Foods to avoid when trying to conceive

In this blog, I’m going to share with you my top 6 foods to avoid when you’re trying to conceive.

When you’re trying to conceive, you want your diet to be at its best.  What you eat now can influence your egg health, which will impact both your chances of conceiving, and also the epigenetics of your baby when you do conceive.

Personally, I usually like to focus on what to eat, rather than what not to eat, but, I hear this question over and over again, so I’ve put together my top 6 foods to cut out of your diet….but just remember ‘don’t shoot the messenger’!

1. Soft drinks

There was a big study that found that women who consumed at least one can of soft drink per day had a 25% reduced chance of conceiving. Now, please don’t kid yourself by saying something like “I only drink soft drink a few days each week”; it all adds up.  Sugar impacts your insulin production which has a domino effect on your other fertility hormones, so I’d urge you to reduce all sugar laden foods.  That includes biscuits and cakes.

2. Diet soft drinks

Just in case you thought you’d just switch to diet soft drinks, think again.  A study of 524 women who were undergoing IVF found the eggs of those who frequently consumed sugar-free diet drinks, filled with alternative sweeteners were 53 per cent less likely to be of good quality than normal.  So, I’d strongly urge you to give these a miss too, and drink water or milk instead.

3. Alcohol

Now, I understand that this creates problems for many women, especially those who are struggling to conceive, as you don’t want people asking you if you’re pregnant all the time.  But, becoming a non-drinker, or at least a rare drinker is generally better for our health anyway.  Contrary to common belief, it’s not until after menopause that alcohol has any heath benefits for women.

Now, you may have heard that the research on alcohol and fertility is still unclear, and that’s true.  Drinking too much alcohol and drinking alcohol close to the time of trying to conceive have both been found to reduce chances of conception, but the question for many women becomes one of ‘how much can I get away with’?

Well to summarise the current research, the more you drink, the longer it can take to conceive.  If you’d like me to put a number on it, based upon the current research available, I’d recommend that you have less than one drink per week – and no, you can’t have two drinks every second week!

Alcohol has been found to decrease implantation rates, and impact ovulation….as well as increasing rates of miscarriage, and it’s high in calories, so for most of us, it’s best for us to have a sparkling water instead.

4. Bacon

The reason I’ve added bacon to the list is that it’s one of the foods that contains the highest amount of saturated fat.  Saturated fat can increase inflammation in the fluid surrounding your eggs, reducing their developmental potential.

Now, before you can celebrate that you’re not a bacon eater, remember that bacon is just an example, and all foods high in saturated fat can impact your likelihood of conception, so stop and take a look at how many other foods rich in saturated-fat are clogging up your diet.  Maybe butter, croissants, chocolate, potato chips….the list goes on.  Be honest, and do what you can to reduce your saturated fat intake.

5. Foods wrapped in plastic

Now, I know that this is a broad category, but it was hard to choose just one food.  BPA, or bisphenol A as it’s actually named, is a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics. BPA has been found to impact our hormones, and although there’s no concrete evidence of it directly impacting fertility…yet…it is generally recommended that women trying to conceive, pregnant mothers and infants have minimal exposure.

The best ways to reduce your intake of BPA are to:

  • Avoid putting plastic containers in the dishwasher or microwave
  • Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids
  • Limit your intake of canned foods, and
  • If you’re going to buy food wrapped in plastic, look for foods with a BPA-free plastic.

6. Flake

Although fish is good for us, flake is actually shark, not fish.

As sharks eat fish, they are often one of the highest sources of mercury, which if overconsumed can lead to developmental and learning delays in your baby.

Obviously fish and chips is not an ideal meal when you’re planning to conceive anyway, but if it’s you’re only choice, opt for some grilled fish and salad instead.  Make sure you order some sort of fish, such as hoki, rather than flake, so that you’re having less mercury.

So…to summarise, I’d recommend limiting:

  • Soft drinks and other sugar-laden foods and drinks
  • Diet soft drinks and other foods containing artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol
  • Bacon and other foods high in saturated fat
  • Foods and drinks at risk of BPA contamination, and
  • Foods high in mercury like flake.

So, by now you’re probably starting to think…”what should I be eating then?”.

Well, I’m glad you asked!

I’ve put together a nutritious fertility meal plan for you.  You can choose any breakfast, any lunch, any dinner, and any snack, so there’s plenty of options to suit your taste preferences, and it’s free. It’s my gift to you!  Download now here!

As always, I’m here to answer any of your dietary questions, so please feel free to post below.

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Melanie McGrice is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian with over 15 years experience in media and public speaking. Awarded the 'excellence in dietetics' award in 2012 for her leadership in weight management, and having practised at Eastern Health for over 10 years, Melanie has worked with some of the most challenging weight management cases. She is passionate about educating Australians to eat well, appreciate good food and maintain a healthy lifestyle, so that they can feel great and get the most out of life. Melanie's blogs provide nutrition advice, suggestions for increasing your physical activity, strategies for dealing with emotional eating, lessons from experts and my professional opinion on a range of dietary issues.


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