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Healthy eating tips for new moms

Written by Sarah Gouws • Online since 11.01.2018 • Filed under Feature • From Sixteen - January to March 2018 page(s) 14-16
Healthy eating tips for new moms

Are you feeling overwhelmed, tired, and unsure of where to find the time or energy to prepare healthy food for yourself? If this answer is yes, then here some tips to help you get you back on the right track.

As a dietitian and new mom, I thought I would have the diet side of pregnancy and breastfeeding under control. How hard could it be to practice what I preach and follow a healthy diet and plenty of exercise? Well, I was in for a bit of a shock.

I now have new found respect for busy moms who look after their babies and still manage to follow a healthy lifestyle.

No one can prepare you for your first baby and how your life changes. Time simply disappears.

In the first few weeks I was constantly tired and spending time preparing and cooking healthy meals was the last thing I felt like doing. Having a nap, a shower, washing my hair, and just trying to get out of my pyjamas by 13:00 became my daily goals.

I envisioned myself as a new mom, eating fatty fish three times a week, making amazing smoothies every morning, and doing some form of exercise at least three times a week. Then our baby arrived and reality hit. Breakfast became a piece of fruit washed down with a cup of tea (and that was on a good day). Regular meals disappeared, and foraging was in. Whatever was in the fridge became my staple diet.

Sleep deprivation gave me cravings for high-sugar treats and refined carb-easy foods to just pop into my mouth to keep me going. Sadly, these foods give short-lived energy boosts, play havoc with blood sugar levels, and just made me more tired.

I also underestimated just how hungry you get when you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is an amazing gift you can give to children to ensure a good start to their little lives, as well as offering great benefits for moms (such as decreasing the risk of certain cancers and helping to shed those irritating, unwanted post pregnancy kilogrammes). In those first few weeks it felt as though I had a black hole for a stomach and an unquenchable thirst for water.

But eventually I managed to put on my dietitian’s hat and I decided that my diet could not go down the drain. I started planning and cooking meals and made healthy eating a priority in my life again.

Once I had improved my diet I started to feel much better and my energy levels improved.

So, if you are feeling as I did, slightly overwhelmed, tired and unsure where you will find the time or energy to prepare healthy food for yourself – then this is just for you. Here are my tips to help you get through this demanding and special time.

Balance – the basic building block

Good nutrition will help you to stay healthy and you’re aiming for a healthy diet that is varied and balanced. During pregnancy your general nutritional needs don’t increase much, but nutrient intake needs to increase during breastfeeding. Some of that extra energy required for breastfeeding comes from your body fat (stored during pregnancy). It’s also important to note that even if you aren’t too strict with your diet, you will still be able to breastfeed successfully.

Variety is key

What should you be eating to ensure good breast milk production and meet the physical demands of caring for your baby and staying healthy yourself?

Ensure you have all the food groups on your plate.

Go wild with your veggies, fill at least half your plate with veg or salad. Lean protein (such as skinless chicken, fish, lentils and legumes) is usually about a palm size portion size for meat or a hand size for fish.

Add some healthy, unprocessed wholegrain starch or starchy veg (such as sweet potato). This is about a fist size portion. Don’t forget to add a small amount of healthy fat (half an avo, a handful of nuts, 2tsp olive oil) to your plate.

Pack and stack

A great way to get in more salad is to make a big salad base at the beginning of the week (forexample, lettuce, spinach, grated carrot, sliced red cabbage – things that won’t turn mushy) and store in an airtight container. Add other salad/veg (such as cucumber, tomatoes, and left-over oven roasted veg), lean protein and healthy fats as you need it.

Prepacking snacks is also a great way to help keep you on track. Create a snack container with proportioned snacks that you can grab on the go.

Plan ahead

If you have healthy options in your cupboard and fridge, this is what you will eat. Write out a meal plan and shopping list. Don’t buy high-sugar or refined carbohydrate type snacks – these don’t do you any favours!

Get a good rhythm and meal structure going

It is very normal to feel as though you have an appetite of an elephant when breastfeeding.

Having a good eating rhythm in your day (such as three main meals and one to two snacks, spread evenly throughout the day) is much better than ‘grazing’ and will help control hunger and calorie intake. Aim to have something to eat every three to four hours, and try not to skip meals. Eat your snacks, not only are they good for you but they will help with weight loss if you want to shed a few kilograms.

Keep the fluids flowing

Your fluid needs are increased during breastfeeding and staying well hydrated is important to help keep your milk production up. It is a good idea to have a big glass of water every time your baby feeds. Water is best! Avoid those sugary drinks. If you’re out and about with your baby, remember to put your own bottle of water into the nappy bag. If you make

Jungle Juice – try adapting the recipe to use less fruit juice and add something like a berry-flavoured rooibos tea to cut down on the sugar content.

Be vigilant with your vitamins

You have increased needs for certain vitamins and minerals during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Calcium and vitamin D are two that are especially important. Calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Milk, cheese, yoghurt and milk alternatives (such as home-made almond milk) are excellent sources of calcium. Others include dark green leafy veg (such as spinach, kale), fish with edible bones (such as tinned salmon, sardines and pilchards), and tofu. Try to include these foods regularly into your diet.

Vitamin D is our sunshine vitamin. We should be getting sufficient amounts from the sun, but you’ll probably be spending more time indoors with your little one in those first few weeks. Vitamin D also helps protect against osteoporosis and boosts your immune system, but isn’t found naturally in many foods. So, if you aren’t getting out into the sunshine, make sure you are getting sufficient vitamin D from a supplement.

Be a clever mama

Using dinner as leftovers for a lunch helps you to have a more balanced meal than just a slice of toast. If you have a budget for it, or if friends want to give you a special gift, why not make use of a reputable catering company that provides healthy balanced ready meals. It’s a great option to save you time as well as ensuring you are eating a balanced diet.

You can contact us for recommendations


Use your time wisely

When your baby is having that rare sleep-a-thon, and you aren’t feeling too exhausted, be inspired and cook something delicious and healthy. While you’re at it make extra portions to freeze for a later stage.

Investigate grocery delivery services in your area.

Having groceries delivered can be very helpful in those first few weeks. A regular supply of nutritious food cuts out those expensive pop ins to the corner café, ensures that you avoid the sweet aisle, and mindlessly packing unnecessary items into your trolley as you wander around the grocery store in a daze. (Been there and done that!)

Be a super mom

Put your needs a little higher up on the list of priorities– you only have one body and you need to look after it. Trying to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle will help make you a better and more efficient mom – a super mom!

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness

If loved ones offer help, take them up on it. A meal is a wonderful gift friends or family can give you. Get your partner into the kitchen and share the meal preparation load. No excuse for those partners who say they can only boil an egg – scrambled eggs or an omelette filled with veggies are also great, healthy meal options.

Your own needs are often shifted all the way down to the bottom of the ladder, but it’s important to remember that eating a healthy balanced diet, accepting help from others, and trying to squeeze in some exercise (and, yes, a walk with your little one counts) will ultimately make you a better, healthier, happier mom.

Grab-and-go snacks

Try Munchwize’s baby brain easy to grab-and-go snack ideas:

• Boiled egg and carrot sticks (boil a batch of eggs and store in the fridge for the week)

• A fruit and handful of nuts

• Half an avo filled with cottage cheese

• Veggie sticks and hummus

• Whole wheat rice cakes or seed crackers with hummus/cottage cheese/avo

• Plain yoghurt and fruit

• Lean biltong and a handful of seeds

Munchwize Dietitians can assist you with meal planning and meal ideas. We also have an online pregnancy and new mom guide available. Visit our website to find out more www.munchwise.co.za

Sarah Gouws is a registered dietitian, qualified pilates instructor, and mom to her one-year old girl. She is passionate about breastfeeding, weaning babies onto healthy easy-to-prepare whole foods, and promoting healthy, unprocessed foods for kids. She is dedicated to changing parents’ mind sets and promoting a healthy, wholefood lifestyle for growing kids (without keeping mom in the kitchen for hours).

She abides by the adage, ‘let food be thy medicine’, and believes in using nutrition as a tool to improve health and help manage and prevent illness. Sarah is a partner in

Munchwize Dietitians, a private practice based in Cape Town.

Sixteen - January to March 2018

Sixteen - January to March 2018

This article was featured on page 14-16 of Babys and Beyond Sixteen - January to March 2018 .

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