Remember back to your pregnancy when everyone asked how YOU were feeling and you had the time to focus on your body and your needs? Once a new baby arrives it’s a different story! So with limited time what are the nutritional priorities to enable a swift post natal recovery and a return to optimal health and well-being? Read on for a no nonsense guide from registered dietitian and Mum Laura Clark.
1) Prioritise meals, especially breakfast – skipping a meal and telling yourself you’ll ‘grab something later’ probably materialises as a less healthy choice as your blood sugar levels plummet and your brain steers you towards high sugar fixes. Grazing on food is tempting, especially when you’re out of routine and tired and a little nearer the fridge than you’re used to! Quick breakfasts packed full of nutrition include fortified wholegrain cereal (which you can always nibble dry), cereal bars (avoid ones coated in yoghurt or syrup), malt loaf, low fat yoghurt and fruit.
2) To help regulate your energy levels stick to 3 meals a day and have a healthy snack if meals are greater than 3-4 hours apart. For main meals why not cook more the night before and re-heat leftovers whilst baby naps. For lighter meals and snacks choose easy wholesome foods – rice cakes, oat cakes or crisp-breads go well with reduced fat hummus, cream cheese or tzatziki and carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes for example –which might be a little easier to munch than a sandwich!
3) Balance meals with wholesome carbs, lean proteins and plenty of fruit and veggies. Don’t be tempted to skip carbs for quick post baby weight loss – whole wheat pasta, wholegrain bread, sweet potato, cous-cous, basmati rice or noodles for example provide your body with essential energy and b vitamins. Proteins include fish, lean meat, pulses or low fat dairy products. Enjoy oily fish once a week to boost omega 3 intake and potentially benefit brain function and don’t neglect red meat, a valuable iron and vitamin B12 source. Dark green leafy veg such as spinach, curly kale and broccoli are an excellent source of folate, low levels of which have been linked to risk of depression.
4) Shop smart –Smaller versions of the big supermarkets located on your doorstep are great for everyday essentials and offer a good sense of purpose for early outings with a new-born. Don’t get out of the habit though of weekly shopping involving some meal planning and a shopping list. Keeping consistency to your shopping habits will help ensure a wider variety of food in the diet and easier budgeting. Online shopping is ideal for convenience but once do-able head through the aisles with your baby – early exposure to food selection boosts a healthy curiosity and helps foster a balanced relationship with food long-term!