Keeping to a healthy diet can be incredibly stressful and hard to achieve, which is completely understandable. But when you are trying to conceive, your diet is a really important part of the puzzle. It’s pretty common knowledge that you should adhere to the food “pyramid”, and eat plenty of greens every day, but in practice that can be difficult. Dealing with busy schedules, picky eaters, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can make it hard to always eat right.
This list is full of tips to help you break out of eating habits, find easy ways to add in good nutrition into your daily life, and ways to promote health and wellness, especially when preparing to conceive.
Know your BMI
Your BMI- body mass index- is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight (You can find your BMI by using an online BMI calculator). A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered the ‘normal range’. While BMI does not account for muscularity and frame, knowing how far off-or close- to that range you are can assist you in making the right diet choices.
Weight has a big impact on fertility and pregnancy. Being over or underweight can be detrimental to conception and pregnancy.
According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) obesity (a BMI of 30 or greater) can cause fertility issues such as: irregular or infrequent menstrual cycles, increased risk of miscarriage, increased surgical risks and decreased success with fertility treatments. Obesity can cause pregnancy complications such as: increased risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia), increased risk of gestational diabetes, increased risk of birth defects and increased risk of high-birth weight infants and an increased need for c-sections.
Being underweight (a BMI under 18.5) can also cause infertility and problems such as: absence or irregular ovulation, irregular or absent menstrual cycles and decreased infertility treatment success.
Eat the Rainbow, less White Food
A realistic tip for a healthy diet isn’t to eliminate your favorite foods, but to find healthier versions or substitutions for the foods you love. An easy tip for a healthy diet is to replace white bread, pasta and rice with the whole-grain versions. Not only do refined (“white”) carbs have less nutrients than whole grains, but they also have the potential to make insulin levels in the bloodstream surge, causing sugar crashes and rebound hunger.
For women with polycystic-ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition that is associated with infertility, it is especially important to keep insulin levels consistent, to reduce symptoms and promote healthier weights.
In addition to eliminating as much white for “brown” (whole grain) as possible, think color- and not just green. Eat the rainbow of foods! Did you know sweet potatoes are healthier and more nutritious than regular white mashed potatoes? Fruits and vegetables not only deliver a wealth of vitamins and minerals, they also are abundant with antioxidants. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, like spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, and blueberries are great examples of nutrient-packed produce. Lean protein like skinless chicken or small amounts of fish like cod and salmon are great to satisfy hunger for long periods of time and fulfill nutritional needs.
Eggs and red meat, contrary to popular belief, do not need to be avoided, but limit portion sizes to nothing larger than an adult fist.
Watch What You Drink
If possible, eliminate soft drinks altogether. Whether the soft drink is diet or regular, you can and should live without the added sugar (or sugar substitutes), chemicals and caffeine normally contained in these nutritionally-deficient drinks.
Water is a great way to hydrate and cleanse your body. If caffeine is a must in your life, limit yourself to 1-2 cups daily.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol consumption can effect conception, implantation and cause birth defects in the fetus.
At the end of the day, small substitutions add up and make a big difference. To fill any holes in your diet, be sure to take a pre-natal vitamin, even if you aren’t pregnant but are trying to conceive. Pre-natal vitamins contain the iron and folic acid a woman’s body needs to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
The ‘Other’ Stuff
To put it simply, the “other” stuff are the things that you shouldn’t do while pregnant. If you are trying to conceive, now is the time to smoking cigarettes and doing recreational drugs. Take the time to put these habits at least on pause, for the health of yourself and your pregnancy. Give your body time to shed the toxins naturally, as the absence of these things can help promote fertility.
As far as the “others” in food, this applies to things like artificial sweeteners, chemicals and preservatives in the food. We know it’s unrealistic to buy only organic, but you can limit the chemicals and preservatives by reading labels and being aware of what is really in your food. If you aren’t comfortable with the levels in your foods, think about switching your brands, or finding substitutes.
Additionally, be sure to wash your fruits and vegetables to reduce and remove the pesticides and preservatives that may be coating the produce.
When you get to the bottom of it, there are a lot of factors that control our fertility, conception and pregnancy. There are plenty of things we can’t change, like age, family history, or genetic makeup and predispositions. BUT, there are factors we can control, such as a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and reducing toxin exposure as much as possible.
Taking control of these kinds of things can really make you feel more in control, and can help you feel more empowered in your fertility journey.
If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us at Fertility Solutions! We’re here to help you on your path to a healthy pregnancy.