping fruit and veg during pregnancy, you can read this article on how (and when) to wash produce when pregnant.
Cooking is an extra step that will kill most harmful bacteria, so if the pumpkin is unwashed, but is then cooked, it’s safe to eat.
What Are The Benefits of Eating Pumpkin When Pregnant?
Pumpkin flesh is very nutritious and can make a healthy addition to your pregnancy diet.
Pumpkin is particularly high in vitamin A. One cup (approx 245g) of mashed, cooked pumpkin contains over 240% of the recommended daily requirement – though that level is for someone who is not pregnant.
Vitamin A is important during pregnancy, but it can also be harmful in high doses (such as in supplements) (source: NHS). Therefore it’s a good idea to get it through your healthy diet – and pumpkin is a good option.
Pumpkin is also a good source of other vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins C and E, as well as riboflavin, potassium, copper, and manganese. It’s low in calories, with an average of 50 calories per cup of cooked flesh. It’s also a good source of fiber (source: NutritionData).
Overall, pumpkin is a healthy and nutritious option to eat during pregnancy, but the health value of pumpkin also depends on how it’s served. Boiled, roasted or steamed pumpkin is much healthier than foods that might ‘contain’ pumpkin, and these are covered later in this article.
Are Pumpkin Seeds Safe When Pregnant?
Pumpkin seeds are safe to eat during pregnancy, whether raw or cooked/roasted, and they also pack in a lot of beneficial nutrients, despite their small size.
In this article, I use the term ‘pumpkin seeds’ generically but this means the common little dark green type, found raw or roasted and salted. They’re also called ‘pepitas’ in Spanish.
Seeds from other pumpkins or squashes (like carving pumpkins) are edible, but they’re not as common, because they usually have a husk or shell.
The benefits of pumpkin seeds during pregnancy include:
- Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of several minerals, including magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, and manganese.
- They’re a good source of iron for vegetarians and vegans, with approximately 42mg per oz (28g)
- Each oz (28g) of pumpkin seeds contains around 1g of protein
- They also contain small amounts of vitamin K, folate and riboflavin
Pumpkin seeds, raw or roasted, can be a nutritious addition to your pregnancy diet. They can be eaten as they are or baked or roasted. The only thing to look out for is that some roasted versions can be high in sodium, so if you have to watch your salt intake then this might be something to consider.
Some healthy and nutritious ways of incorporating pumpkin seeds into your pregnancy meals and snacks are:
- Homemade granola over live Greek yogurt (I eat this all the time!). If you’re wondering which yogurt is best during pregnancy, there’s a guide here.
- Sprinkled on a salad for extra crunch – here’s a guide to washing salads when you’re pregnant, too.
- Roasted as a snack or mixed into trail mix
- Baked into muffins, cakes, flapjack or granola bars
Is Pumpkin Spice Safe During Pregnancy?
All the spices typically found in pumpkin pie or similar dishes are safe in small food amounts. These include cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, allspice, ginger, and others commonly found in ‘pumpkin spice mixes’.
Herbs and spices used in food are commonly warned against during pregnancy if they’re in supplement or medicinal amounts (found in supplements, tinctures, oils, extracts, and some ‘natural’ medicine).
“Culinary” (i.e. small) amounts of spices – including all the ones found in pumpkin spice – are safe during pregnancy (source: APA).
Be aware that pumpkin spice flavored coffee and tea will more than likely still contain caffeine, so you should check your caffeine intake. During pregnancy, caffeine should be limited to 200-300mg per day (source: WHO).
Also, some of the seasonal specials like pumpkin pie frappes or other rich drinks will have a lot of extra fat and calories. Great as a treat, but try not to indulge too often if you’re pregnant during pumpkin season!
Common dishes that use pumpkin spice (like pie) are also discussed below.
Pumpkin Pie (and other dishes) When Pregnant
Pumpkin pie is safe to eat when pregnant. If the filling is canned, it will be pasteurized (or otherwise cooked) and therefore sterile.
If it’s homemade, just make sure it’s cooked all the way through as the filling is sometimes thickened with egg (read more about eggs and pregnancy safety here).
Canned pumpkin filling is cooked as part of the canning process. Look for tinned or canned pumpkin with no added sugar or other ingredients, such as Libby’s or other brands containing pumpkin and nothing else.
Bear in mind filling advertised as ready-made does contain all the spices you’ll need, but will also have a lot of added sugar.
Other pumpkin dishes that are safe during pregnancy are:
- Pumpkin soup – if it contains cream this should be pasteurized, though it usually is.
- Pumpkin pasta (e.g. ravioli) is also fine, if it’s served with a cream sauce then the same applies about pasteurization
Is Pumpkin Leaf Safe for Pregnant Women to Eat?
Pumpkin leaf, also called “Ugu” in Nigeria, usually refers to the leaves or shoots of the fluted pumpkin (not the orange ones commonly seen in the USA and Europe).
Like many dark leafy greens, pumpkin leaf is a good source of iron and potassium and contains some antioxidants (source: Wikipedia).
Pumpkin leaf is safe in pregnancy, if it’s prepared and cooked properly, and also cleaned thoroughly before use – for more on this, see my guide to prepping produce during pregnancy.
Overall, almost every part of the pumpkin offers nutritional benefits during pregnancy, and almost all of it can be enjoyed safely.
Increasing your veggie intake? You may also like:
- How to wash fruit, veg and salad to make it all pregnancy-safe
- The benefits of bell peppers during pregnancy
- Everything you need to know about eating tomatoes when pregnant
- Why cucumbers are a good idea during pregnancy