Building Back Up After Baby – what has taken a hit in your body that needs to be re-nourished?
Making a baby is no small feat. I don’t mean the act of conceiving, but the nine months that follows. Miraculous cell division from one to millions make up your baby. Nutrients that support normal development are drawn from your stores and foods that you eat. With food aversions, nausea and the fact that your stomach was as flat as a pancake may have curbed a healthy diet to be driven by cravings, not what was nutrient dense. Now that you can enjoy a full meal, below are a few nutrients to be that you’ve generously given to your baby:
Iron – used in all aspects of development of your growing baby, your stores continue to be drawn on while breastfeeding. A blood test to confirm iron status will dictate if supplementation is needed. Include the following in your diet daily:
Green leafy vegetables, kelp, beets, asparagus, carrots, cucumbers, parsley, grapes, bananas, figs, dried fruits,, beans, soybeans, sunflower seeds, meats, fish, poultry, peas, eggs, whole grains, turmeric, seaweed, lentils, millet, pumpkin and sesame seeds and blackstrap molasses.
Eating a diet rich in iron along side vitamin C will help increase iron uptake and replace your lost stores, but won’t increase the amount in your breast milk.
Calcium – your baby accumulated a total of about 30 grams of your calcium during pregnancy, mostly during the third trimester, nabbing between 200 and 350 mg a day. Dairy products are only one source of calcium; other foods, including nuts and seeds, deliver more calcium than milk (and in a more absorbable form, as they’re often raw). Sesame seeds offer 2200 mg of calcium per cup versus 228 mg of calcium per cup of milk. You probably would never eat a cup of sesame seeds at one sitting, but even if you had one-tenth of a cup or a one and a half tablespoons, you would get the same amount of calcium as in a cup of milk.
Other calcium rich foods include:
Green leafy vegetables, avocados, celery, seaweed, carrots, dried fruit, papaya, apricots, almonds, nuts and seeds, garlic, brown rice, dried herbs, seaweed, raisins, amaranth, beans, shellfish, milk and milk products, and molasses all offer calcium along with other minerals that help it’s uptake.
Omega 3 and DHA – during pregnancy, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, for short) is the most important of the omega-3 or omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). It’s the fuel for building your baby’s brain, neurological system and retina in the eye. You need to eat about three pounds of fish per day to meet the needs of your growing baby from the third trimester until three months post-partum. Given that many women have aversions to fish during pregnancy, a supplement is essential. As you stores from your brain and tissues are shared, deficiency signs start to show up; forgetfulness, low concentration and attention span and mood disorders. DHA deficiency increases the chances of postnatal depression—in fact, low levels are linked to depressive disorders in any individual. Having a baby is transformational enough without the added risk of depression and even suicidal thoughts. Eating fish or taking a supplement is the best way to ensure you are getting enough.
The following fish choices are high in omega-3 fats and low in contaminants:
- Atlantic mackerel
- Atlantic pollock (Boston bluefish)
- Lake whitefish
- Rainbow trout
- A vegetarian or vegan source of omega-3 and DHA is algae—after all, it’s what fish eat to become such rich sources.
Boosting yourself up after pregnancy may not be high on the list of priorities, but your needs are actually higher while breast feeding. Include as many of the foods above in your daily diet and consult with a nutritionist if you are finding it difficult to ward off colds or flus, and your energy isn’t bouncing back. Becoming a parent has it’s challenges. One of the biggest challenges I see is eating healthy, regular meals as your baby is now a priority. Eating regular meals at set times may be a thing of the past. For most new parents sitting down to the table with one hand holding your baby is the new norm. Eating with one hand needs to be easy and not too messy.
The list below offers ideas that have maximum nutrition with each bite:
- Smoothie made with rice, almond, or cow’s milk (see the recipe below)
- Organic oatmeal with rice, almond, or cow’s milk and ground nuts and seeds (flax, sunflower, or pumpkin) and fruit such as frozen blueberries or grated pear
- Oatmeal granola with yogurt or milk of choice (check the granola’s sugar content before buying)
- Cold cereal with nuts and seeds or a hard boiled egg
- Scrambled egg in a wrap with veggies or salsa
- French toast with fruit spread (sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar) fresh fruit on the side
- Toast with almond butter and fruit spread
- Live organic yogurt or cottage cheese (if tolerated) with fruit and ground or whole nuts and seeds
Lunch or Dinner
- Handful of salad leaves with nuts, seeds, fish, leftover chicken, tofu, cottage cheese or egg
- Wrap with fish, chicken, egg, cheese, nut butter (almond butter is good), or hummus and sprouts
- Any other grains, such as buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, or rice, with tofu, chicken, or fish and vegetables—cooked together in a saucepan or as a stir-fry
- Baked potato topped with chile or cottage cheese, fish, and corn
- Baked falafel with hummus and cucumber on the side
- Chicken, fish, or meat with two colourful vegetables
- Mixed bean salad (chickpeas, kidney, cannellini) with green beans and corn, and a leafy green salad on the side
- Soup with whole grain bread or crackers and hummus
- Egg and vegetable frittata with carrot and celery sticks
- Mixed nuts or seeds on top of anything
- Spelt or kamut bread with nut butter and fruit spread
- Crudités (vegetable sticks) with nut butter, guacamole, hummus, nuts, or seeds
- Air-popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil, herbs, and spices with nuts or seeds
- Oatcakes, rice cakes, Ryvita crispbread, or crackers with hummus, tahini (sesame seed paste), cottage cheese, avocado dip, or dairy, goat’s milk, or sheep’s milk cheese
- Organic baked corn chips with hummus or salsa
- Low-sodium pretzels with bean dip, soft goat cheese dip or hummus
- Smoothie (see the recipe below)
- Fruit with nut butter, such as banana or apple with almond butter
- Granola bar or dried fruit bar such as Lärabar
Mom’s Super-Powered Smoothie
This smoothie is nutrient packed for every member of the family. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, add fish oil to get beneficial omega-3 fats and DHA to you and your baby. Switch up the fruits to include mango, peach, melon, or other berries for different nutrient profiles. The banana masks most flavours, so this is a great place to hide some of the not-so-favourite foods.
1 cup(250 mL) milk of choice
1 to 2 bananas
½ cup(125 mL) frozen wild blueberries
½ pear (core removed)
Handful sunflower sprouts or spinach
1 tbsp(15 mL) flax oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) hemp and/or rice protein
1 tbsp (15 mL) molasses (optional)
- Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes about 1½ cups (375 mL).
This smoothie high in fibre, antioxidants, omega-3 fats, and protein to keep blood sugar stable. Although the smoothie above looks like work, it’s the perfect place to add in foods like spinach or kale that don’t make it onto your plate. Your blender may become your most used appliance in the kitchen. Cut up fruit or vegetables in advance and store in containers in the fridge. Frozen fruit is handy for adding to oatmeal or for your smoothie. Cooking in batches or asking friends or family to make meals for your freezer eases the stress of trying to juggle baby and actually prepare a meal. One handed eating needn’t be limited to cakes and bagels. Plan ahead if you can, and do the best that you can. There will always be another meal.