Fertility Friendly Foods for the Holidays!
The holiday season is fast approaching and it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Right?!Well, if you’re trying to optimize your fertility, planning to freeze your eggs soon, or just want to get through the season without packing on the pounds, it can be one of the most stressful seasons. We totally get it! It’s not easy to be out of your routine and around constant temptation from Thanksgiving til New Years. At the same time, the holidays shouldn’t stress you out because of your diet. Our bodies respond to what we do most of the time. Our tips for a fertility friendly egg freezing diet include foods that nourish your body and your soul.
1. Pick your “daily staples” and keep up with them. Abandoning all of your usual healthy habits is a sure-fire way to feel blah, so know what you need to feel your best as the season gets busy. Whether that means taking your prenatal multivitamin to mom & dad’s house, aiming to get 7-9 hours of sleep after that party, or sticking to your normal snack of veggies & hummus instead of the cookies in the break room, maintaining as much of your healthy routine as possible will keep you and your hormones happy. If you’re traveling or headed to a dinner party, try to make two of your three daily meals healthy with a balance of veggies, healthy fats, fertility-friendly protein like fish, beans, organic tofu, or grass-fed/pastured beef or chicken, and a fist-sized portion of whole grains or yams. Sticking to healthy habits most of the time gives you room to indulge in moderation on the special holiday food that’s totally worth it.
2. Eat your green veggies- even if they’re on the side of your Turducken and stuffing! A good rule of thumb for fertility health is to make half your plate vegetables at lunch and dinner. Green veggies especially are loaded with fertility-boosting folate, antioxidants that help prevent and repair cellular damage, and fiber that’s crucial for satiety and digestive health. While they can’t cancel out holiday food, eating plenty of vegetables is a crucial component in getting the full spectrum of vitamins & minerals necessary for healthy fertility and- when the time is right- fetal development.
3. Listen to- and feed- your body. Remember that Thanksgiving you thought it would be a great idea to fast all day and then ended up eating so much at dinner you were too sick to move for 24 hours? Yeah…me too. But we know skipping meals only leads to overeating later on, and the feast-or-famine cycle leads to unnatural eating patterns the next day. The key to staying in tune with your hunger signals is to try to eat normally even if you’re not eating your normal foods. That means sticking to normal meal times and portion sizes. And if you feel sluggish after a week that includes too many holiday parties, give your body the extra rest or green veggies it’s craving to get your balance back.
4. Watch out for the two biggest fertility buzzkills. I’m looking at you, alcohol and sugar. If you’re trying to get pregnant, undergoing fertility treatment or egg freezing, or have a hormonal imbalance such as endometriosis or PCOS, it’s best to avoid alcohol and sugar as much as possible. Even for the rest of us, reducing alcohol to 2-3 drinks per week and avoiding added sugar helps boost fertility. Alcohol is a toxin that that throws sex hormones off balance and it’s treated like sugar in our bodies, causing energy crashes and fat storage. Stretch one glass of wine into two by diluting it with sparkling water and swap sugary cocktails and mixed drinks with red wine or dry white wine, champagne, or clear liquor with sparkling water and a squeeze of lemon or lime. As for sugary holiday treats, pick your battles. Research tells us we only really enjoy the first few bites of a novel food, so take one cookie, savor it, and focus on fun with friends and family instead of food for the rest of the night.
5. Balance high glycemic foods with healthy fats. Most of our holiday favorites are full of white flours and added sugars that can put us on the “blood sugar roller coaster” of spikes, crashes, and cravings. Eating high-glycemic foods on their own- think a bowl of pasta washed down with wine and followed by a few cookies- is especially damaging to our reproductive hormones. You can slow the release of sugars in your bloodstream by pairing higher sugar foods with healthy fats, and adding fat such as a handful of nuts will help keep you satisfied with a smaller portion of higher sugar food. Additionally, just like protein is the building block of muscles, fat is the building block of hormones. Getting more of your daily calories from healthy fats like nuts and seeds, avocados, coconuts, wild-caught fatty fish, full fat dairy and less of your calories from refined carbs and sugars will help tip the scales in favor of hormonal balance.
6. Keep your stress levels- and feelings of guilt- in check. Negative feelings associated with food choices are no bueno. You may have heard that stress is bad for fertility. That’s because cortisol, a hormone made by our adrenal glands in response to stress, is made from the same parent hormone as sex hormones. When our adrenals can’t keep up with our body’s demand for cortisol they’ll steal some of that parent hormone away for cortisol production, meaning sex hormone levels take a nosedive. Turns out stress really is a mood killer! Having a brownie once in a while will NOT ruin your fertility, but stressing or feeling guilty about your diet long-term can do damage to both mental and physical health. And with travel, family drama, finances and other holiday-related pressures, you already have enough stress on your plate. Food is one stressor you can let go of!
Remember, there is no “perfect” fertility diet- just the diet that works best for you. Balance is key to enjoying everything the holiday season has to offer while keeping your hormones happy.