I often see people suffering from ‘hectic life syndrome’…

The reality of this poses many challenges – we get caught up in the 9-5 (or maybe 8-8?) and there are so many important, conscious decisions we make every day that the ones about food often become unconscious. We surf from the boardroom to the bar to bed and may repeat the process countless times a week. Our food choices are what we grab in a hurry after a long morning of meetings or perhaps are influenced by the stress we’re under on a daily basis. Poor sleep, as a result of both working hard and playing hard can take its toll on the body – raising levels of cortisol and causing cravings for higher fat and sugary foods.

Add to this the influence of social media and opinion on what we should be putting in our mouths; what is banded around as healthy may not actually be what is! Balanced eating goes out the window in favour of diet regimes with banished food groups and scaremongering.

We often associate nutrient deficiencies with countries in which food is in poor supply. Surely in a land of plenty we’ll be fine? According to national diet and nutrition survey data we are far from fine, with nutrient deficiencies hiding amongst our smart phones and paperwork.

Interestingly research shows we are motivated to make real changes to our eating behaviour at particular life stages with planning a baby being one these, which leads me onto the purpose of this blog.

I have recently teamed up with Shoptimix – a smart shopping list app to share my expert list for fertility. My aim is to highlight the benefits of ‘real’ foods and to reignite passion (outside of the bedroom J) for balanced eating. It doesn’t make a catchy headline but there is no doubt balanced eating helps to achieve a healthy weight; it also supports sex hormones and their function, sperm production and its capabilities and the development of a growing foetus.

The perfect nutrient pool to facilitate successful conception and a healthy pregnancy includes important nutrients such as vitamin D, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium and iodine as well as omega 3 fats.

Here are a few highlights and the science behind the scenes:

  • My shoptimix list contains snacks such as brazil nuts, rich in selenium and oily fish such as salmon and mackerel to boost this vital mineral needed to help sperm swim!  Oily fish also supports development of a baby’s nervous system as well as heart health of parents to be!
  • Prawns are great for a zinc hit, which helps to activate sperm and tinned tomatoes rich is lycopene combined with vitamin C veg such as peppers may boost sperm production and motility – seafood and veggie pasta anyone?
  • B vitamins in particular folate is needed for formation and closure of the neural tube. My list includes good dietary sources of folate including fortified, wholegrain cereals, strawberries and broccoli.
  • Avoiding big peaks and troughs in blood glucose levels is important for so many reasons – not only can it help mental resilience and performance at work, it also supports insulin regulation to facilitate sex hormone release and subsequent ovulation. My list therefore contains healthy wholegrains – with convenience where possible. I’m a big fan of brown rice microwavable pouches… 2 mins to cook versus 30 mins – wholegrains without the hassle.
  • Meeting your iron and calcium needs is also really crucial. My list gives dairy choices to meet calcium needs (aiming for 2-3 serves a day) and iron rich foods such as lean mince, pulses and nuts such as cashews. Again I’m a fan of tinned pulses and ready cooked lentils – combine them with meat dishes for added texture and additional fibre and a micronutrient boost. For example, puy lentils go really well with salmon or kidney beans and chickpeas mix well in a lean mince chilli. Dishes like chilli can be cooked in bulk and frozen in portions to save time and head space for meal planning during the busy working week.
  • Embrace your Tupperware again when the week allows and get back to balance – a quarter to third of a plate equivalent of wholegrains together with protein such as fish, chicken, eggs, cheese or pulses and plenty of crunch provides the perfect combination. Throw in some flavour with herbs such as coriander, mint or basil; add zing with lime, lemon or orange zest and boost micronutrients with small handfuls of seeds and nuts.
  • Finally do a little bit of planning – and make it a team effort with something like the shoptimix app. It pays to take nutrition for multiplication as seriously as those spreadsheets!