The Ultimate Trying-to-Get-Pregnant Diet: What to Shop for and How to Eat
Nutrition basics for fertility, plus recipe ideas!
Your Grocery List
Go Heavy on Protein and Folates
Choose meals that include protein sources such as:
- Lean meat
- Beans and lentils
- Nut butters (such as peanut, almond, or cashew butter) as well as seeds and nuts
- A generous portion of whole-grain products
- Low-fat dairy products
Also look for foods rich in folates, such as:
- Pinto and navy beans
- Orange juice
Say No to Artificial Sweetners
Although the scientific evidence is scant regarding the safety of artificial sweeteners and pregnancy, it’s better to play it safe than to enter unknown artificial territory.
To please the sweet tooth, try these healthy alternatives:
- Frozen bananas
- Fruit smoothies
- Naturally sweetened, nonfat frozen or regular yogurt
- Low-fat, naturally sweetened sorbet
- Fresh fruit
Skip the Caffeine
If you’re a caffeine lover, there is research to consider on caffeine and fertility. According to the National Institute of Health, ingesting 300 milligrams of caffeine a day (that’s equivalent to about three 8-ounce cups of coffee, seven cups of tea, five 12-ounce cans of cola, or 23 cups of cocoa) decreased a woman’s chances of conceiving by as much as 27 percent compared to ingesting no caffeine.
So if you’re looking for pick-me-up, instead try:
- Decaf coffee or tea (not herbal, unless cleared by your doctor)
- Naturally sweetened lemonade or fruit juice mixed with low-sodium sparkling mineral water
- Filtered water steeped with cucumber slices
- Naturally sweetened vegetable juices (such as carrot, tomato, or wheat grass)
Even though a woman trying to conceive may be banished to decaf, her mate may actually benefit from drinking the high-test. Studies show that caffeine may increase a man’s fertility by stimulating sperm motility.
Cut Back on Desserts and Refined Sugars
Excess sugar in the bloodstream can lower the body’s ability to manufacture the necessary hormones for reproduction. So, skip those bakery-counter sweets, cookies, and other processed desserts that use refined sugars. Instead try making your own fruit-juice sweetened treats. You can find recipes online today for everything from applesauce cakes to carrot muffins sweetened with pineapples, with little or no refined sugar. You might try apple-juice sweetened fig bar snacks or apple cinnamon bran muffins.
Don’t Forget Your Vitamins!
Multi-nutrient supplementation is recommended for women who are even considering pregnancy to cover the increased nutrient needs. When shopping for a vitamin, be sure to look for: folic acid; vitamins B-6, C, and D; calcium; copper; iron; and zinc.
When looking for good vitamin, also first be sure to check with your doctor to discuss the right mix of nutrients for you. And remember that more isn’t always better. In a study of over 22,000 pregnant women, those who took supplements with more than 10,000 international Units (IU) a day of pre-formed vitamin A (retinol) were almost five times more likely to give birth to a baby with a birth defect than women who consumed 5,000 IU or less. A good vitamin A alternative is beta-carotene, which the body will convert into vitamin only if needed. (These days, many supplements have beta-carotene added to its formula but list it under Vitamin A activity.)
Another important note to make when looking for a good vitamin to take when trying to conception is regarding folic acid. Research strongly suggests that taking folate and multivitamins just before and in the first few weeks of pregnancy may be the most protective measure against the later development of one of the most common types of childhood brain tumors. The recommended intake is 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. Once you are expecting, the Institute of Medicine recommend 600 mcg of folate; however, some doctors are pushing for 800 mcg of folate.
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