Potatoes in Pregnancy: Benefits, Safety, and Cravings

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Potatoes often get a bad rap as starchy vegetables. With media and government agencies alike recommending the switch to whole-grain starches, many women wonder whether this means they should swap for sweet potatoes or give up potatoes altogether in order to maximize nutrition while pregnant. 

Just because they’re a white, starchy vegetable doesn’t make potatoes any less healthful when pregnant. The tasty and versatile tuber is a good source of potassium, vitamin C, iron, and fiber- all important nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy. 

Potatoes don’t just come in one variety, however. I’ll break down the differences (if any) between the different potato varieties, as well as the nutritional benefits of the most popular potato dishes so that you can feel your best while pregnant and eat delicious food while doing it!

Are Potatoes a Healthy Choice During Pregnancy? The Benefits

The food you eat while pregnant plays an important role in supporting your baby’s growth and development- not to mention keeping you feeling at your very best! Potatoes often get a less than stellar reputation since according to US nutritional guidelines, potatoes are considered starch.

Unlike other starchy foods such as rice and bread, the unexpected nutritional benefits of potatoes are more similar to fresh produce. 

bunch of potatoes in the market

Many of us hear the word ‘scurvy’ and immediately think back to the tale of old-time sailors who would bring barrels of limes along on long voyages to stave off scurvy- otherwise known as vitamin C deficiency. Limes did the trick, but potatoes would have worked just as well!

While you might not expect this tuber to compare to citrus fruits, potatoes are another excellent source of vitamin C. 

During pregnancy, your immune system is naturally lowered, making you more prone to illnesses (source: Frontiers in Immunology). Nobody wants to feel sick on top of being pregnant. Eating healthy foods high in vitamin C can boost your immune system to help you continue feeling your best and give you the best chance of avoiding illness. 

Another shocking similarity between fruit and potatoes is their potassium. Though bananas are best known for being high in potassium, potatoes actually contain twice as much of the electrolyte (source: USDA)!

Potassium is highly essential and plays many roles in pregnancy. It is necessary for growth and producing new cells (source: Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism). Higher potassium intake has also been linked to preventing hypertension, a symptom many pregnant women are monitored for (source: WHO). 

Potatoes also contain iron, which is necessary to support blood flow between mom and baby. Vitamin C is known to increase the absorption of plant-based iron, like that found in potatoes, making this starch a win-win to help meet your iron needs. 

Beyond vitamins and minerals, the way potatoes are prepared can also impact their nutritional benefits. I’ll walk through the most common ways to serve potatoes and how each type can benefit your pregnancy. 

mashed potato in a bowl

Mashed potatoes- Nothing says comfort like a warm bowl of mashed potatoes. In addition, mashed potatoes are a staple for many holiday meals. Typically, comfort food isn’t eaten for its nutritional benefits but that doesn’t mean the dish doesn’t support a healthy pregnancy.  

Mashed potatoes are often made with cream and butter. These fats are necessary to support a baby’s brain development. 

Boiled potatoes- Boiled potatoes are light and simple, which might help to settle your stomach if you’re experiencing morning sickness. Boiled potatoes are an easy way to ensure you’re getting key nutrients even when your stomach is turning. 

Boiled potatoes are also the base for many potato dishes, such as potato salad. Keep in mind that the other ingredients in potato salad might not be pregnancy-safe. Check out our article on coleslaws and picnic salads for a list of what to look out for. 

Baked/jacket potatoes- Baked potatoes (otherwise known as jacket potatoes) are one of the easiest potato dishes, no peeling or mashing is required. Baked potatoes also contain the most fiber since the skin is left on and presumably eaten.

Eating the skin of a baked potato is not only environmentally friendly but the fiber in the skin can help you stay regular in the restroom, especially helpful when pregnancy-related constipation strikes in later months. 

Does the Color Matter? Red, White, and Purple Potatoes

Many of us are conditioned to reach for rainbow-colored potatoes, as white starches are seen as ‘less healthy.’ When it comes to potatoes, the nutritional differences are only slight and no color is better than the rest. 

The biggest difference between the colors is their antioxidants. Purple potatoes contain anthocyanins and sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, both different types of antioxidants (source: Preventative Nutrition and Food Science). 

bunch of brown, red and purple potatoes

Vitamin and mineral amounts also vary between the colors, with red potatoes containing the most potassium and purple potatoes containing the most vitamin C. Unlike red, white, and purple potatoes, sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin A (source: Produce for Better Health Foundation).

For a more in-depth look at the health benefits of sweet potatoes, head over to our dedicated article

While the amount of essential nutrients in each type of potato does vary, the differences are not significant. The ‘best and healthiest’ potato is the kind you enjoy the most! 

Is It Safe to Eat Sprouted or Green Potatoes When Pregnant?

We have all been there- you store a bag of potatoes in your pantry for a tad too long, only to discover that a few of them have sprouted by the time you get around to finishing off the bag. Knowing that food safety is of utmost importance while pregnant, are sprouted or green potatoes still safe or is this a sign that it is time to toss them?

As potatoes sprout and turn green-skinned they also develop solanine. Solanine has long been known to be a toxin. Eating large amounts of solanine can lead to solanine poisoning, with symptoms not unlike other types of food poisoning including diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain/vomiting (source: Michigan State Extension). 

Beyond the side effects of food poisoning, eating large amounts of sprouted and green potatoes just before and after conception has been linked to a higher risk of neural tube defects and spina bifida (source: BMC Nutrition). 

If you have eaten sprouted or green potatoes since finding out you are pregnant, not to worry. Solanine poisoning happens as a result of eating large amounts of solanine. Chances are if you only ate green or sprouted potatoes a few times it is unlikely that you will have eaten enough solanine to cause any issue. 

washing the potatoes thoroughly

Are Undercooked or Raw Potatoes Unsafe During Pregnancy?

While potatoes are typically served warm, or fully cooked at the very least, some pregnant women find themselves craving raw potatoes. 

During pregnancy, it is important to thoroughly wash all produce before preparing to reduce your risk of foodborne illness and contamination. This includes potatoes, even if you plan on peeling or boiling them.

So long as you wash your potatoes before eating, there is nothing unsafe about eating undercooked potatoes.

What Does it Mean If I’m Craving Potatoes When Pregnant?

Potatoes are a common craving, especially comforting dishes like mashed potatoes. If you find yourself craving potatoes often, it can be tempting to try and find out what this craving ‘means.’ 

As with all cravings, there is no exact cause or reason behind why pregnant women crave certain foods, including potatoes. Similarly, there is no established connection between cravings and your baby’s gender- though it is fun to take a guess nevertheless!

Potatoes of all kinds are a delicious way to pack in some unexpected nutrition. Hopefully, this article has reassured you that potatoes can be a part of a safe and healthy pregnancy diet.