Establishing good nutrition and health not only supports your chances of healthy conception, but also means that you are set up for continued healthy habits for a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Eating according to these guidelines ensures an excellent nutrient intake without additives, toxins or food substances that can compromise your health and fertility. It may be difficult for you to follow all the recommendations all of the time, however the more you can do the better. You may wish to seek the guidance of a healthcare practitioner to help you with a tailored dietary plan.


CARBOHYDRATES

Keep consumption to moderate levels and choose low glycaemic carbohydrates where possible. These include most non-starchy vegetables, pulses, whole (not refined) grains.  High glycaemic foods that should be avoided included sugar and white/refined grains. 


PROTEIN

You need an average sized serving (equivalent to the palm of your hand) of protein-providing food at least 2x a day before conception and 3x a day during pregnancy. 

Fish

  • 3 times weekly
  • Low in saturated fats, high in essential fatty acids, especially deep sea/ocean/cold water fish, which are also less polluted, for example mullet, salmon, taylor, trevally & sardines
  • Avoid large fish e.g. tuna, shark, swordfish, ling, barramundi, king mackerel (high in mercury), crustaceans (often polluted) and raw fish (may contain bacteria).
  • Fresh preferable to tinned/frozen.
  • See Mercury in Fish

Poultry

  • Trim the skin to avoid fats
  • Only use certified organically fed (free range is not necessarily organic and may still be fed with hormones and antibiotics).

Eggs

  • An excellent source of protein.
  • Limit their consumption only if they cause gastrointestinal problems such as gas or constipation.
  • Only use certified organically fed

Dairy

  • Natural cultured non-flavoured yoghurt is good
  • Goats' milk/cheese preferred
  • Sheep's cheese, rice & oat milk is ok
  • Soya milk/cheese next the best option (avoid genetically engineered or high fat/ aluminium/sugar brands of soya, keep consumption low)
  • Avoid soft cheeses (these may contain bacteria)

Red meat

  • Only in moderation and trim all fat
  • Unless certified organically fed, avoid organ meats/offal/sausage/mince (or get the butcher to mince on site). Organ meats contain high levels of toxins, e.g. pesticides/hormones.
  • Avoid delicatessen meats as these are high in fats, offal content and toxic preservatives
  • Avoid raw and undercooked meat.

Legumes & Pulses

  • These include split peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, tempeh (soya - fermented or soaked forms are preferred)
  • To use beans, soak overnight and discard water

Nuts & Seeds

  • Raw, unsalted and fresh
  • Store in fridge, away from light and eat within 2 weeks or freeze
  • Nuts should not taste bitter
  • Use in stir-fries, salads, pasta dishes, as a snack.
  • Avoid dried fruit as it is high in sugar and preservatives, or mould.

Grains

  • Have a higher carbohydrate content than protein - see "carbohydrates"

Proteins from plant sources are incomplete (i.e. they do not contain the full range of amino acids). By combining two of the food groups below (within one meal or one day), you will have a complete protein source, as each group has a different range of amino acids. This is not necessary if you are also eating any foods of animal origin.

  • Nuts
  • Grains/seeds
  • Legumes/pulses


VEGETABLES

Eat a lot every day - they should make up minimum 40% of total food intake and be organic whenever possible.  Choose a wide variety, especially dark green leafy, red and orange.  Eat both raw and cooked regularly. 

Raw vegetable suggestions

  • Juices - try carrot/celery/beetroot as a base  which is a great way of ensuring adequate vegetable intake
  • Use a wide variety of vegetables in salads.  Pale lettuce is not highly nutritious.  Add chopped fresh herbs e.g. parsley & watercress. 
  • Potatoes must not be eaten raw.
  • Avoid pre-prepared salads as these may contain bacteria

Cooked vegetable suggestions

  • Steamed, stir-fried or dry baked
  • Root vegetables require light cooking/grating/juicing for absorption
  • Discard green potatoes as they are toxic


FRUIT

Recommend 2 - 3 pieces daily as a maximum because of the high sugar content.  This includes fruit that is juiced, (dilute 50/50) though better eaten whole.  Avoid dried fruit and choose organic and low glycaemic whenever possible.


FATS

You need to avoid saturated and trans fats.  This includes animal fats.

  • No fried food, except stir-fry.  Cook with minimal amount of olive oil (or sesame).
  • Use lots of cold-pressed oils on salads (extra virgin olive or flaxseed).  These oils are high in beneficial essential fatty acids if never heated. They can be poured over food after cooking, and used on bread as a butter substitute. They should be kept out of light (in dark containers) & in the fridge (except olive). Add lemon/pepper/garlic/herbs to dressing.
  • Avoid butter and margarine.  Try avocado, banana, hummus, tahini, nut spreads (if fresh & refrigerated & kept away from light).


SUGAR
Avoid all sweet things including sugar substitutes, undiluted fruit juices, cakes, biscuits, and soft drinks.


BEVERAGES
Alcohol - avoid. Foetal alcohol syndrome is traced to pre-conception, with both parents.  It is toxic to the foetus and leaches nutrients.

Coffee - avoid.  It is related to fertility, pregnancy, and foetal health problems, including miscarriage.  Decaffeinated is not recommended. 

Cereal based substitutes and dandelion root are ok however check for added sugar.

Tea - limit to a maximum of 2 cups of weak low caffeine tea per day.  Green and herb teas are preferred and unlimited.

Purified water - drink 8 - 12 glasses daily.  Unpurified tap water is high in many toxins and heavy metals, which are concentrated (not destroyed) by boiling. Do not store in plastic.


SPICES & CONDIMENTS
Do not routinely add salt to your cooking or meals.  If necessary, use tiny amounts of sea salt on individual foods.  Pepper and spices are ok.  Avoid any sauces containing sugar/salt/additives.


OTHER CONDISERATIONS

Cigarette smoking is harmful to your and your baby's health

Phyto-oestrogens: if suffering from endometriosis, fibroids or hormone imbalance, eat regular, moderate amounts of phyto-oestrogenic foods, e.g. soya (fermented or soaked forms preferred)/parsley/linseeds/dark rye.

Exercise: a varied programme of regular low impact aerobic exercise minimum 30 minutes 3-4 times every week.  Yoga is excellent for all aspects of reproductive health.

Do not overcook foods

All foods should be fresh & organically grown whenever possible


To help make positive choices, try an affirmation such as I AM MAKING A POSITIVE CHOICE FOR MY HEALTH AND WELL-BEING, AND THAT OF MY CHILD.

Note: Individuals may have additional or different dietary needs - your naturopath or healthcare professional can advise.

This reproductive health guide has been brought to you by Blackmores. For the latest information and advice on optimum health and nutrition for pregnancy, plus interactive tools and a support network, visit the Blackmores Pregnancy Companion website www.blackmores.com.au/pregnancy

You can also contact the free Blackmores naturopathic health advisory service on 1800 803 760. Blackmores keep you informed of natural and safe ways to manage symptoms and conditions that may be experienced while pregnant and breastfeeding.

Visit the Essential Baby Forums to chat about conception and pregnancy.