How to Eat when You’re Trying to Conceive

While there isn’t any particular miracle food that will make sure you conceive a baby, nutrition absolutely plays a role in getting ready for a healthy pregnancy. There’s even some reason to believe that the right diet can help you avoid some possible conception and early pregnancy pitfalls, so pile these conception-friendly foods on your plate!

Foods for Conception

Your body functions best when you’re getting a healthy balance of protein, fat, and nutrient-rich carbohydrates. Checking off your daily vitamin and mineral requirements keeps organ systems functioning smoothly, including your reproductive system! Work these foods into your regular diet:

  • Green, leafy vegetables: Rich in iron, calcium, and plenty of vitamins, dark green veggies pack a ton of nutrition into even a modest serving.
  • Rainbow fruits and veggies: Think of produce colors as Nature’s labeling system. Red, orange, yellow, and even purple fruits and vegetables offer different vitamin advantages, so fit a range of colors into your weekly rotation.
  • Seafood: Sea vegetables are loaded with iron and other beneficial minerals, and are sometimes recommended as part of a diet that benefits thyroid function. Low-mercury fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. In other words, what better time to go for sushi than now?
  • Vegetable protein: Americans tend to skew heavy on meat in typical diets. Reaching for plant-based protein, such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans, has been linked to lower rates of ovulation problems in one Harvard Medical School study of over 18,000 women.
  • Moderate portions: Research suggests conceiving is easier when your weight falls in the “healthy” or “normal” BMI range. This isn’t to say that people whose weight falls outside the range can’t have healthy pregnancies–they can and do!–but if you’re trying to tweak the odds in your favor, weight might be one factor to consider in addition to other healthy habits.

Pre-Pregnancy Foods to Avoid

Your optimal pre-pregnancy diet can also limit or avoid certain foods, either to continue to maximize healthy body function, or as a way to prep for giving up foods that could be harmful to a developing embryo:

  • Sugar: If you have diabetes, PCOS, or another condition that includes insulin resistance, sweet treats might mess with your fertility more than you expect. In simplest terms, higher insulin in response to a sugar high can sometimes mimic reproductive hormone surges, tricking your body into lowering production of hormones you need for optimal ovulation.
  • Alcohol: Doctors advise against drinking during pregnancy. Some people abstain while they’re trying to get pregnant and others “drink ‘til it’s pink” (meaning the pink second line on a positive pregnancy test). Even if you’re still imbibing on occasion, it’s not a bad idea to get used to cutting back.
  • Caffeine: Similarly, some doctors recommend limiting caffeine in pregnancy, especially the more delicate first trimester. Taper your coffee or tea habit down little by little to keep headaches and irritability at bay.

Early Pregnancy Nutrition

In a way, it’s unfair that so many critical developments happen so early in pregnancy. People don’t always know that they’re pregnant until 6 or more weeks. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to higher rates of serious brain or spinal cord defects, in addition to other complications for you or the pregnancy. Building up nutrition stores before you’re pregnant is your best way to be ready for a healthy pregnancy from day one:

  • Folate: Important for brain and spinal cord development. Asparagus, spinach, eggs, oranges, and rice or pasta enriched with folate are great choices.
  • Iron: Tofu, lentils, quinoa, and lean cuts of red meat can boost your iron stores, which helps make the extra blood you need during pregnancy.
  • Calcium: Many, if not most, women in the United States are susceptible to calcium deficiency. Your body will deplete your own calcium in your bones to grow a baby, so don’t make that last resort come true! If you don’t like dairy, leafy greens, chia seeds, tofu, and calcium supplements can help you reach your daily allotment.
  • Vitamin D: It’s easy to be low on this vitamin, thanks to indoor lifestyles, and even sunscreen. Besides getting some time to relax in the sunshine, vitamin D-enriched milk and orange juice or a capsule supplement can replenish your levels.
Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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