Most women who are hoping to become a Mum soon are prepared for the fact that their diet is going to have to change quite a lot once they do become pregnant. What they often do not realise though is that by adopting a healthier diet while they are still trying for a baby can not only help them conceive more quickly but also help their chances of enjoying a happy healthy pregnancy.
Healthy Eating for Conception is Not Just for Mum
Foods and fertility are linked. That means that if you want to boost your chances of conceiving both you and your partner should change your diets in order to do so. Being at an optimal weight – not overweight or underweight – is an important fertility booster and following a healthy diet can help you both attain or maintain that weight but healthier foods also lay the foundation for a healthier baby – something that Dad’s health at conception has more to do with than many couples realise.
So What is a Healthy Diet for Conception?
A healthy diet for conception is basically a sensible diet, although there are a few extra guidelines that Mums need to follow especially. But a good variety of foods that are good for you is the real key. With that in mind you should try to include the following:
- At least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, even if those vegetables come from a tin because you worked late! To give you an idea of portion size one serving is equal, for example, to a medium sized orange or two spears of broccoli.
- Don’t cut back to much on the starchy foods right now. Including pasta, rice, bread and cereal is important so if you have been following one of those “no carb” diets now is the time to reintroduce a few of them. For an added healthy boost opt for wholegrain products if you can.
- At least two servings of a protein a day. This could be fish, lean red meat, chicken or pulses and beans. If you happen to be a vegetarian you should be consuming at least three servings though to ensure that you are really getting enough protein.
Two servings of fish a week. One of these servings should be an Omega 3 rich oily fish like salmon or tuna and the other should be a white fish like cod.
Two to three servings of lower fat dairy food a day. One serving is equal to a pot of yogurt or a glass of milk – preferably low fat milk.
Iron rich foods like dark green leafy vegetables and lean red meat. Iron is very important for a healthy pregnancy and yet many ladies do not consume enough in their regular diet but by changing that before you conceive you can begin building up the iron stores you will need in the months to come.
You can still allow yourself an occasional treat once in a while – a piece of cake or a fast food burger – but as they tend to be high in sugar and fat and have very little in the way of nutritional value they should be a once or twice a week only indulgence at most.
What Foods Should You Avoid When Trying to Conceive?
Often women are advised to limit the number of times they eat oily fish over the course of a week (although at least once is recommended) This is not really because it is bad for you but because of concerns about how polluted many of these fish – especially salmon and swordfish – might be. However although there may be some PCBs in these fish the levels are not as high as it was once thought, so at least twice a week fish should still be on the menu if possible.
There are also concerns about how safe it is for those trying to conceive as well as ladies who are pregnant to eat soft cheeses. The worry is that they may contain listeria, a bacteria that can cause food poisoning. This applies to cheeses like brie or blue cheese though, not cottage cheese, and even those cheeses should be fine if they are cooked. Grilled brie on wholewheat toast is delicious and both ingredients contain lots of good stuff like calcium and iron.
What About Alcohol?
Once you are pregnant you will be facing a fairly tee total nine months of you want to help ensure a healthy pregnancy but while you are still trying to conceive the occasional glass of wine is still okay. The key word here is occasional though, no more than two units a week as heavier drinking while trying to get pregnant (by Mum or Dad) can seriously damage your fertility.
What about Caffeine?
There is no direct medical evidence that higher levels of caffeine affect your ability to conceive but it is recommended that pregnant women cut back their caffeine intake so now might be as good a time as any to start weaning yourself off if you have a big coffee or soda habit now.
The current guidelines suggest that women should try to limit their caffeine intake to 200mg a day, both while trying for a baby and when they do become pregnant. How much is 200mg though? Well, its equal to:
- Two cups of coffee, instant or brewed
- Four cups of black tea
- Ten cups of green tea (so if you are fan you are in luck!)
- Five cans of regular soda (although that would be way too much sugar!)
- Four chocolate bars (see above though)
Changing your diet and adding healthier habits before you become pregnant will help you get ready for the months ahead so the sooner you start the better. And make sure Dad joins you too, for the sake of his health and to offer you some much needed moral support and a chat with your doctor might be a great help as well!