What to eat when you are trying to get pregnant | Q & A with a fertility nutritionist
I have always had an interest in health and nutrition. When prepping for the pregnancy of my first child, I wanted to make sure I was getting an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals in my diet so that I would be able to grow a healthy baby.
I researched the best prenatal vitamins, foods to avoid, foods to incorporate, how many calories I should be consuming, etc…
I was searching through Pinterest for some “healthy recipes” and I stumbled across this recipe for a green smoothie. It looked delicious, and it was packed with so many nutrients.
Digging deeper… this recipe belonged to a nutritionist who specializes in fertility & balancing hormones. I reached out to her to do a Q & A blog post, because I am a big believer in food being medicine! She has helped many women find balance through nutrition, & today she answers some important questions for us!
Tell us about yourself & this platform you have created for women.
Hi!! My name is Anabelle Harari, I’m a nutritionist (soon to be registered dietitian!), yoga teacher and mindfulness instructor. I grew up in Philadelphia, and recently moved to Sydney, Australia with my husband. I’ve been passionate about women’s health for a long time. I went to a women’s college for my undergraduate degree, and then spent a year living in Nepal and India, working with women in very devastating conditions. I taught nutrition, and basic women’s health, and it was at that point in my life that I knew I wanted to work with women in some capacity. I spent the next few years working in public policy around food systems change, and eventually decided to go back to school for my graduate degree in nutrition science and behavior change at Tufts University, and become a Registered Dietitian.
For someone who has no knowledge of nutrition how do you go about teaching them?
I was a person who knew absolutely NOTHING about nutrition, let alone science. I always joke that I didn’t even know what a cell was before going back to school to get a degree in the sciences. I like to explain how foods have different components of macronutrients and micronutrients. My philosophy is and always has been to eat real food. To me this means, try to eat as many foods in their whole form as possible, limiting the processed “food-like” products.
My approach is also one of kindness and body positivity. There will always be foods that are better options for you, but does that mean you can NEVER eat pizza? No way. It’s about making good choices 90% of the time, and leaving room to be human ;)
How do you encourage women to stick to this healthy nutrition plan?
I love working with women on an individual basis. Everyone’s needs are so incredibly different! What works for one of my clients, would never work for another. It’s important to work with each person’s needs, wants, and what works best for their specific body. I think once women understand that diets are BS, they can still eat the foods they want, and just take off some of the pressure - things become a lot easier and ENJOYABLE. I’m all about nourishing your body, not punishing it.
What are the most important vitamins and minerals needed for fertility & what types of foods can these be found in?
I’m so glad you asked this! There’s a bunch of key nutrients include folate (NOT folic acid), choline, zinc, selenium, antioxidants, and much more. I have a full fertility nutrient guide (www.wellspringnutrition.co/fertilityguide) where you can find the top nutrients for fertility, which foods to find them in, and a sample 1 day meal plan.
What most people don’t know (and I didn’t either!) was that you can truly impact the health of eggs and sperm through diet and lifestyle modifications. When it comes to fertility, what you eat 3 months prior to conception is so incredibly important.
What are some foods to avoid if you are trying to get pregnant?
Limiting processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and drugs - not a food, but important. Anything that will cause an inflammatory reaction in your body should be avoided if possible. This would also include foods that you are allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to. Working with an RD is helpful when trying to figure out if you have a food sensitivity and they can help you with an elimination diet or other therapeutic diets.
What supplements do you recommend when trying to get pregnant?
A high quality prenatal vitamin that has the right forms of nutrients. (My favorite is Full Circle Prenatal (affiliate) and Seeking Health prenatal.) A high quality fish oil sourced from reliable producer - my favorite is from Nordic Naturals. I always recommend clients to get tested for vitamin D levels, and supplement with D3 (I like the Thorne D3/K2 drops) as needed. (Hint: most of us are deficient in the winter time!).
Those are my top 3 to prioritize. Depending on what else you have going on (if you’re struggling to conceive for example), I would recommend some other helpful and targeted antioxidants.
When choosing a prenatal vitamin what are some of the things your prenatal should have?
Great question! Always look for the active forms of the vitamins you’re looking for: folate in the active form: 5-methyl-tetra-hydra-folate, look for choline, look for vitamin E with mixed tocopherols, B12 as methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin, magnesium and zinc as glycinate.
Again my favorites are Full Circle and Seeking Health brands. Many of the off the counter brands come in 1 a day forms - which really doesn’t allow your body to absorb everything in there. While the Full Circle and Seeking Health prenatal have more capsules per day (both are 8/day), you’re actually getting more out of your prenatal as your body can do a better job of absorbing everything.
When it comes to nutrition can foods affect the gender of your baby?
I think this is an old wives tale! There’s no research right now to confirm this. Instead, I would just focus on eating an overall healthy diet, and keep taking your prental vitamins!
Once mama has become pregnant should she continue the same diet?
There’s nothing in a fertility diet that can be especially harmful when pregnant. The only thing I would watch out for is consuming raw fish, and avoiding fish that higher levels of mercury. Adjusting your calorie needs is also appropriate as you progress through each trimester, however the notion that you’re eating for 2 is false. Think of it as eating for 1.1 - you need to increase your calories slightly (maybe one more snack/day) - rather than go ham on all the junk food you want. In the first trimester when nausea is likely, it’s important to just eat what you can stomach. This is also when a fertility diet becomes important - all those nutritious foods you ate prior to conceiving have filled up your nutrient stores, so by the time your first trimester comes around and you can’t stomach anything - you’re body has something to pull from.
Does a vegan diet increase fertility?
No, not necessarily. A vegan diet can consist of entirely of pasta and French fries, for example. However, if you’re eating a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds - you’re likely getting many nutrients needed for fertility. Where vegan diets typically fall short is in protein, iron, calcium, and B12. Glycine is also a conditionally essential amino acid that is found in collagen and bone broth - something missing from a vegan diet. It’s important to work with an RD if you’re following a vegan diet to make sure you’re hitting all your nutrient needs.
Do you offer any courses or nutritional counseling for anyone struggling with fertility?
Yes! I recently started my virtual private practice and I’m working with women (and couples) on preparing for pregnancy. I work with women who are either currently struggling to conceive, are preparing for IVF, or want to just do everything they can to ensure they have a healthy pregnancy. If you’re interested to learn more about how we can work together, I offer free Whole Health Strategy Calls (https://my.practicebetter.io/#/5be36706627d1404c419adc2/bookings?r=5d82e8252a9c24132c80fc60)
I’m also putting together a Preconception Course to launch in 2020! If you’re interested in the course, you can sign up for the waitlist here: https://wellspringnutrition.lpages.co/prep-your-pregnancy-waitlist/
Where can we find you on instagram? What is your website?
My IG is @wellspringnutrition and my website is www.wellspringnutrition.co - but it’s getting a rebrand atm! The best way to stay in touch is to hop on my email list (by downloading the Fertility Nutrient Guide, or joining my free FB group The Wellspring Collective, where I share tons of resources on fertility nutrition.)