The time has come to start a family. While trying to get pregnant, you are committing to healthy eating, regular exercise, and taking care of your whole self. That’s great, and this can be an exciting season of discovering your body’s strength! You want to do everything you can to support your overall wellness. Do you know what food you should avoid while trying to get pregnant, whether you are seeking infertility treatment or trying to start the old-fashioned way?

Types of Foods to Avoid When Trying to Get Pregnant

There is overwhelming misinformation about what to eat and what not to eat when trying to conceive. We’ve taken advice from older resources here on our site and a few newer trusted resources in our infertility network to give you nutritional information supported by science. Here’s what we learned about what to avoid when you are trying to get pregnant.

Avoid High Sugar Foods and Drinks

Foods with high sugar contribute to health issues like inflammation, unstable blood sugar levels, and organ and cell deterioration. A woman’s reproductive health is impacted by high sugar intake.

Limit artificial sweeteners too!

Additionally, you should avoid artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes. These are products commonly marketed as diet or sugar-free. They are as problematic as excess authentic sugar and include:

  • Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
  • Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
  • Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Neotame
  • Advantame

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Intake While Trying to Get Pregnant

Both caffeine and alcohol can have developmental impacts on a growing fetus and maternal health. The advice to abstain from alcohol once pregnant is well-documented. However, it’s important to remember that the fetus has often been growing and developing for six or more weeks by the time you get a positive pregnancy test.

Resist the Refined and Processed Carbs

Refined carbohydrates quickly convert to glucose in your bloodstream, leading to blood sugar instability, inflammation, and unhealthy weight gain. They are not fueling you – or your potentially already growing fetus – well because they are not nutrient-dense. Try thinking of them as “empty calories” if you need help abstaining.

Female Fertility 101

Avoid Highly Processed Foods When Trying to Get Pregnant

1. Pre-made Processed Foods

Try hard to avoid – or drastically limit – highly processed foods like store-bought baked goods, frozen dinners, fast food, fried foods, and so on. These foods typically contain higher amounts of trans and saturated fats, which are linked to heart-health issues and decreased fertility health. Added chemical preservatives that make foods shelf-stable are also problematic for general health.

2. Processed and Red Meats

You should consider eating plenty of protein when you are trying to get pregnant. However, take care that the proteins you consume are lean and healthy, not processed. Highly processed meats typically contain chemicals and additives that are not good for general health. But for those trying to get pregnant, processed meats have been found to have detrimental impacts on both male and female fertility.

Processed meats include things like:

  • bacon
  • ham
  • canned meats
  • sausages
  • jerky
  • chemically salted, cured, and smoked meats

While some won’t care if you eat organic or non-organic meat and dairy products, you should ask your doctor what they recommend for non-organic meat and dairy products. When possible, try to eat organic meats and milk.

Avoid Fish with High Mercury Content

Fish contain vital nutrients essential to women trying to conceive, including omega-3s, protein, vitamins, and minerals such as iron. Be sure to check with your reproductive specialist to get current recommendations and alternative suggestions for including healthy fish in your diet.

Several fish are high in mercury, and you should consider healthier substitutes if these appear in your diet regularly. Mercury is linked to abnormal hormone levels, organ development, and even brain damage in fetuses. High mercury content fish include the following:

  • tilefish (from the Gulf of Mexico)
  • swordfish
  • shark
  • king mackerel
  • bluefish
  • sea bass
  • orange roughy

Limit Your Soy-Based Foods

In some studies, soy intake has links to estrogen and progesterone imbalances, which can impact a woman’s endocrine function, egg production, and ovulation. In other research, the impacts have been more favorable. Until the studies are more definitive, many reproductive specialists recommend limiting your soy intake while you are trying to conceive.

Be Cautious but Not Fearful

Starting your family can be an exciting and memorable time for you, your partner, and your family. It’s a great idea to educate yourself with resources like this to learn what is best for your body and your eventual baby’s development. However, it’s just as important to surround yourself with great counsel, like your doctor and nurses, to help you parse through the information that is right for you. Don’t let fear crowd out the joy of creating your family!

Image Credits: Sebastian Coman Photography; Tim Samuel; Julia Filirovska