What's the Best Diet When Trying to Conceive?

Deborah A. Klein's picture


Dear Livitician,
My husband and I are 32 years old, and we have been trying to conceive for about 6 months. I have recently started to take a hard look at my diet, as problems with diet could be leading to our lack of conception.

I have read some studies citing the importance of including whole milk in the diet, and how low-fat and skim milks reduce fertility and can even be detrimental to conception. In contrast, I have also read that skim milk is important to include in a pre-conception diet. Which is accurate?

If the whole milk thing is true, how much is recommended (one serving per day, or 2 per week?), and how do I not gain weight after switching from skim to whole milk products? I would expect to gain weight after becoming pregnant, but I don't really want to gain before conception.

I'm 4"11, weigh 100 lbs, and am very athletic. I exercise 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes 6 days a week (I run races and do triathlons), and I have a very active job. I know that seems like a lot, but I have done it for years, so it's not something that is shocking my system. I have been a vegetarian (I do eat seafood) for 14 years, and for years I have been on a low-fat diet. I usually avoid sugar, and I tend to purchase things with artificial sweeteners. In my diet exploration, I have discovered that artificial sweeteners are also not recommended, so I am cutting those out as much as possible.

Thank you so much for any tips you can give me online.
I really appreciate it.



Hi Elizabeth,
Drinking low fat milk, organic 1% milk in a paper carton rather than plastic is fine.

I definitely don't recommend drinking too much soy milk as that can influence fertility, especially for your husband. I do not recommend him drinking soy milk or having any soy products, soy has been shown to decrease sperm production.

I definitely do not recommend artificial sweeteners at any stage of life. Please refer to Artificial Sweeteners May Make Weight Gain Easier. The optimal sweetener that I recommend is raw agave nectar.

Enjoy Liviting! Health and happiness to you.
--Deborah A. Klein, MS, RD


Hi Elizabeth,
I just had to comment about the Agave Nectar. My husband and I tried for 3 years to have a baby and kept having chemical pregnancies or early (6-7 weeks) miscarriages. It was a trying time for us. My husband is now a doctor, and when he was in medical school, he attended a celiacs conference because he had just started a gluten-free diet (he's allergic to wheat) and learned from one of the presenters that Agave Nectar has certain components naturally occuring that can cause uterine contractions and miscarriages! I loved using agave nectar because I have trouble with sugar (I'm hypoglycemic), but within three months after we stopped consuming agave nectar we became pregnant and carried our healthy baby boy to his due date (literally, he was born on his due date!). I'm now pregant again and the baby is doing really well! I would avoid agave nectar (and some of the other "herbal" sugars like stevia can cause similar problems, so research before consuming).

About the milk, I am 5'7" and 130 lbs and drink whole milk. I don't have a lot of other fat in my diet except some oil and the little bits of fat in poultry and meat. The nutricionist I saw during my first pregnancy at the top-rated diabeties clinic at University of Penn in Philly recommended that I drink milk with more fat and even eat peanut butter and avacados. My first baby was very healthy and has been his first two years of life, so I don't think that's a bad idea. Just eat the best you can, with a healthy balance of carbs, protein, and veggies, and don't forget your prenatals even before you're pregnant! Especially the folic acid and B-vitamins. A good prenatal helps fill in the gabs you may be missing with your food consumption.

Best of everything to you!