Guest post by Jennifer Ward, Adv dip Nat, BCom Econ, competing Masters Repro Med. Jennifer is a qualified naturopath with a focus on reproductive hormones, preconception, pregnancy and postpartum naturopathic care.
When trying for a baby it is common for a range of emotions and questions to come up including what foods should I be eating to support/regain my fertility?
It’s a loaded question which triggers many google searches and conversations with our pregnant friends to find out what they did to get pregnant. Often though we are left with a lack of clarity and can also become more confused and anxious as there are so many ‘diets’ out there when trying to conceive.
Food should be fun!
What I want to help you understand is that food should be fun, delicious, nourishing and a source of comfort through your fertility journey, to not be fearful or become disengaged and to trust your body. I am going to help you break down the main principles of healthy eating when looking to fall pregnant, giving you the permission and confidence to make these changes with minimal fuss and maximum enjoyment.
As a clinical naturopath with 10 year’s experience I am passionate about this area as I have seen first-hand how the wrong information can cause women unnecessary stress and overwhelm. I know this is an area you can control in your fertility journey but let’s also remember to not take that control too far and end up developing a disconnection with food. With so much misinformation I hope to be a source of not just knowledge but support and guidance for you and those in our community.
Trust in yourself
Firstly, I want to start out by saying - trust in yourself. In the words of Dr Suess, ‘there is no one alive that is youer than you’. You are the expert of your body, you feel it every day, you live in it so matter how many specialists and health practitioners you see it is you who is in control and it is you who can feel into what you need. It is no different with diet, ask yourself, what are 5 things I could do better with my diet and likely those 5 things are exactly what you need before you do any further reading.
Women, trust your body.
For those wanting to embrace deepening their understanding of nutrition, here is some information that can help.
Should I adjust my macros?
Macronutrients make up the bulk of food alongside fibre and are classified under three categories – carbohydrates, fats and protein. When we think of carbohydrates we might think of pasta, when we think of fats we may think of butter and when we think of protein we may think of meat. Generally we require equal amounts of each and there is no need to restrict carbs, overload on protein or cut down on fat unless you have a medical condition that requires you to. Most women will find they aren’t eating enough protein or high quality fats and so including more of these categories can be game changing.
For a woman looking to conceive you would ideally include these macros:
- Protein 50-75gm per day or 1gm per kg of body weight. Aiming to not exceed 1 serve meat daily. eg. Meat, fish, nuts, legumes, dairy, learn more about protein here.
- Carbohydrates 150-200gm per day or 2 cups grain/legume/starchy carb + unlimited non-starchy veg
- Fats 60-80gm daily or two fingers eg. 5-6 tbsp
Should I eat meat?
Adequate protein is absolutely essential for conception, protein is the building block of cells, keeps our blood sugar balanced, mood stable, sleep in check and muscles strong. Meat as a source of protein also provides us nutrients that are limited in other food groups such as b vitamins including B12. Unless you feel ethically inclined to avoid meat which is completely your decision I recommend including a palm size or 100gm of meat (excluding fish) into the diet each day. Preferably it would be high quality organic, grass fed meat. If you are new to meat and/or don’t want to cook it Chief Nutrition (sister company of Beauty Food) have a tasty organic, grass-fed beef bar which will give you 80g of high quality, grass fed no additives meat (each 40g bar contains 80g of steak, they just remove the water when they dry it), all but reaching your daily requirement.
Ideally protein is in every main meal, and high-protein snacks can be helpful to reach your daily target.
Should I be eating ‘fertility foods’?
Simply put, no. It causes too much stress to be buying, prepping and eating specific foods each day particularly if you don’t like those certain foods. What I strongly recommend is following these 3 principles.
- Eat real, fresh wholefoods with no preservatives, additives or colours
- Eat a variety of foods from a range of food groups, meat, dairy, grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices, herbs. Delish!
- Eat the rainbow. Yes this advice still stands! Did you know high pigment food is generally higher in antioxidants and that antioxidants decrease inflammation in the body which can help improve fertility and general health
What does a healthy preconception meal look like on a plate?
- Palm sized piece of meat, unlimited non-starchy vegetables stirred through 3/4 cup brown rice/quinoa grain mix and coated in pesto
- Jumbo salad with feta, palm sized chicken, olives, pumpkin seeds and coated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 egg omelette with basil, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes and bacon
- Bircher muesli with oats, seeds, LSA mix, cinnamon, yoghurt, fresh berries and orange juice
What are some healthy fertility snacks?
- Collagen smoothie or hot chocolate
- Beauty Food Collagen cookie
- A handful of Macadamia nuts
- Tamari pumpkin seeds
- Greek yoghurt and berries
How do I start eating healthier?
- Start slow, simplify and follow this advice..
- Are you eating enough vegetables? If the answer is no, start there
- Are you eating protein with each meal? Ask the question before mealtime, where is my protein? And include it if it’s not already there
- Eat three meals a day
- Set a couple hours each week to meal prep and do your grocery shop
- Scan instagram or your favourite cookbooks for food inspiration
- Go to your local produce market and pick colourful, in season food. (Make this fun and wholesome!)
- Eat for enjoyment each week, no matter what that food looks like. You DO NOT have to have a perfect diet to fall pregnant and eating a slice of pizza and glass of wine is helpful to your mental health so please do not stop doing this!
If you are looking to fall pregnant I hope these tips help inspire and support you on your journey. If you have questions or would like further support I offer naturopathic consultations online and in person from Paddington (Sydney, Australia) that focus on nutrition, movement, mindfulness, herbal and nutritional medicine and coaching on how to integrate it into your day to day.
For speaking inquiries on this topic get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org