BY Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, LDN
Director for Nutrition Counseling
The Boston IVF Wellness Center
The best diet to maximize your fertility is one that supports a healthy body and, thus, a healthy reproductive system.
Statistics show that most day-to-day eating habits require some thoughtful attention. Too much processed, high-fat food and too little physical activity raise our rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Furthermore, these health problems are afflicting us at a younger age. The good news is that research tells us diet-related health problems are avoidable. All we have to do is eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly.
A well-balanced diet involves just that. Balance. Skipping meals disrupts the natural balance of a functional metabolism. Undernourishment can send a message to the body that the food supply is scarce, which may not be the optimum time to become pregnant. At the same time, eating too much unhealthful food can affect the exquisite hormonal balance your body requires to conceive.
Healthy eating does not mean going without the foods you love most. ‘Everything in moderation is a good maxim to remember. If you eat healthfully during this special time, you will help develop positive eating habits that will be a model for your future children.
WHAT DOES A WELL-BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Rather than thinking in terms of good and bad, ask yourself, "am I creating a balanced diet?"
It's helpful to think about healthy eating according to the ‘80/20’ rule. If you eat a healthful diet 80% of the time, what you eat 20% of the time doesn't matter as much. No one's health will unravel over a rich dessert eaten occasionally. But if you're skipping meals, grabbing take-out on the fly regularly, and rarely working out, a lifestyle change is in order.
Healthy eating is more than restrictive eating. It's about going out of your way to eat nutritious foods and saying yes to healthy choices.
SAY 'YES' TO THESE FOODS
- fruits and vegetables: in addition to supplying vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease-fighting plant nutrients or phytochemicals, eating more vegetables and fruits help displace higher-calorie foods without leaving you feeling hungry
- healthful proteins: lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, soy foods, nuts, seeds, and reduced-fat dairy foods provide necessary vitamins and minerals, are more filling than carbohydrates, and help you feel full longer. Women require 50 grams per day of healthy protein, while men require 63 grams
- homemade foods: trim your fat intake by eating out less often and limiting fried or prepared foods with lots of butter and oil. Research has tied the intake of unhealthy trans fats found in processed foods to higher rates of infertility
- whole grains: choose whole grain bread, fiber-containing cereals, brown rice, and other unprocessed grains
- regular meals: skipping meals during the day often leads to overeating at night, an unhealthy habit, particularly for those watching their weight. Skipping meals is counter-productive
- the Healthy Plate Method: cover about 25% of your plate with lean protein, 25% with unprocessed grains, and about 50% with vegetables and fruits
LIMIT JUNK FOOD
You greatly increase your odds of over-indulging if these foods are easily available. Above all, you must set yourself up for success. This involves having healthy food easily available and setting aside times every day to sit down and enjoy your healthy meal choices.