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Is your diet optimal for fertility?

Is Your Diet Optimal For Fertility?


Before you start trying to conceive, get ready to carry your baby with a preconception diet plan. It’s important to build up your reserves of folic acid and iron – essential nutrients for pregnancy. How? Just eat a varied and balanced diet – see our tips.

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

While you’re pregnant, your body’s stores and your dietary intake will help ensure that your baby will have everything it needs. But it takes time to build up sufficient reserves, especially of folic acid, which the foetus needs during the first few days, and iron, which your body needs to transport oxygen. So it’s a good idea to start eating the right foods even before you start trying to conceive.

The following table shows you how many serves you need from each of the food groups pre-pregnancy, as per the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. This will help you make sure you are meeting your nutrient needs.



  Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain Vegetables and Legumes Fruit Milk, Yoghurt and Cheese Lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts and legumes Extra foods
Number of serves per day 6 5 2 0-2½


Examples of serve sizes

Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain

  • 1 slice (40g) bread
  • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or noodles
  • ¼ cup (30g) muesli

Vegetables and Legumes

  • ½ cup (75g) cooked green or orange vegetables or lentils
  • 1 cup salad vegetables
  • ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetable (sweet potato, taro)


  • 1 medium piece of fruit (150g)
  • 1 cup diced pieces or canned fruit
  • 30g dried fruit

Milk, Yoghurt and Cheese

  • 1 cup (250mL) fresh milk
  • 2 slices (40g) cheese
  • 1 small tub (200g) yoghurt

Lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts and legumes 

  • 65-80g cooked lean red meats or chicken
  • 100g cooked fish fillet
  • 2 large (120g) eggs
  • 170g tofu
  • 30g nuts, seeds, peanut or other nut/seed spread

Extra Foods

Margarine and oils fit into this category. Eat these in small amounts and choose from the “good fats” (unsaturated). These good fats include margarine, sunflower, safflower, olive, corn, soya bean and canola oils. You can spread margarine thinly on bread and toast and use small amounts of the listed oils in cooking to include these healthy fats and oils in your diet.

Extra foods also include biscuits, cakes, desserts, pastries, soft drinks, potato crisps, pies, sausage rolls, lollies and chocolate. You can choose these foods sometimes and in small amounts.


Important Pre-Pregnancy Nutrients

At your preconception checkup, or at a later stage, your healthcare practitioner may prescribe supplements to bring you up to speed. A folic acid supplement may be recommended if your dietary intake is inadequate, starting four weeks before conception and continuing through your first trimester. If your blood test shows iron deficiency (or if you are vegetarian), your practitioner may also prescribe an iron supplement.  Consult a dietitian to help you plan your dietary intake so you meet your additional needs through conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Folic acid (folate or Vit B9)


Why you need it
How much you need
Eating tips
Folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the developing foetus. It is also important to the mothers growing tissue and expanding belly.
Pregnant women need about 600 micrograms / day, compared to 400 micrograms / day in the general population.
  • Eat lots of vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables (spinach, cabbage, leek, lettuce, green beans and peas)
  • Add legumes to salads and soups (lentils, chickpeas, maize, etc.)
  • Snack on fruit (especially citrus fruits like oranges, red fruit, etc.)
  • Grab a handful of nuts
  • If you enjoy it, spread some Vegemite on your morning toast
  • Look for foods that have folate added to them (most breads in Australia, some breakfast cereals and fruit juices)




Why you need it How much you need Eating tips
Iron is important for the transport of oxygen to the cells and tissues; energy production; immune function, and blood formation. So it’s important for both you and your baby. Iron requirements will increase during pregnancy: from 18 mg/day before pregnancy to 27 mg/day during pregnancy.
  • Include lean meats (especially red meats) at lunch and dinner
  • Choose green leafy vegetables
  • Choose wholegrain breads and cereals as they are higher in iron
  • Include legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils) in dishes like casseroles and soups
  • To boost iron absorption, consume some vitamin C at the same meal: Fruits and vegetables that are good sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, kiwifruit, tomatoes, strawberries and green leafy vegetables

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