Trying to Conceive

Trying to Conceive? A Women’s Health Dietitian Suggests the Best Foods for Fertility


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foods to boost fertility"
foods to boost fertility
Source: Elevae Visuals
Source: Elevae Visuals

When you start trying to conceive (TTC), it can carry a flurry of new considerations. Besides thinking about baby-making sex, you might be trying to balance your hormones after birth control, track your fertility, or even choose your favorite baby names. You could also be wondering if there’s anything else you can do to encourage that happy plus sign once you take a pregnancy test. While many women focus on nutrition during pregnancy, paying attention to your nutrition before pregnancy can be beneficial, too.

Trying to conceive nutrition isn’t just about increasing your odds of getting pregnant. It’s about nourishing your body to support the start of a healthy pregnancy. The food we eat, environment we’re in, and lifestyle choices we make can all affect a woman’s egg quality—and, by extension, healthy embryo development up through tiny humanhood. You can find tons of nutritional ‘musts’ for optimizing your chances of getting pregnant with a healthy outcome. But how do you know what’s actually worth trying? 

One short answer is that you can’t possibly do all the ‘right’ things at once without creating stress—not only are there so many choices, but we know stress can negatively affect the chances of conception. Luckily, many paths may help you achieve a healthy pregnancy and baby. And since we all have to eat, focusing on the best foods for fertility and their relationship to TTC is a great path to explore.

We had the pleasure of speaking with nutrition expert Callie Exas, who filled us in on everything to know about nutrition’s relationship to your reproductive health. So, whether you’ve just started TTC, are thinking about TTC, or have been trying for a while now, her expertise is for you. Read on to discover the key topics we covered about nutrition, fertility, and the best foods to eat when you’re trying to get pregnant. 

best foods for fertility

Callie Exas, MPH, MS, RDN

Callie Exas is an NYC-based women’s health dietitian and fitness expert. She is the founder of Callie Exas Nutrition & Wellness and helps her clients understand how to honor their innate biological systems, hormones, and energetic capacity for optimal health, wellbeing and mind-body empowerment.

Fertility Health is About More Than Getting Pregnant

Trying to conceive or not, there’s a lot of rah-rah hype around inviting women to boost their fertility. However, behind the sometimes overly-sunny enthusiasm is legitimate attention on an essential touchstone of women’s well-being. Since TTC hinges on fertility, we asked Exas about that first. “Fertility is about so much more than getting pregnant,” Exas said. “Fertility health is a vital sign of overall health and wellbeing. Enhancing fertility, to me, is about building mind-body connection and body autonomy.” 

Nutritional Advice When TTC

Like any of our body’s fundamental processes, our nutritional habits quite literally feed our fertility function. “In my practice, we look at the behaviors, mindsets, and practices around nutrition and self-care to influence hormonal health, body confidence, and inflammation,” said Exas.

Look at Adding, Not Subtracting

“There is so much noise out there around restrictions, good versus bad food, and what to avoid. Very rarely do I see this being beneficial to fertility—it’s all fear-based. I like to take a different approach by ADDING nutrition, color, calm, and confidence to a person’s plate when thinking about their fertility.” 

Then, of course, there’s what to think about if you want to really dial in on nutritional wisdom while you’re trying to conceive. Before seeking inspiration for your next grocery list, though, we asked Exas to share her broader vision around how to embrace TTC nutrition. “Again, there is so much noise out there telling women what not to eat. This can actually be harmful. If you want to start your TTC journey on the best foot possible, start with addition rather than subtraction.” 

“There is so much noise out there telling women what not to eat. This can actually be harmful. If you want to start your TTC journey on the best foot possible, start with addition rather than subtraction.”

Mealtime Guidelines When Trying to Get Pregnant

Rather than following a strict fertility diet, Exas shared the following meal guidelines for those seeking specifics:

  • Two handfuls of veggies at meals
  • One palm hand size portion of protein
  • One to two thumbs of fat
  • About a cupped hand size of starch from whole grains, legumes, and starches.

“Include as many colors as possible, as well as nuts and seeds where you can,” she said. “Rather than nonfat or low-fat dairy, switch to full-fat. Full-fat dairy has been shown to promote healthy ovulatory function and improve egg quality.”

Dietary Changes When TTC

Remember, you don’t have to change how you eat to get pregnant. Plenty of women have gotten pregnant and had healthy babies without changing their diets. Meanwhile, if you feel inspired to update how you eat, Exas has worked with countless women whose goals are to connect with their fertility, improve their hormone function, and/or try to conceive. She has learned firsthand what’s most valuable nutritionally.

“Dietary changes that promote blood sugar balance are key!” Exas said. “Blood sugar balance very much influences how the brain communicates with the rest of the body, including ovulation. Your ovaries have insulin receptors on them, and if your blood sugar is chaotic, then the brain will send signals to the ovaries to delay ovulation.” 

Exas also shared the five principles of blood sugar balance: 

  1. Meal timing (ex. breakfast typically within an hour of waking up, and then eating roughly every four hours)
  2. Balanced plate and pairing all three macronutrients (carbs with a fat and protein)
  3. Hydrate
  4. Exercise regularly
  5. Manage stress
best foods for fertility
Source: ColorJoy Stock

The Best Foods for Fertility

Foods Scientifically Proven to Help Fertility Health

Let’s not leave out those of you who are science and research devotees when it comes to deciding which wellness practices to try. We wanted to be sure to find out if there are any evidence-backed foods that increase your chances of getting pregnant.

“While there is no one food that will make or break your fertility, we do know that a varied, nutrient-dense diet has a major impact on fertility,” Exas explained. “With that said, I highly recommend consuming full-fat dairy; foods high in omega-3 fats, like nuts, seeds, cold-water fatty fish, olive oil, and avocados; and a variety of fruits and veggies high in micronutrients and antioxidants, like vitamins A, E, C and folate.”

Dietitian-Approved Guidelines on The Best Foods for Fertility

If you’re ready to hit up those supermarket aisles and stock up on the best foods while you’re trying to conceive, look no further! Exas briefed us on a handful of suggestions that can leave you feeling confident you’re eating your way toward healthy fertility and conception:    


Omega-3 fats found in cold-water fatty fish are highly bioavailable, meaning we more readily absorb them. Omega-3s have been found to reduce inflammation and promote hormonal balance, oocyte quality, and implantation.


Eggs are a great source of choline, which has been shown to support ovarian function and follicle growth.

Grass-fed beef 

Grass-fed beef is a rich source of B vitamins, plus minerals like zinc and selenium, which are two major micronutrients involved in egg maturation and quality.

Full-fat Greek yogurt

This type of yogurt is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins as well as polyamines. Research shows that consuming one to two servings of full-fat dairy actually reduces the risk of ovulatory dysfunction and infertility.

Flax meal

Flaxseed is high in lignans, which act as hormone modulators in the body—particularly with regard to estrogen levels. Lignans can increase or decrease estrogen levels to help the body regulate its needs. Note that flaxseed must be ground up into meals to get the lignan and phytochemical benefits!

best foods for fertility
Source: ColorJoy Stock

Plant-Based Food Substitutes for Fertility

Many dietary recommendations for fertility and TTC slant toward animal-based products. That’s less convenient for the vegans or anyone else striving for a totally plant-based diet. Fortunately, Exas shared several plant-based suggestions you can swap as replacements (or incorporate if you do eat animal-based products).

Chia seeds, flaxseed meal, and edamame 

Substitute chia seeds, flaxseed meal, and soybeans for cold-water fatty fish to receive omega-3 fats.


Substitute tofu for eggs to receive choline. 

Spinach and dark leafy greens 

Substitute spinach and other dark leafy greens for grass-fed beef to receive B vitamins.

Beans and legumes 

Substitute beans and legumes (ex. peas, lentils, peanuts, etc.) for full-fat dairy Greek yogurt to receive polyamines.

Brazil nuts 

Substitute Brazil nuts for grass-fed beef to receive minerals like zinc and selenium.

Foods to Avoid When TTC

The last thing you want when you’re trying to successfully conceive is realizing you’ve been doing something to prevent it from happening. The good news is that Exas didn’t reveal any major food no-nos that you’re going to have to (temporarily) break up with to increase your odds of getting pregnant.

“I like to take a mindful approach to alcohol and added sugar,” she said. “This is mostly due to their impact on blood sugar balance. I’m not keen on completely cutting out foods you love. I truly believe that if we look at the big picture, all foods can fit—even for TTC—in most cases.”

If you’re hoping to dig even deeper, it just so happens that there’s a treasure trove of trying-to-conceive books entirely devoted to nutrition and recipes, too.

As you learn about nurturing your fertility through food and nutrition, it might feel like you have to make some significant dietary shifts. Just remember to add generous doses of patience and grace to your TTC menu! As Exas said, it’s about imagining what you can add to what you’re already doing, not scaring yourself away from what you are or aren’t. 

katherine ballesta-rosen

Katherine Ballesta-Rosen, Editorial Intern

Besides being an avid reader and writer since girlhood, Katherine decided to kick her literacy-laden background up a notch by receiving her Master’s in teaching, and went on to teach English Language Arts to high schoolers for several years. As an intern at The Everymom, Katherine writes about topics such as maternal wellness, sex and relationships, and more.