Pre-conception healthy diet tips
This is a really exciting time and we have a few tips to help you along your way. Most of all relax and enjoy this special time!
- Keeping active is a good way to stay healthy and it can also help reduce stress. Try taking exercise outside, just a short walk in the fresh air can do wonders for your wellbeing.
- Try to maintain a healthy weight as being either overweight or underweight can have a negative impact on your ability to conceive (a healthy weight is a BMI of 18.5-25 for women and 20-25 for men).
- A healthy varied diet is really important, base it mainly on starchy foods and fruit and vegetables with a small amount of protein (from meat but avoid liver, fish, eggs, beans, pulses or nuts) and dairy products or calcium fortified dairy free drinks and tofu if you're dairy free.
- Take a folic acid supplement as this reduces the risk of the baby developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
- It's also a good idea to eat foods rich in folates (natures own folic acid) such as green vegetables, citrus fruits and fortified cereals.
- Consider taking a vitamin D supplement (10µg a day) to ensure you have all the vitamin D you'll need to help build your growing baby's bones.
- Vitamin A is needed in small amounts but make sure you avoid liver and don't take any supplements containing vitamin A as large doses can be harmful for your baby.
- Try to build up your stores of iron. Dark green vegetables and dried beans are a good plant based source of iron, to help your body absorb the iron, try eating vitamin c (e.g. peppers, currants, berries and citrus fruit) at the same time. Poultry (organic is best) and fish are also excellent sources of iron. We think it's best to avoid red meat as it increases the bodies acidity.
- Essential fatty acids are important for the development of the nervous system and brain so it's a good idea to top up your intake before you try for your baby. Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, soya and green leafy vegetables are excellent sources. With the richest of the vegetarian sources being flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and walnut oil, pecans, sunflower seeds and oil, rapeseed oil, sesame seeds and oil, pinenuts, brazil nuts, basil, oregano and cloves. Oily fish are also a rich source (see tip below for more advice).
- Fish are packed with nutrients but make sure you avoid eating shark, swordfish and marlin altogether and eat a maximum of two portions a week of oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout as they can contain mercury and other contaminants at levels which can harm a developing nervous system.
- Avoid alcohol as this can affect your baby's development particularly in the early stages of pregnancy when you may not realise that you've conceived.
- It's best to avoid caffeine if you can, but if you can't survive without your morning boost, limit your intake to one mug of filter coffee or two mugs of tea a day. We have lots of lovely recipes for tea without caffeine on our recipe pages.
- Increase your antioxidants especially vitamins c and e, zinc and selenium.
- Foods rich in vitamin c are vegetables such as peppers, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and peas, and fruits such as papaya, blackcurrants, kiwi, berries and citrus.
- Excellent sources of vitamin e are sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, wheatgerm oil, sunflower oil, olive oil and coconut oil.
- Pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, cocoa and dark chocolate (we like raw cacao), cashew nuts are all packed with Zinc. Meat and seafood, particularly oysters are high in zinc but remember that seafood should be well cooked if you're trying for a baby.
- If you're having problems conceiving it's worth looking at the acidity of your diet. If you eat a very acidic diet this can create a hostile environment for sperm so try to balance your diet with alkaline foods which will also provide lots of the nutrients needed for conception.
- Alkaline forming foods are vegetables, ripe fruits, grains (amaranth, quinoa, rye, buckwheat), fresh herbs, almonds, cold pressed vegetable, nut and seed oils, water and herbal teas.
- Strongly acid-forming foods are animal protein (pork, fish, chicken, lamb, beef), aged dairy products (mature cheese), refined oil and fat (margarine), canned foods, foods contain refined sugar and flour (jam, fizzy drinks, cakes, sweets, white bread), coffee and alcohol.
- Mildly acid-forming foods are vegetable protein (chickpeas, beans and lentils), fresh dairy products (fresh cheese), nuts (cashews, peanuts, pistachios).
- Try to eat a ratio of 2 alkaline foods to 1 acid food. Raw fruit and vegetables contain the most nutrients but try to eat these before 4pm to give your stomach time to digest them. In the evenings try steaming or lightly fruit and vegetables to aid digestion.
And most of all, wishing you all the very best of luck on this exciting new journey!