Those early days with a newborn are a whirlwind of sleep deprivation, endless cuddles, and a constant hunger that seems to come from nowhere. But amidst the chaos, taking care of yourself and your growing bub through nutritious food remains paramount.

This is where a well-stocked and organised kitchen cupboard becomes your secret weapon.

Let’s face it, elaborate meals might be a distant memory for a while. But fear not, we have some great tips to reduce your mental (and physical) load in those early weeks and months.

Here’s how to undertake a cupboard makeover that supports good nutrition without demanding hours in the kitchen.

Planning is Key: Assess Your Needs

Before diving into a pantry revamp, take a moment to assess your current situation and needs.

  • Dietary Requirements: Do you have any allergies or follow a specific diet (vegetarian, vegan etc.)?
  • Cooking Time: How much realistic cooking time do you have with a newborn? Be honest!
  • Baby’s Age: As your baby progresses through weaning, their dietary needs will evolve.

The Larder Makeover Essentials:

Now, let’s get organised! Here are the key components for your new mum-friendly larder:

Shelf-Stable Staples:

  • Grains & pasta: Stock up on pasta, wholegrains, quinoa, and low GI brown and white rice as a quick and nutritious base for many meals.
  • Canned goods: Canned chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans are protein powerhouses, perfect for quick stews and salads. Diced tomatoes, tinned corn, tuna, and salmon are pantry lifesavers for easy meals.
  • Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, cashews, macadamias, walnuts, sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds add protein, healthy fats, and fibre to smoothies, yoghurt, salads, and even baked goods.
  • Dried fruits: Raisins, cranberries, and chopped dates are natural sweeteners and add a chewy texture to oatmeal, trail mix, or yoghurt parfaits.

Essential Pantry Items:

  • Oils & vinegars: Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar are all you need for basic dressings, marinades, and finishing touches.
  • Dried herbs & spices: A well-stocked spice rack adds flavour and variety to even the simplest dishes. Start with basics like garlic powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, and chili flakes.
  • Pasta sauces and extras: Opt for reduced-salt versions of pesto, marinara, or Alfredo sauce to turn cooked pasta into a quick meal. Keep some jar pesto, semi-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and pitted olives (black or Kalamata) to stir through pasta for a quick and delicious meal.
  • Soups & broths: Reduced-salt canned soups or broths are a lifesaver for whipping up quick, nourishing meals or adding flavour to dishes.

The Healthy Snack Station:

  • Fresh fruit: Keep a fruit bowl stocked with easy-to-grab options like apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes.
  • Vegetables: Vegetables like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, capsicum and cucumber slices are perfect for snacking on their own or with hummus. Do a bulk chop a few times a week and keep them in a sealed container in the fridge for a quick grab-and-go.
  • Whole-wheat crackers: Choose reduced-salt crackers for pairing with cheese, hummus, or nut butter.
  • Trail mix: Make your own with rolled oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits for a healthy on-the-go snack. Throw in a handful of choc-buds for that extra yum.

Beyond Basics: Building a Well-Rounded Pantry

The above are just the building blocks. Here’s how to personalise your pantry for even better results:

  • Frozen Favourites: Frozen vegetables are a lifesaver for busy mums (and dads!). They’re pre-washed, chopped, and snap-frozen to retain their nutrients.
  • Breakfast Boosters: Stock up on healthy cereals, whole-wheat bread, nut butter, and yoghurt for quick breakfasts.
  • Homemade Staples: Batch cook and freeze some homemade items like healthy muffin batter, lentil soup, or Bolognese sauce.
  • Treat Yourself: Don’t forget a small stash of healthy treats like dark chocolate or homemade nut bars for those cravings. Remember there are no good or bad foods; however, when you do choose a ‘sometimes’ food take the time to decide what you really want – and savour and enjoy.

Tips for Organisation and Efficiency:

  • Declutter and Deep Clean: Start with a clean slate by removing expired items and anything you no longer use. (“Hello, herbs from the early 2000s!”)
  • Categorise and Label: Group similar items together (grains, canned goods, snacks) and label shelves for easy identification. Utilise clear storage containers to keep things organised.
  • Utilize Vertical Space: Install shelves or utilise shelf risers to maximize storage space.
  • Keep High-Use Items Within Reach: Place frequently used items like snacks, grains, and canned goods at eye level for easy access.
  • Rotate Stock: Implement a “first-in, first-out” system to avoid expired items lurking in the back of the cupboard.

Remember, this is YOUR larder! Tailor it to your family’s preferences, dietary needs, and budget.

NEED MORE HELP?

We offer individual consultations and postnatal cookbooks as we know you all have different learning styles and budgets.

Attending an individual session with a Lifestyle Maternity dietitian will allow you to assess your diet against recommended guidelines and identify changes that can be tailored to your lifestyle and dietary preferences. If you would like further information book an appointment  now.

Our postnatal cookbook has been developed in collaboration with Dietitian Christine Stone (PeNut).This collaboration is for all time-poor, nutrition-conscious, food-loving new mums. When we’ve talked with new mums about what worked for them to feel nourished, health, and strong they’ve told us they’ve needed to adapt routines and habits that used to be their go-to’s for nutrition. This cookbook has been designed to support new mums in meeting these important goals.

 

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

IMAGE DESCRIPTIONS: first – an open food cupboard with fiver shelves full of jars and bottles with a door that’s hung with a spice rack with 6 shelves in it; second – front cover of PeNut + Lifestyle Maternity cookbook collaboration. Tomato based soup with spinach mixed through in a white bowl with a silver spoon resting in the soup. It is on a grey blue background with next to a white tea towel with a red stripe.

Ultra-processed foods are foods that have been heavily altered from their natural state through a series of industrial processes.

But isn’t chopping and canning also processing?

Food processing generally refers to any action that alters food from its natural state, such as drying, freezing, milling, canning, or adding salt, sugar, fat, or other additives for flavour or preservation.

Ultra-processed foods are not simply foods that have been modified by processing, but rather edible products formulated from food-derived substances, along with additives that heighten their appeal and durability.

Ultra-processed foods are heavily industrially processed products that have undergone multiple alterations, often involving a combination of techniques such as hydrogenation, extrusion, and fortification. As a result, these foods are often high in unhealthy fats, added sugar, and salt, and they are low in fibre and nutrients.

What is the impact of eating ultra-processed foods on our health?

Ultra-processed foods make up a significant portion of the modern diet, and they have been linked to a number of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Last month, our blog outlined how ultra-processed foods can have a negative impact on pregnancy health.

There is growing evidence that ultra-processed foods can also have a negative impact on gut health. The gut microbiome is a community of trillions of bacteria that live in the intestines. The microbiome plays an important role in digestion, inflammation, immune function, and overall health.

What do ultra-processed foods do to our gut bacteria?

A healthy gut microbiome is diverse and contains a balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria.

Ultra-processed foods can disrupt the gut microbiome in a number of ways.

These foods are often low in fibre, a nutrient that is essential for the growth of beneficial bacteria. Fibre FEEDS the gut bacteria which, in turn, produce SCFAs or ‘short chain fatty acids’. These SCFAs send chemical messages around the body to modulate our immune system, digestion, inflammatory processes and even how much energy we extract (and store) from the food we eat.

Ultra-processed foods also contain a variety of additives, such as emulsifiers and preservatives, which can have harmful effects on the microbiome and change these healthy bacteria.

Studies have shown that people who consume a diet high in ultra-processed foods have a less diverse gut microbiome than those who consume a more traditional diet.

This can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Increased risk of obesity: A less diverse gut microbiome is associated with an increased risk of obesity. This is because the microbiome plays a role in regulating appetite and metabolism.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD is a group of chronic inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. People with IBD have a less diverse gut microbiome than those who do not have the disease.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS is a common condition characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea. People with IBS have changes in the gut microbiome, which can influence intestinal inflammation and pain.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels and blood fats. People with type 2 diabetes often have a less diverse gut microbiome than those who do not have the disease.

 How to Improve Gut Health

There are a number of things you can do to improve your gut health and reduce your consumption of ultra-processed foods:

  • Enjoy a diet that is high in fibre. Fibre is a nutrient that is essential for the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Limit your intake of ultra-processed foods. Ultra-processed foods are often low in fibre and nutrients, and they are high in unhealthy fats, added sugar, and salt. Minimise eating food from crinkly packets!
  • Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, contain live bacteria that can help to improve gut health.
  • Manage stress. Stress can have a negative impact on gut health. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, yoga, or meditation.

Do you need help in making changes to your dietary routines?

Our specialist maternal health dietitians are able to tailor a program to support you to adapt guideline recommendations to your lifestyle and preferences. If you need support, please make an appointment to help you achieve your goals.

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Jamie Street/ Unsplash

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries in a white, heart shaped, ceramic dish
 

 

 

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects around 10% of Australian women in their reproductive years. This is due to hormonal changes.

This ‘syndrome’ is linked to a range of health issues for affected women, trans or non-binary people. In the short term, those with PCOS may have reduced fertility and difficulty conceiving. In the longer-term obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are more likely for people with PCOS.

Normally the ovaries produce large amounts of the female hormone oestrogen, lesser amounts of the male hormone testosterone, and the pregnancy hormone progesterone (which is only produced in greater amounts after ovulation and during pregnancy). In PCOS, testosterone levels are often mildly increased.

The causes of PCOS are unknown. In some cases, it seems to run in the family whereas for other women the condition only occurs when they are above their most healthy weight.

Women who have PCOS may experience:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles – menstruation may be less frequent due to less frequent ovulation, and may be either heavier or lighter than average.
  • Amenorrhoea – some women with PCOS do not menstruate, in some cases for many years.
  • Infertility – related to less frequent, incomplete or absent ovulation.
  • Increased body hair (hirsuitism)
  • Obesity
  • Acne

There may also be long-term health risks. Recent research suggests that PCOS is related to insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes. Some women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes, especially if they are overweight.

What is the latest research on PCOS and lifestyle changes?

Recently, new international evidence-based guidelines for the assessment and management of PCOS were released. This large body of work documented results from studies around the world and gives direction for the best treatment steps to take.

A take home message from these guidelines is the important role of ‘lifestyle management’ as the first line of therapy for PCOS and outline the clear benefits that result from a very achievable weight loss and increase in physical activity.

Do I have to get back to my ‘healthy’ BMI range for me to see improvements in my health?

No, the good news is that research shows that achieving a loss of just five to ten percent of your body weight, whatever weight you are at now, has significant effects for fertility and symptom management in women with PCOS. What might this look like? For most women, it is a loss of only 4 to 5 kg. Further health benefits come from greater losses, and are enhanced by increasing physical activity.

How active do I have to be to get health benefits?

A good goal is at least half an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably, all days. You do not have to do it all at once. Your exercise can be spread over the day, in ten minute blocks. Try three ten minute walks, or two fifteen-minute periods of activity.

What does moderate-intensity activity mean? Moderate-intensity means you are exercising at a comfortable pace. A good guideline is the “talk test” – you should be able to maintain a conversation easily without being short of breath.

What happens if I am already in my healthy BMI range?

Maintaining your weight in the healthy range can help prevent symptoms and longer term health risks for women with PCOS. Being a healthy weight is a balancing act: having a good knowledge of nutrition is important, but we also need to understand the reasons for why we eat, how we eat, what we eat, who we eat with and where we choose to eat. Believe it or not, there is a lot more to reaching and maintaining a comfortable weight than counting up kilojoules!

Dietitians are trained to take a key role in assisting women with PCOS to manage their symptoms. Here at Lifestyle Maternity, specialist women’s health dietitians are able to tailor a program to support you to adapt guideline recommendations to your lifestyle and preferences. We look forward to supporting you on your journey to better health and quality of life. For further information book an appointment with a Lifestyle Maternity Dietitian or enrol in an online, self-paced course.

 

Interested in the new PCOS app that was produced to accompany these guidelines? Check it out here

 

 Figure 1. The Lifestyle and PCOS infographic produced to accompany the new PCOS guidelines.

 

 

Image credit: Unsplash/Jessica Ruscello

Image description: Sugar snap peas with one pod open, showing three peas.

If you are trying to conceive, you may wonder if taking supplements can improve your chances of falling pregnant. After all, nutrition plays an important role in reproductive health, and some vitamins and minerals may support fertility in various ways.

However, before you rush to the nearest health store, pharmacy, or order online, there are some things you need to know about supplements and fertility.

What are the best supplements for fertility?

Despite some very clever marketing trying to convince us of otherwise, there are no specific supplements that will help you fall pregnant. However, there ARE some vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are worth considering for their impact on your fertility.

The following has PROVEN links to improved pregnancy outcomes.

FOLIC ACID. This is the most important supplement to take when trying to conceive, as it helps prevent neural tube defects in the developing baby. Most women need  to take a supplement that contains at least 400 micrograms (mcg; µg) of folic acid per day, starting at least one month before conception and during the first trimester (at least). Some women need higher amounts – these include women with diabetes, a higher body mass index, those with a family history of neural tube defects, or who are taking certain medications.

Additionally, while iodine  is not directly related to improving fertility it is essential to take during all of pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Iodine is involved in growth and development, especially for a baby’s brain. Studies show that the Australian population is mildly iodine deficient.  Pregnant women need 220 micrograms of iodine per day. All women should take a daily supplement with 150 micrograms during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

In the MAYBE group we have a handful of supplements that MAY improve fertility OR have links to better health IF an IDENTIFIED DEFICIENCY has been detected.

VITAMIN D. This vitamin is essential for many functions in the body, including immunity, bone health, and hormone production. Some studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with infertility, miscarriage, and poor pregnancy outcomes. A blood test will tell you if you do not have enough Vitamin D in your blood. Vitamin D comes from the sun, supplements, and a small amount from food.

Most of the Vitamin D your body needs comes from the action of sun on your skin. Do not get sunburnt as this will increase your risk of skin cancer. If you are low in Vitamin D you will require an additional Vitamin D supplement of at least 1000IU.

 

IRON: Iron deficiency anaemia affects over one in three women of childbearing age. An iron supplement could be useful and may be recommended by your doctor or dietitian if your stores are low. If this is the case, a separate iron supplement is recommended (rather than relying on it from a multivitamin – some have a little (e.g. many of the preconception and pregnancy ones), and some have more (e.g. Elevit), but none have ENOUGH to correct a deficiency).

Iron supplements can be important, but they can have side effects, including: an upset stomach or constipation. Different tablets of timing of tablets can help – discuss with your dietitian or pharmacist if this is the case.

 

ZINC and SELENIUM: The Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand’s preconception health special interest group provide a fantastic review of how some micronutrients might be linked to improving fertility. This review has focused on zinc and selenium.

This expert group acknowledge that, despite the growing number of studies on the effects of micronutrient supplementation on subfertility, inconsistencies in the literature relating to males and the lack of studies on females, prevent any firm recommendations about doses or duration of treatment. (In simple terms – the studies that have been done have not been done well enough to tell us the answer yet!)

However, the group do point out that none of the studies identified any detrimental effects of zinc or selenium on male or female fertility when administered below the recommended daily intake.

 

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: Omega-3s are important for brain and eye development as baby grows in the womb, as well as for reducing overall inflammation at a cellular level. In pregnancy, they have been linked to a reduction in the risk of preterm birth and may lengthen pregnancy too.

In a recent study called the “Time to Conceive” cohort, it was found that there was no strong association between serum concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and the probability of conceiving naturally in a group of over 200 women. However, when this same study team looked at around 900 women undergoing IVF in their cohort, there was an association between omega-3 intake and conceiving. (They note that as this wasn’t the type of high-level study (randomised controlled trial) that allows us to say, ‘doing this caused this to happen’. Being a less controlled ‘cohort study’ they can only say ‘one thing happened at the same time as another thing’.

As these essential fats cannot be made by the body, they must be obtained from food or supplements.  While it seems like this is a green light for omega-3 supplements, we need to stop and consider other studies (as well as sources of omega-3). Omega-3 supplements used to be all the rage for heart health, but recent position papers from the Heart Foundation have shown that it is eating FOOD SOURCES of omega-3 rather than popping the SUPPLEMENTS have the most positive impact on heart health. Perhaps it’s the same for fertility and pregnancy?

The good news is that fish and seafood should be an important part of your diet in pregnancy. It is an excellent source of protein, is low in saturated fat, has high amounts of omega 3 and can be a good source of iodine. Great sources of omega-3 include: canned sardines, salmon (fresh or canned), some canned tuna, as well as mackerel and herrings.

…and what are some good ‘swaps’ for those claims that don’t quite hold true?

COENZYME Q10 (CoQ10): This is a natural antioxidant that helps protect the cells from oxidative stress and supports energy production. It is also known as UBIQUINOL. While many fertility blogs seem to recommend taking a CoQ10 supplement to help improve egg quality in women and sperm quality and motility in men, these parameters and enhance fertility two recent papers have shown this not to be helpful.

When wanting to find information to support your beliefs it can be easy to just read and believe small studies that align with what you are wanting to read. In the ‘how to judge good science’ approach, the studies at the pinnacle of the ‘trust’ pile are ones that have gathered a LOT of studies together, pooling the results AND systematically assessing them for how well they were done AND written up.

One such study by a group of Greek researchers found that oral supplementation of CoQ10 had no effect on live birth rate or miscarriage rate when compared with ‘no treatment’ or a placebo. They did note that CoQ10 may increase a clinical pregnancy rate, but this did not affect the overall pregnancy rate.

Similarly, another clinician-research team from Australia and New Zealand that gathered findings from many studies foundthere was low- to very low-quality evidence to show that taking an antioxidant supplement may benefit subfertile women. They concluded that there was limited evidence in support of supplemental oral antioxidants for subfertile women.

What about nature’s antioxidants? Sorry, bad dietitian joke there. Well, this is something for which there is a LOT of evidence. Antioxidants are found in many fruits and vegetables and may prevent some of the damage caused by free radicals by neutralising them. These include the nutrient antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E (from food and not tablets!), and the minerals copper, zinc and selenium.

Other dietary food compounds, such as the phytochemicals in plants, are believed to have greater antioxidant effects than vitamins or minerals. These are called the non-nutrient antioxidants and include phytochemicals, (such as lycopenes in tomatoes and anthocyanins found in cranberries). 

How much should I take?

The dosage of supplements may vary depending on your age, weight, health status, and fertility goals. It is always advisable to consult with your doctor or specialist maternal health dietitian before taking any supplements, especially if you have any medical conditions or are taking any medications. Your health care provider can help you determine the optimal dosage for your needs and monitor your response.

Are there any side effects or risks?

Most supplements are generally safe and well-tolerated when taken at the recommended doses. However, some supplements may interact with other medications or supplements, or cause allergic reactions or gastrointestinal discomfort in some people.

Some supplements may also have adverse effects on pregnancy or breastfeeding if taken in excess or without medical supervision.

Therefore, it is important to read the labels carefully, follow the instructions, and report any unusual symptoms to your doctor. Taking more than one supplement that contains the same ingredient can increase your risk of toxicity or overdose.

One specific example that has been in the news recently is vitamin B6. This vitamin, present in many multivitamin and mineral supplements, can cause peripheral neuropathy. In response, the TGA (therapeutic goods association) has strengthened labelling requirements so products containing daily doses over 10mg of vitamin B6 must carry a warning about peripheral neuropathy. Check the labels of what you are taking!

Do supplements guarantee pregnancy?

Unfortunately, no. Supplements are not magic pills that can make you pregnant overnight. They are meant to support your overall health and wellness, and possibly enhance your fertility potential. However, there are many other factors that influence your ability to conceive. This can include your age, lifestyle, genetics, timing of intercourse, and underlying medical conditions.

Therefore, taking supplements alone may not be enough to overcome these challenges. You may also need to make some lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking, reducing stress, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly) and seek professional help (such as fertility testing or treatment) if you have been trying for more than a year without success (or six months if you are over 35).

The bottom line

Supplements can be a helpful addition to your fertility journey, but they are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle or medical care. If you are interested in taking supplements for fertility, talk to your doctor first to find out what is best for you and your partner.

Remember that every person is unique and what works for one may not work for another. Be patient and optimistic, and don’t give up on your dream of having a baby.

Vitamins and minerals are important but it is important to think about food and meals to get all the nutrients you need. If you would like further information book an appointment with a Lifestyle Maternity Dietitian or enrol in an online, self-paced course.

IMAGE CREDIT: Unsplash/Joshua Coleman

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Colourful pill bottles along shelves with colourful tablets on the floor

Growing a healthy baby relies on getting the extra nutrients that your baby needs for growth and development.  The food and drink you eat is the main source of nutrients for your growing baby. In pregnancy, there are amounts and types of food that are recommended to eat each day to get all the nutrients you and bub need. However, in many surveys across pregnancy, the large majority are not meeting these recommendations.

What do women eat during pregnancy?

Only 10%–40% of pregnant women meet current recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake.

Less than 1% achieve recommenced breads and cereal intakes and extremely low numbers meet pregnancy Nutrient Reference Values for folate, iodine, calcium, zinc, and fibre from food alone.

Less than half consume the recommended nutrient supplements (iodine, folic acid) pre-pregnancy with minimal change once pregnancy is confirmed.

In a study of over 800 women Australia-wide, it was found that no woman had dietary patterns that aligned with recommendations from the Australian dietary guidelines. However, over 60% believed that they did.

A poor-quality diet in pregnancy has been linked with a higher risk of unhealthy weight gain, high blood pressure and anaemia. It can also contribute to a lower birth weight and increased risk of chronic disease in babies into their adult lives.

How do you measure up?

The Australian dietary guidelines recommend expectant mothers eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day. Are you getting your ‘2 & 5’ each day? A good way to check how you’re going is by writing out a fruit and vegetable tracker like the one below.

Meal Fruit Vegetables
Breakfast Type:

 

Serves:

Type:

 

Serves:

Morning snack Type:

 

Serves:

Type:

 

Serves:

Lunch Type:

 

Serves:

Type:

 

Serves:

Afternoon snack Type:

 

Serves:

Type:

 

Serves:

Dinner Type:

 

Serves:

Type:

 

Serves:

Supper or dessert Type:

 

Serves:

Type:

 

Serves:

Total serves  

 

 

How might you use the tracker to add more fruit and vegetables to your day?

Work through the tracker thinking of a usual day, or what you ate yesterday, to see how you measure up.

For example, you might have a banana on your cereal (one serve of fruit), some blueberries for dessert (another serve of fruit) and a cheese and salad sandwich for lunch (one to two serves of vegetables depending on how much salad you add). This totals two serves of fruit and one to two serves of vegetables that day.

The tracker will help you see where there are opportunities to add more fruit and vegetables during the day. For example, including them at meals where you haven’t filled in a box or by dishing out larger serves at your meals.

No matter how close (or far!) you are from the recommendations, pregnancy is the perfect time to optimise your eating habits for the health of you and your growing bub.

Need more help?

We offer individual consultations and self-paced online courses as we know you all have different learning styles and budgets. Attending an individual session OR online course with a Lifestyle Maternity dietitian will allow you to assess your diet against recommended guidelines and identify changes that can be tailored to your lifestyle and dietary preferences.

In our self-paced online course you will be encouraged and guided to assess your own health habits against pregnancy recommendations, participate in activities around setting health goals for optimal nutrition and learn how to adapt your routines with confidence to achieve these goals to make them stick. More information here.

An individual consult involves a more thorough assessment of your dietary and lifestyle patterns with a personalised action plan being developed in collaboration with the dietitian. If you would like further information book an appointment  now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Unsplash Social Cut
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Photo being taken of a colourful salad in a bowl with image viewed through phone screen. Two hands holding phone and watch on left wrist turned up to face the camera.

 

REFERENCES:

Blumfield M, Hure A, Macdonald-Wicks L, Patterson A, Smith R, Collins C. Disparities exist between national food group recommendations and the dietary intakes of women.BMC Womens Health 2011;11:37.

Blumfield M, Hure A, Macdonald-Wicks L, Smith R, Simpson S, Raubenheimer D, et al. The association between the macronutrient content of maternal diet and the adequacy of micronutrients during pregnancy in the women and their children’s health (watch) study.Nutrients. 2012;4:1958–76.

McKenna E, Hure A, Perkins A, Gresham E. Dietary Supplement Use during Preconception: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health.Nutrients. 2017;9:1119.

Mishra G, Schoenaker D, Mihrshahi S, Dobson A. How do women’s diets compare with the new Australian dietary guidelines?Public Health Nutrition. 2015;18(2):218-25.

Slater K, Rollo M, Szewczyk Z, Ashton L, Schumacher T, Collins C. Do the Dietary Intakes of Pregnant Women Attending Public Hospital Antenatal Clinics Align with Australian Guide to Healthy Eating Recommendations? Nutrients. 2020;12(8):2438.

Wilkinson SA, Schoenaker DAJM, de Jersey S, Collins CE; Gallo L et al. Exploring the diets of mothers and their partners during pregnancy: Findings from the Queensland Family Cohort pilot study. Nutrition & Dietetics. 2022; 79 (5): 602-615.

It is well known that nutrition during pregnancy is important. However, many of us forget our habits and dietary patterns before falling pregnant can affect our baby’s health at birth, as well as for their entire lifetime.

Getting it right can be challenging – there is lots of information available about what foods we should and should not be eating to improve fertility, but often this information is misleading or conflicting.

When it comes to dietary advice, how do I know what to believe?

We’ve taken some of the leg work out for you and put together a summary of the latest evidence-based nutrition advice to improve fertility. Read on to find out the important things you can do to improve your reproductive health and prepare your body for conception.

Weight matters

Losing weight, if you are above the healthy weight range, is recommended for good health now (and for increasing your chances of falling pregnant), as well as for a healthier pregnancy. It is important to remember to still focus on a nutritious, balanced meal plan to ensure your nutrient stores are optimised. To kick start your way to a healthier weight, remember:

Folate and folic acid

Folate is needed for healthy growth and development for your baby and reduces the chance of neural tube defects (e.g. spina bifida). Daily supplementation with 400 micrograms (µg or mcg) folic acid is recommended for women one month prior and 3 months post conception (i.e. in the first trimester of pregnancy). A supplement is good, but it is still important to focus on eating a diet rich in folate including green leafy vegetables, fruit, and breads/cereals fortified with folic acid.

Choose the right types of fat

Balancing the types of fats we eat is important. We do know that eating less ‘trans fats’ can improve fertility, whilst adding in healthier unsaturated fats can boost fertility further. We hear a lot about trans fats in the media – especially out of the United States. This is because they have a very different food supply to us. The Australian diet is very low in trans fats – our dietary goal is no more than 1% of energy (we currently consume 0.6% of our energy from trans fats, while Americans eat almost 3%). However, it is still wise to limit foods that contain high amounts of saturated fats, as trans fats usually turn up in these foods. Trans fats can be found in foods such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils e.g. vegetable shortening, most commercial baked goods such as biscuits, pastries and donuts, and many fried foods.

Unsaturated fats, including mono and polyunsaturated fats, are important structural components of cell membranes, the central nervous system, and retinal cell membranes. It is especially important to make sure to include polyunsaturated fats in your diet as these essential fatty acids cannot be made by our body. Therefore, we must get these through dietary sources including oily fish, flax seeds, walnuts and vegetable oils. The fatty acids from fish are a lot more potent than those in nuts and seeds.

Slow not low (or no!) carbohydrates

Successful conception requires a balance of the right hormones, at the right levels, at the right time. It is known that higher levels of circulating insulin can have a negative impact on a woman’s hormone cycles – specifically ovulation. Low GI carbohydrates are absorbed slowly in our bodies and lead to a gentle rise in blood glucose levels, thus minimising insulin spikes. This, in turn, can improve fertility. Simple ways to include low GI carbohydrates are:

  • Choose wholegrain bread in place of high GI options such as white and wholemeal.
  • Opt for doongara or basmati rice in place of jasmine rice (also labelled as ‘Low GI Rice’)
  • Eat sweet potato instead of white potato
  • Select whole grain crackers in place of highly processed crackers and biscuits

Caffeine

Some evidence suggests that the consumption of caffeine may prolong the time to pregnancy and affect the health of your developing baby, most likely in a “dose-dependent” way (the more you drink, the longer it might take). This is thought to be due to the affect caffeine has on ovulation and corpus luteum function (secretion of hormones to maintain early pregnancy) through alterations to hormone levels. It is recommended that women trying to conceive limit their caffeine intake to the equivalent of 1-2 cups coffee per day.

Be a flexitarian!

You need protein every day. Protein comes from either animal or plant sources. Research shows that fertility is enhanced when you aim to get your daily protein from as many sources as you can. Aim for at least half of your protein intake from plants – beans, lentils and legumes, nuts, peanut butter, whole grains and seeds. Choose fish, eggs, and poultry for most of the rest, while limiting red meat to once or twice a week.

Putting it all together – the ‘Fertility Diet’

Unfortunately, there is no one food that you can eat that will improve your fertility. Each different food group has a role in helping you conceive and priming your body for pregnancy. Similarly, by following diets that cut out entire food groups you are potentially restricting your intake of essential nutrients that may cause nutrient deficiencies that alter your body’s ability to conceive and the growth and development of your baby.

  • Choose foods from all food groups in line with the Australian dietary guidelines. This includes cereals/grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy and dairy alternatives, and meat and meat alternatives
  • Include a folic acid supplement with at least 400 µg of folate
  • Include unsaturated fats such as vegetable oils (olive, sunflower, canola), avocado, nuts, and oily fish, whilst limiting trans fats such as biscuits, pastries, fried foods (as well as other ultra-processed foods)
  • Choose low GI carbohydrates
  • Limit your caffeine intake to1-2 caffeine containing drinks per day
  • Choose half your protein from animal sources, half from plants

If you would like further information book an appointment with a Lifestyle Maternity Dietitian or enrol in one of our online, self-paced courses.

 

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Unsplash/Thought Catalog 62

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Half an avocado with seed in the centre on a pink background

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we ‘Go for 2&5’ … in other words, to enjoy two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day.

Where does the recommendation for ‘2&5’ come from?

The benefits of eating fruit and vegetables have long been reported (by doctors, scientists and of course, our mothers!). Not only do they make for a colourful and tasty meal experience, but they also provide lots of nutrients that can help to keep us healthy and protect us from disease.

Scientists are beginning to discover more about how certain foods can protect us from disease. Vegetables and fruit contain phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals. These ‘biologically-active’ substances have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and some cancers.

How much extra do I have to eat for health benefits?

Did you know that each additional serve of vegetables you eat each day reduces your risk of coronary heart disease?1 And that consumption of at least one and a half serves of fruit each day is associated with a reduced risk of stroke?1 Additionally, researchers have found that overall risk of mortality (dying) decreased by 5% for each additional serving of fruit and vegetables consumed per day (up to five serves per day, beyond which no further reduction in risk was seen).2

Different fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients and can therefore help protect our bodies in different ways. For this reason, it is a good idea to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet – colour your meals and snacks with fruit and vegetables.

Fruit and vegetables may also help prevent excessive weight gain. They are low in energy (kilojoules) and high in fibre relative to other foods and help to ‘fill us up’.1 This reduces the risk of overeating which can cause weight gain.

After some practical (and yummy) tips to help? Read on…

If you’re finding it hard to get enough vegetables, you could try:

  • Aiming to fill half your plate (or meal) with salad or cooked vegetables at lunch and dinner,
  • Having grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach or baked beans at breakfast (yes, legumes count as a vegetable too!), or
  • Including vegetable based dips like hummus or salsa with vegie sticks or crackers as a snack.

If your fruit intake is low, you could try:

  • Adding tinned fruit or sultanas to your breakfast cereal,
  • Making a fruit smoothie, or
  • Including fruit in your salads (such as peaches in a green, leafy salad or apple in potato salad or sultanas in a grated carrot salad).

Remember that each additional serve of fruit and vegies you eat each day can have a valuable effect on your health.

For more ideas on how to add extra fruit and vegies to your day make an appointment to see a Lifestyle Maternity dietitian. We can help tailor these recommendations to your individual needs and preferences.

[1] National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines – providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2013 Feb.

[2] Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, Zhu M, Zhao G, Bao W, Hu F. Fruit and  vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2014; 349: g4490.

 

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Close up of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and carrots

IMAGE CREDIT:  Scen Scheuermeier/Unsplash

CO-AUTHOR: Elin Donaldson, APD