How to Change Your Diet to Prepare for Pregnancy

Two Parts:Eating a Healthy DietMaking Other Changes

Eating well is a good way to prepare the body for pregnancy. The body changes so much during pregnancy and many important developments take place in the first month. By having a healthy diet that is rich in certain nutrients and low in toxins, you may be able to reduce the risk of birth defects and complications. Not only is a good diet important to the fetus, it is also good for the mother, who will be healthier. Changing your diet to prepare for pregnancy will help you establish good eating habits to carry through the pregnancy, getting your body ready to supply nutrients to the baby and providing your body the best chance of taking care of itself.

Part 1
Eating a Healthy Diet

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    Eat a well-balanced diet. While one specific diet will not likely help you get pregnant, staying on track with a healthy diet will. It will keep you healthier overall, which will make it easier for you to get pregnant.[1]
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    Make lean protein a part of your diet. Lean beef, skinless chicken, fish, and beans are all healthy, lean protein choices. Protein helps your body build muscle and tissue, and it also assists with repairing torn muscles and the like.[2]
    • Women between the ages of 19 and 30 need 5 1/2 ounce equivalents per day. Over 30, women need 5 ounce equivalents per day. A single ounce of meat counts as an ounce, but so does an egg, a tablespoon of peanut butter, and a 1/4 cup of cooked beans.[3]
    • It's important to include fish in your diet at least twice a week. Fish provides essential nutrients to help keep your body healthy;[4] however, it's best to avoid fish that are high in mercury, as mercury accumulates in the body and can affect your baby. Therefore, you should skip shark, swordfish, tilefish, canned tuna fish, and king mackerel, and go for sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, salmon, or whitefish instead.[5]
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    Eat your fruits and vegetables. Try to make fruits and vegetables at least half your plate at every meal. They provide essential vitamins and minerals, and they also give you needed fiber. You need about 2 1/2 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruit a day. Also, make sure you eat a variety; the more colors you eat, the better off you are as far as vitamins go.[6]
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    Trade out processed grains for whole grains. Whole grains provide more fiber and vitamins than processed grains. At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains. Pick whole wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, and oatmeal over white bread and white pasta.[7]
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    Cut back on certain fats. Trans fats are usually considered the worst of the fats; these fats are made by hydrogenating healthier oils, making them solid at room temperature. You should mostly try to avoid trans fats. Saturated fats, such as those found in bacon, dairy products, and other meats, are a little better, but you should still limit these fats in your diet. One way you can limit them is by picking low-fat dairy products.[8]
    • Some studies have linked avoiding bad fats with higher fertility rates. Therefore, eating fewer of these fats will not only help you be healthier overall to get pregnant, they'll also increase your chances of getting pregnant more directly.[9]
    • However, other studies have suggested that dairy fats may not be as bad. In fact, including some dairy fat is linked to better fertility in some studies.[10]
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    Eat good fats. Certain fats are better for you than others. Therefore, when you reach for fats in your diet, you should try to pick ones from the "good fats" category.[11]
    • Monounsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils, such as olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil. You'll also find them in nuts and avocados.[12] In fact, studies have linked eating these fats in place of bad fats to better fertility rates.[13]
    • Polyunsaturated fats are found in other vegetable oils, such as corn oil and safflower oil. Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fats, are found in fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon, as well as walnuts and flaxseeds.[14]
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    Skip the sugar. Sugar in foods like sodas, cakes, cookies, and even juices just adds empty calories to your diet; therefore, it's best to limit the sugar in your diet to foods like fruits.[15]
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    Limit calories if you're overweight. If you're trying to get pregnant, it's best to keep a healthy weight. If you're overweight, it can throw your hormones off balance, causing issues with ovulation; therefore, try to limit your calories to lose weight if you're overweight.[16]
    • If you're just a little overweight, you should stick to a 1,200 to 1,500 calorie diet to help lose weight. If you're more overweight, you should start out restricting yourself to 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day, then move down over time.[17]
    • It's important to lose the weight before you get pregnant, as it's not a good idea to be on a diet when you're pregnant.[18]
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    Increase calories if you're underweight. Being underweight can also cause problems once you get pregnant. It can lead to you having an underweight baby. Needing to gain weight doesn't give you a pass to binge on sugary snacks; you still need to eat healthy.[19]

Part 2
Making Other Changes

  1. 1
    Take folic acid. When you decide to try conceiving, it's important to be on folic acid. That means that if you go off your birth control, you need to start a supplement.[20] Most women take a folic acid supplement in the form of a prenatal vitamin for the duration of the pregnancy.
    • You need 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. If you take a multivitamin, check what it has in it before adding a supplement.[21]
    • You need to be prescribed an extra 4mg (far more than is found in over-the-counter supplements) if you have had a child with a neural tube defect. Talk to your doctor about additional folic acid if you (or your partner, or a relative) have celiac, sickle cell, or thalassaemia disease, or you are on anti-epileptic drugs.[22]
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    Increase your choline. Choline can help reduce the chances of birth defects in your baby, so try to eat foods that are rich in it, such as egg yolks. Other good options include beef liver and cauliflower.[23]
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    Check with your doctor about teas and supplements. Herbal teas and supplements may sound like a great idea; however, some can be harmful while you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant, such as St. John's Wort, ginseng, sassafras, and licorice. Ask your doctor about any supplement and tea you are taking.[24]
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    Skip bisphenol A (BPA). Though not definitive, it's possible that BPA can lower your fertility rates. Therefore, if you're trying to get pregnant, you should avoid this chemical. The best way to avoid it is to not consume foods out of hard plastics or cans labeled with number 3 or number 7.[25]
    • Do not microwave in plastic containers. Heat can cause BPA to leach out into food.
    • Purchase BPA-free plastic when available.
    • Discard scratched or warped plastic ware, which are more likely to leach BPA.
    • Choose frozen food over canned food when available. Can linings may be made with BPA.
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    Limit alcohol. Heavy alcohol drinking is linked to lower fertility. In addition, if you consume alcohol while trying to get pregnant, you may be consuming alcohol after you get pregnant without realizing it, which is bad for the baby.[26]

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Trying to Conceive | Pregnancy