I get that question quite often. Sometimes it’s an innocent question, other times it feels more judgmental, delivered with a tone that feels accusatory – how could I possibly only have ONE child? And the question comes from anyone and everyone. From the mom at the playground to the grocery check-out person. And it hurts. Secondary infertility hurts.
Are you in need of some amazing thirst-quenching drink ideas?
It’s hot and you’re thirsty. You’ve had glass after glass of water, but you’re looking for something with just a little more pizazz.
It can be a struggle to drink enough water every day and many of us fall short of our water requirement. Instead of thinking “outside of the box” when it comes to water, we continue to grab our glass, stick it under the facet and hurriedly chug it down. Just trying to “get it in.”
That’s right, you read that correctly, I said “Fertility Friday + Smoothies!” A random pairing? Of course not, I do everything with intention…ok, well almost everything.
Today for Fertility Friday I would like to focus on the amazing nutritional power of smoothies. Yes, I know that people are crazy about smoothies these days. They make their own, they buy the fancy one that costs 10 dollars and they insist on having them every morning for their “bowl” breakfast. But this is one trend where you can believe the hype…at least to a certain extent.
Fertility Friday + Lacinato Kale Salad with Peaches and Maple Vinaigrette Recipe
It’s Friday! Yahoo! Besides being the start of the weekend, Friday also means it’s time to focus on fertility. This week’s post is all about kale and peaches. Really? Yes, really.
Kale & Peaches & Fertility
Kale has an important nutrient that many mommas-to-be may be missing in their diets. Bonus, peaches work synergistically to help get the most out of that nutrient. How? Well, let’s look a little closer at each food for a moment:
Kale — Are you bored with this dark, leafy green yet? I sure hope not because even though it may not be the trendy, hip culinary sweetheart that it was a year ago, it still packs a serious nutritional punch. In the case of fertility, eating kale makes sense. Why? Well, because it’s a source of iron which is a nutrient that can be lacking in women’s diets, especially women of child-bearing age. And iron is important because it helps transport oxygen in your blood. If you don’t get enough, it can leave you feeling tired and weak. A big enough deficiency can even lead to anemia. And a possible link to infertility is another reason you need to protect yourself from iron deficiency.
Peaches — Yum, who doesn’t love a good peach! Besides being sweet and juicy and delicious, peaches also contain vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can protect us from the damage done to our cells by free radicals. This is awesome because free radical damage can do serious harm to our health and has been linked to diseases such as cancer.
KALE + PEACHES — Now why the two together? Because while that kale has iron, it’s a plant-based (or non-heme) source of iron versus an animal-based (heme) source of iron, which isn’t as readily absorbed by your body. Bummer! But have no fear because that’s where those peaches come into play. More specifically, the Vitamin C in those peaches. By including a Vitamin C food source with your non-heme iron food source, you’ll increase the absorption of that non-heme iron. How awesome is that?
AND FERTILITY? — As I mentioned above, women of child-bearing age, may be missing out on iron. It can happen pretty easily because your needs increase during this time as well as during pregnancy. And research from the Nurse’s Health Study revealed a possible link between iron deficiency and infertility. Talk to your doctor if you expect a deficiency. In the meantime, eat a variety of heme and non-heme iron foods. And don’t forget that Vitamin C!
Fertility Friday + Recipe for Maple Cinnamon Almonds
Do you remember back in the ’80’s and ’90’s when all fat was considered “bad?”
Looking back on that time, it was almost comical the degree to which we feared fat. Companies worked so hard removing it from their products and people went crazy buying fat-free everything. I remember noshing on a box of fat-free cookies thinking, “wow, no fat, but they sure taste good, I’m so glad they’re good for me!”
Fat is Back?
Oh dear! Luckily research has improved and we are no longer shunning fat. In fact, now we know that fat is vital to our existence. Fats provide energy, help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and can keep our hearts healthy. We just have to be smart about the type of fats we’re choosing and how much of them we’re eating.
But I Can’t Eat as Much as I Want?
While all fats fit, it’s important to keep moderation in mind. Saturated and trans fats are the types of fats we should limit. Research is always on-going on this, and recently saturated fast have been in the news about not being as “bad” as we once thought. My advice? Stick with moderation. Go for the whole milk, but keep your serving to one cup. Enjoy that birthday cake, but choose the small slice instead of the massive monster piece. See where I’m going with this? Don’t over-indulge. It’s never wise to eat too much of one thing, right?
Instead, focus on getting more healthy fats into your diet. We call those unsaturated (specifically monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats. These unsaturated fats can also help support fertility by helping control blood sugar and tamper inflammation. Where do you find them? Great question!
Where to Find The Fantastic Fat:
Sources of polyunsaturated fats: fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines; flax seed and flax seed oil, walnuts and edamame
Sources of monounsaturated fats: nuts (like in these Maple Cinnamon Almonds!) and seeds, avocado, canola and olive oil
Putting it Together
It’s easy! Eat fat, but make smart choices. Stick with moderation and balance your intake with other foods. Eating this way just makes sense! Feeling inspired? Get into your kitchen and make these yummy Maple Cinnamon Almonds so that you can enjoy some of those nutritious healthy fats!
Super easy snack made with almonds, maple syrup and ground cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups almonds
Preheat the oven to 300’F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place the salt, maple syrup, water and cinnamon in a medium pot and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir to combine. Pour in almonds and stir until almonds are well coated. Spread out on prepared sheet pan and bake 20 minutes, rotating the pan half way through cooking time.
Stress is an almost tangible feeling that many of us experience on a daily basis. We’re desperately trying to meet work deadlines while attempting to make everyone happy. We’re over-extending ourselves to the point where we’re constantly anxious and tense, which leads to complete exhaustion. And that state of “being” is detrimental to the health of anyone trying to conceive. Think about it, that’s some serious weight to carry and when you add infertility to the equation, it only intensifies those emotions and feelings.
My advice? Stress less for fertility! Yes, that’s so annoying of me to say. In fact, I actually really dislike when people to tell me this, but listen, my advice is to take baby steps when it comes to stressing less. Baby steps are small changes, maybe even hardly noticeable, but they free up your time and your mind in small ways. Who wouldn’t want more of that?
Baby Steps to Help Stress Less for Fertility:
Stop the Mental Overload. Buy a notebook and pen to write down your thoughts and compile your lists. If you’re tech-savvy, you can certainly use your phone too for this. Jotting this info down on paper (or keypad) relieves some of that mental beat-down that happens when you’re trying hard to remember everything.
Breathe. Oh yes, you heard me right, breathe. It’s something we don’t often think about, but it’s the key to relaxation. Focusing on your breath and “being in the moment” really works, just ask any yogi! In fact, just ask Katie Cavuto over at Nourish. Breathe. Thrive. And read her awesome post all about the power of one amazing breath!
Exercise. Now, don’t go and run a marathon, but get out there (as long as your doctor ok’s it!) and use that breath to move your body. Exercise can boost your mood and beat stress and even the smallest amount can help. Move more, stress less!
Read. Put down the scholarly journal or work-related text and pick up a really great book. Reading fun or interesting novels can help relax you and quiet you. No way are you stressed when you are quiet and relaxed!
Make meals simple. Yes, stop trying to recreate the cover of Bon Appetit for dinner every night. And stop thinking that you have to cook every. single. night. You don’t! In fact, some of the best meals I’ve made have been leftovers or scraps of things left in my fridge. Make it easy and save the fancy cooking for when you have time to enjoy playing in the kitchen.
How About Some Simple Meal Ideas to Get You Started?
Don’t worry, I’ve got your back! These are all super easy and delicious! Stress less, my friends!
The Fertility Friday series celebrates the mighty mushroom.
Thank goodness this little fungi is a fertility-friendly food. Mushrooms boast some powerful nutrition – think Vitamin D, selenium and B vitamins such as riboflavin – all nutrients that are beneficial to fertility. In fact you can head on over to Shaw Simple Swaps to learn more about Vitamin D and selenium! But before you go, learn why I think you should include more mushrooms in your diet (even if you’re not struggling with infertility!). I’ve got a super simple recipe that starts with delicious sautéed mushrooms and ends with fresh thyme and toasted pine nuts! Yum!
Let’s focus for a moment on an underlying theme present in most of the foods and recipes we recommend for fertility. That theme is the power of a plant-based way of eating. The research shows that eating more plants is a great way to nourish and fuel your body for fertility. Plant foods contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients, all of which play a role in making you the most healthy version of yourself, while also preventing chronic disease. And mushrooms, while fungi, make plant-focused eating easy.
Here’s Why You Should Use More Mushrooms In Your Cooking:
Umami. Just what is that? It’s the 5th sense of taste and it’s just as important as it’s fellow tastes, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Umami means “savory” and that’s exactly how mushrooms behave in food applications. They add a “meatiness” when there isn’t any meat and that can leave you feeling more satisfied. It’s an easy way for people to transition into eating more plant-based foods, which leads me to my next point…
Interest. If you want people to eat and enjoy their food, it helps if you keep them interested. At least this is what I’ve learned with my work as a chef and dietitian. If the food your prepare has just one note and that note is boring, than no way can you convince yourself or anyone else to eat it. This is where mushrooms can help. Since there are so many varieties, all boasting their own unique flavor, they can instantly add interest and intrigue to a meal. This is a win-win, because you’ll be getting more plant-based foods in while showcasing just how delicious and easy it is to do so. Which takes me to my final point…
Flavor. Remember my mention above about each variety of mushroom having it’s own unique flavor? The flavor difference is actually quite amazing and is something many people don’t take advantage of. Cremini mushrooms, for example, have mineral and earthy tones, while shiitakes sharply boast that umami savoriness. Think about how that flavor can boost the flavor of other foods too. Think how amazing sautéed mushrooms taste! That taste means you might need less fat or salt, both of which we don’t necessarily need more of in our diets.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, don’t forget to add mushrooms to your cart. Besides nourishing and fertility-friendly, they’re loaded with satisfying umami, adding interest and flavor to your nourishing fertility-friendly plant-focused way of eating.
Oh and before I forget! For my meat-lovers, have no fear! I’m not saying forgo meat, no way! It has a place on the fertility-friendly food list. But I figure we could all use a little more encouragement when it comes eating more plant-based foods.
Feeling lost? RESOLVE is a non-for-profit that helps people dealing with infertility. They’re a great resource and can even connect you with people in your area going through the same thing. You’re not alone! Feeling inspired? Why not be apart of National Infertility Week and share your blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts about your journey. Use the hashtag #startasking to make it easy for people to follow you on social media.
And here are the beautiful pictures of Sautéed Mushrooms with Bulgur
Finely chopped mushrooms sautéed until golden then tossed with bulgur, fresh thyme and pine nuts.
3/4 cup bulgur
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces mushrooms (cremini or a blend), cleaned and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (about 20g)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Place bulgur in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, then cover with boiling water. Immediately cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and let bulgur steam for about 20 minutes.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add the pine nuts and toast, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.
Turn heat down to medium, add the olive oil and butter to the skillet. Once butter has melted, add the shallot and saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Increase heat to medium high, Add the chopped mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt and continue cooking another 5 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap from the bulgur and drain any excess liquid. Add the mushroom mixture to the bulgur along with the toasted pine nuts, black pepper and fresh thyme and stir to combine. Garnish with extra thyme if desired and serve.
Love cheese? Sure you do! How about grilled cheese? Oh yes, of course you do!
Did you know that this delicious comfort food can actually be a nutritious choice, even when it comes to fertility? It’s true!
And here’s some amazing news, not only is it National Grilled Cheese Month, but it’s also Fertility Friday and that means it’s time to get started on this series of posts dedicated to nutrition and fertility. In last week’s post, I introduced you to this series and today, I present you with the goods I promised – delicious, nutritious insight on food and fertility. Once you’re done here, don’t forget to check out Liz’s post over at Shaw Simple Swaps for her amazing post and recipe. You don’t want to miss it!
Ok, back to that grilled cheese. First, let me say that I love that these two days are intertwining, because grilled cheese can be a nutritious, fertility food. Who knew, right? Well, I did, but let me explain. It’s all about variety and moderation and fertility friendly foods.
Let’s take my recipe for Sharp Cheddar Grilled Cheese with Broiled Tomatoes as an example:
Whole Grains: This recipe starts with a whole grain baguette base. Why whole grain bread? Well, because it is more nutritious than it’s refined, white bread counterpart. Whole grains have more vitamins and nutrients and even more fiber. See, I told you, more nutrition!
Fertility Focus – Whole grains help regulate blood sugar. Who cares about blood sugar? You should. You see, refined white breads, sugary cereals and candies can cause your blood sugar to spike quickly. Your pancreas has to work over-time to drive that blood sugar down. To do this, it sends out a handy hormone known as insulin to do to battle all of that sugar. This results in a high level of insulin in your bloodstream which have been indicated by research, to inhibit ovulation. So, no thank you white bread, white rice, chips and the like. I’ll stick with my whole grains!
Tomatoes: Who doesn’t love a sweet, juicy tomato? Ok, well, I didn’t until my early 20’s, but I’ve learned my lesson. These little red dynamos pack a serious nutritional (we’re talking Vitamin C and Vitamin A) punch. So eating them is a real win-win in my book! Tomatoes are also a great source of lycopene, a compound responsible giving tomatoes their vibrant red color. Lycopene just happens to also be a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants keep us healthy by preventing damage from free radicals. This is great health insurance, considering if free radicals are left to their own devices, they can do serious harm to our healthy cells and DNA.
Fertility Focus – Men, take note. Lycopene may offer some benefits in terms of fertility. More research is needed, but there is evidence that lycopene could help with not only sperm count, but also sperm viability. Seems like a good reason to eat more tomatoes to me.
Whole Milk Cheese: This recipe uses sharp, whole milk cheddar cheese because of it’s great flavor. Sharp cheddar is so brilliantly savory and rich, that you don’t need a lot of it. And here’s the good news, cheese might be a great fertility food (see below) plus it’s also a fabulous source of bone-building calcium.
Fertility Focus – The Nurses Health study revealed that women who ate ate least one serving of whole milk or dairy foods a day were less likely to experience infertility caused by an inability to ovulate. What does this mean for you? It means you can try swaping one serving of your typical low-fat or fat-free dairy foods with their whole milk counterparts. But tread lightly here, as those foods will still be high in calories. Bottom line, make this temporary adjustment but modify other foods in your diet to allow for the extra calories.
Amp up the nutritional value of your grilled cheese by adding delightfully delicious broiled tomatoes.
1/2 (15-ounce) whole-grain baguette, sliced in half horizontally
1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
dash Italian seasoning
Preheat the broiler.
Place the cut baguette on a medium-size sheet pan. Brush the cut sides of the bread with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Slice garlic clove in half and rub over cut sides of the baguette. Place in the oven and toast 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned.
To a mixing bowl, add the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and black pepper. Spread out onto a small sheet pan lined with foil. Broil for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Remove and reserve.
Sprinkle cheese evenly over bread slices, then dust with Italian seasoning. Place in the oven and broil 3-4 minutes.
To serve: Distribute the broiled tomatoes on top of toasted bread halves, cut as desired. Serve immediately.
For more fun and flavor, consider topping with fresh herbs before serving. Fresh, thinly sliced basil or freshly chopped parsley would be a fabulous addition!
I’ve got some exciting news for you. Today marks the official launch of the series “Fertility Friday.”
“Wait!” I hear you saying. “What in the world does that have to do with food and nutrition and YOU, Sara?”
Let Me Explain.
Great questions everyone and let me say, you just set me up perfectly to explain myself. Here’s the back story, I’ve struggled with infertility. To make a really long story, super short, infertility is a hard, stressful, lonely and emotional journey. But, I’ve learned some things along the way and those things have led to this exciting place.
Divine intervention happened a few months ago when I met fellow fellow dietitian Elizabeth Shaw. To make our long story short, we clicked. She shared her infertility struggles and I shared mine. We talked so much, both lamenting the fact that there wasn’t a book written by dietitians for people going through infertility. That bothered us, so we have taken it upon ourselves to write that book. It’s been a fun, crazy, emotional process, but we’re excited about it. We want you to be excited about it too. April 24-30 marks RESOLVE’s National Infertility Week, making this a perfect time to kick things off. To bring awareness to a topic that is near and dear to our hearts, we have decided to run a series of posts on Friday’s in April dedicated to food, nutrition and fertility. We’re calling it Fertility Friday. It’s our way of showing you the fun stuff you’ll see in our book, but also a great platform to get people talking about infertility.
We hope you’ll share in our excitement as we tackle a subject that deserves more attention. Let’s make it a point to support everyone’s journey, no matter how easy or hard. Let’s take the steps necessary to live the Infertility Awareness Week motto of #startasking. To you, I say, #askaway!
And don’t forget to check out Liz’s site Shaw Simple Swaps for her introduction to Fertility Friday!
Click here for more about National Infertility Awareness Week and RESOLVE.