Fertility-Friendly Recipes for Surviving the Holidays
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
The phrase "healthy Christmas treats" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Holiday season dinners, drinks, parties and occasions are a sure fire threat to derail the "future you" train. You're schmoozing and boozing, the canapés are oozing: we know the score. We see you, girl. The holidays are coming...and they're as indulgent as ever.
Drinking 1-2 glasses of alcohol a few times a week has not been shown to have an impact on fertility treatments. Just keep it less than 3-4.
Swap out sugary foods that will spike your insulin with foods that have a low glycemic load (GL).
There’s a three-month window prior to your treatment date in which lifestyle choices can influence your egg quality. Depending on when your retrieval date is planned, it doesn’t hurt to start preparing now!
You’ll never again be as fertile as you are right now - some doctors have noted that delaying treatment for more than 6 months can show marked differences in your ovarian reserve - so December doesn't have to mean "delay"...
There are some simple swaps you can make throughout the holidays that can still keep you on a fertility-friendly track.
Many women tell us that the reason they postpone fertility treatments like egg freezing until after the holidays is to avoid nutritionally “naughty” behavior like too many glasses of champagne and holiday cookies.
While holiday family stress may be inevitable, the impact on your fertility isn’t. There are some simple switches you can make instead that transform traditional festive foods into nutritionist-approved options. Remember, you’re never as fertile as you are right now - some doctors have noted that while taking a few months to prep for your treatment is fine, delaying treatment for more than 6 months can actually show marked differences in your ovarian reserve. So rather than pushing back your procedure, why not try some simple and tasty swaps?
You know that feeling when you pick the healthy option and somehow it turns out to be just as good, if not a little better than the junk you were going to eat? There is no moment more smug than that moment. Ever. That's the magic of Christmas captured right there. And in the spirit of sharing the joy, we've got you covered with recipes and suggestions for exactly those delicious surprises.
Here are our top natural, organic, clean-living alternatives to the total crap we usually find ourselves snaffling around the holidays...
1. Ayurvedic "Golden Brown" Milk
- An alternative to sugary hot chocolate -
Perfect for cold winter nights: This is a divine chocolatey spin on the famous healing Golden Milk (a traditional Indian Ayurvedic drink, also known as haldi doodh, that in its simplest form is made by blending hot milk and ground turmeric.)
Why it's magic: The coconut oil and black pepper help with the bioavailability of the anti-inflammatory turmeric, which is fat-soluble. Inflammatory aging is an increasingly researched concept in the field of aging, and is closely associated with multiple diseases, including infertility, ovarian decline and menstrual disorders. Anti-inflammatories such as turmeric, a powerful example, are central to combating a chronic and low-degree proinflammatory state in the body that can impact fertility. And this hot chocolate is vegan, for extra points!
How to prepare:
Warm a cup of almond milk
1 tbsp. of cacao
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. cardamom
1 tbsp. coconut oil
A crack of black pepper
Stir gently until smooth and creamy
Sweeten with Stevia to taste, if required.
Garnish with an extra sprinkle of ground cinnammon - or a whole stick if you're feelin' fancy.
2. Roasted Chestnut "Sweeties"
- An alternative to snacking on processed candy -
Perfect when watching a movie: Unwrapping these gorgeous nutty little nuggets from their shells is a little like peeling back the packaging on a candy - except entirely natural and devoid of a single preservative.
Why they're magic: Is there anything more festive than warm chestnuts? Roast 'em and peel 'em and these high-fiber little treasures are the perfect evening-in munchies. Fiber intake plays a role in reproductive health because not only does it assist with blood sugar maintenance (high and roller-coastering blood sugar are no-nos for fertility) it also assists your body in ridding itself of excess hormones. Estrogen is excreted in bowel movements, but if your system is sluggish then instead it can be circulated back into your system. Too much estrogen ("estogen dominance") can be problematic for fertility, as an optimal balance between estrogen and progesterone levels are required for your ovaries to function correctly. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include bloating, weight gain, irregular periods, mood swings, cold hands or feet and brain fog. High-fiber diets have also been linked to decreased breast cancer risk, thanks to reducing these circulating estrogen concentrations. Not only are roasted chestnuts high in fibre, protein and complex carbs, they are low in saturated fat AND relatively low in calories compared to other nuts (5 chestnuts equals around 85 calories.) Double win. One thing to watch: research has also implicated too low levels of estrogen in problems with ovulation, so don't overdo the fiber, especially if you have PCOS and your body already has a hard time balancing estrogen. Your bathroom visits should be regular, but not too regular! The recommended daily dietary fiber intake for women is 25g. Bear in mind, most Americans only get half this recommended amount. Other good sources are bran, beans, fruits and vegetables.
How to prepare:
Prick the skins of the chestnuts with a sharp knife
Slide them into the oven on a roasting pan at 350°F (180° C) for around half an hour. (Alternatively, you could try roasting them in an open fire, with Jack Frost nipping at your nose, but we can't vouch for that particular technique...)
Be careful of your fingers when it's time to peel them - they'll be piping hot, so let them cool a little first.
3. Creamy Butternut Soup
- For when you've craving something filling and warm -
Perfect to batch cook: If you've got a noisy crowd coming round, this makes a lovely filling lunch, or a tasty starter. Or for quick and easy dinner at home, just add Netflix.
Why they're magic: Also known as winter squash, they're perfect to eat from autumn and throughout Christmas. This cheerful champ is absolutely packed with potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium and key vitamins including A, C, E and B. These micronutrients are essential for optimal reproductive health, with research showing that zinc in particular plays a big role in egg maturation. Butternut squash is also abundant in protective carotenoids and antioxidants (as revealed by that vibrant orange colour). Their super nutritional content means that not only are they positive forces for fertility, they're also helpful for digestion and blood pressure, and can benefit your skin and hair, which can become dry and brittle in these winter months.
How to prepare:
Lop a deseeded and peeled butternut squash into chunks around 2inches wide, the roast until soft and golden (around half an hour). You can use a small amount of oil if you prefer to.
While the squash is roasting, simmer 2 diced onions, 1 finely sliced garlic clove and 2 tbsp. roughly grated ginger together until the onions are soft.
Add ½ tsp. ground nutmeg.
Add the cooked butternut squash, 850ml hot vegetable stock and 4 tbsp. crème fraîche, then blend (in the pan with a stick blender or decanted into another blender) until smooth.
Season with pepper to taste.
If you like, toast some almonds and a small amount of very finely chopped chilli to scatter on top and serve with fresh, crusty wholegrain bread.
Pro tip: you can add a teaspoon of turmeric to further boost the anti-inflammatory powers of this creamy soup.
4. Homemade Gluhwein (Mulled) Wine
- To skip the sugar found in the store-bought brand -
Perfect for Christmas Eve: The warming spices in this traditional concoction will fill your kitchen with amazing aromas.
Why it's magic: Warm wine: what's not to love? But store-bought versions of mulled wine (called Gluhwein in Germany, Vin Chaud in France and, rather delightfully, Glogg in Sweden) can contain whopping amounts of refined sugar. Making your own means you control not only the taste and the effect on your teeth, but also better manage your metabolic systems which underpin health egg development. It's known that poor blood sugar control, obesity, diabetes and related metabolic disorders are linked to an increased risk of infertility, miscarriage and birth defects, and now emerging animal studies and clinical data suggest metabolic activity in the egg itself at the time of development is critical to these outcomes.
How to prepare:
Fill a saucepan with 1 cup of water
5 crushed cardamom cloves
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
5 drops of liquid Stevia (or honey/maple syrup to your taste)
Half an orange, sliced.
Bring the water to the boil, and simmer until it has almost evaporated
Add 1 bottle of red (generally table) wine and 2 star anise
Reduce the heat and stir it together until warm throughout.
Serve in the most Christmassy way you can think of: we love adding cinnamon sticks, more slices of orange and even some winter berries (for that extra fertility-friendly antioxidant hit).
5. Gluten Free Gingerbread Men
- So healthy they're barely classed as a treat -
Perfect for: Snacks, visiting kids, making the day of your gluten-free friends...
Why they're magic: They're small men. Made of biscuit. yup. Not only that, but this recipe uses whole foods as much as possible, with refined ingredients cut down to a minimum. One of the key principles of Eating for Egg Health, as outlined in our evidence-based guide Everything Egg Freezing: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Doing it Right, is aiming to mainly consume foods as close to their natural form as possible. Butter is better in baking than oil, as it has a higher "smoke point" when cooked at high temperatures. The smoke point is the temperature at which oils begin to burn, past which many beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals can be destroyed and at which harmful free radicals start to form. High circulating numbers of free radicals in your body raise your levels of oxidative stress, which has been linked to poorer fertility outcomes.
How to prepare:
Mix 5 tbsp. room temperature butter and 1 cup of coconut sugar until crumbly.
Beat in 1 egg white and 4½ tbsp of molasses until light and fluffy.
In another bowl, stir together:
2 cups (200g) of almond flour
6 tbsp.(42g) of coconut flour
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda,
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp ground cloves.
Stir in the first bowl's ingredients, then empty the dough into a piece of baking parchment, wrap and freeze it for 1 hour.
Once the hour has passed, pre heat your oven to 350°F (180° C) and line two baking sheets with more parchment.
Roll the dough between two more layers of parchment paper until it's around a quarter of an inch thick.
Cut out cookies and place on the prepared baking sheets.
After around 15-20 minutes in the oven, the gingerbread men should be baked a deep golden grown.
Allow to cool and then comes the creative part: decorating!
Look, it's hard to be angelic all year, we get it. Even "Saint" Nicholas looks like he enjoys a mince pie or ten. And this is definitely not the season to be feeling guilty about food and wine and having a good time. In fact, you should never feel guilty about your diet, period.
After all, as we all hear a thousand times a week from food bloggers on Instagram (as they nibble precisely one centimeter of 70% cocoa dark chocolate...) true wellness isn't about deprivation, it's about balance. For all the irritating restraint of posts like that, of course they're actually quite right. Instead of constantly having to focus on not going feral and consuming an entire platter that our cholesterol won't thank us for, we find it handy to focus instead on what great things we can pick, choose, add in, in short: yummy things that ARE nourishing for our bodies and minds and can keep our reproductive and wider health on a solid footing.
The point we're trying to make here is that not entering into a full-on festival of feasting over the holidays doesn't have to mean fasting. You can still enjoy some delicious alternatives and smarter snacks.
And if after all those gorgeous alternatives you still find yourself craving a full hot chocolate with "the works" - go for it. It's Christmas, after all... ; )
Inflammation and fertility: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jir/2019/8069898/
Estrogen dominance and fertility problems: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29573619
Low estrogen and ovulatory problems: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2744625/
Fiber and hormones: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
Zinc and egg development: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601821/
Metabolic activity and egg development: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4389777/
Oxidative stress and fertility: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3527168/