Best Foods for New Moms
Being a new mom is undeniably rewarding and one of the most joyful experiences in life. Most moms take great care of themselves during the first three trimesters of pregnancy. But during the so-called fourth trimester, when baby comes home, mom’s nutrition tends to go by the wayside.
Moms are sleep-deprived, exhausted, coping with physical and emotional stress, taking care of baby, and have little energy to take care of themselves, let alone prepare healthy meals.
Your baby’s nutrition is important, but so is yours.
So here is expert advice for moms on getting back in shape with the best foods that are nutritious, easy to prepare, available around the clock, and can boost mood, energy, and regularity.
Mom’s Nutrition Needs to Be a Priority
It doesn’t matter whether you choose to feed your baby by breast or bottle -- mom’s nutrition needs to be a top priority.
“Just because you delivered the baby doesn’t mean you can ignore the importance of good nutrition for yourself -- a healthy diet can improve your mood, give you energy, and help your body recover from pregnancy,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During and After Pregnancy.
A super-nutritious postpartum diet is necessary to provide all the nutrients needed for recovery, lactation (if you breast feed), and to help cope with depression, constipation, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion.
Co-author of Mom Energy, Ashley Koff, RD agrees. “Mom’s diet determines the quality of her breast milk and even if she chooses not to breastfeed, her diet will give her all the nutrients she needs to get back in shape, put a zip in her step, and replenish nutrients tapped by the baby during pregnancy," she says.
Eat for Energy
Mom’s best defense to give her the strength and energy to care for herself and newborn is a nutrient-rich diet packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, calories, fiber, and fluids. Ward recommends at least three meals and a few snacks, plenty of fluids, and a once-daily multivitamin to fill in the nutrient gaps.
Koff, whose clients include Hollywood moms, says eating every 3-4 hours will stabilize blood sugar for energy and usually matches up with the feeding schedule of the newborn.
Use USDA’s "My Plate" as a good visual when planning meals to make sure your meals are nutrient-rich and include a good source of protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy at every meal.
Grazing Your Way to a Healthy Diet
When regular meals are replaced by mini-meals nibbled throughout the day, Ward says to make sure you always include a source of protein, a nutrient-rich beverage, and a high-fiber carbohydrate or two.
Protein and smart carbs boost mood and energy. Foods high in fiber -- such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole wheat -- along with plenty of fluids will help prevent constipation, a common complaint of new moms.
Expert picks for fast and easy nourishing mini meals that can be eaten round the clock:
- Coconut water and nuts. Coconut water is a rich source of potassium, has a little bit of carbohydrate, and lots of fluids for optimal hydration. Leave coconut water and some nuts by the baby’s bedside, in the diaper bag or in your purse so you can drink and munch on a nutritious snack anytime of the day.
- Hummus with veggies, and crackers. Loaded with protein, healthy fats, and fiber, hummus with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, and a few crackers are simple to whip up, healthy, and satisfying.
- Greek yogurt with berries and granola. Greek yogurt tops the chart in protein and is widely available in single-serving or large containers. Top it off with rinsed fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries and a whole-grain cereal for calcium, protein, and fiber-rich taste delight – morning, noon, or night.
- Trail mix and low-fat chocolate milk. Nothing is quicker, easier, or more portable than a trail mix made with dried fruit, nuts, and whole grain cereal. Combine it with a tall glass of low-fat chocolate milk for a hydrating, high-fiber, high-protein energizer.
- Apple and nut butter and juice. Buy nut butters in individual packets to top fruit or whole grain crackers for quick energy on the go. Add a 100% orange juice box to boost vitamin C and hydration.
- Cheese, whole grain crackers, and grapes. A simple yet satisfying snack that will provide energy, protein, and fiber. String cheese is low-fat and comes in individual packets. Wash it down with a big glass of water to stay hydrated.
- Yogurt fruit smoothie. Buy it already prepared or make it yourself by blenderizing fresh or frozen fruit, Greek yogurt, fruit juice, and a few ice cubes for a refreshing and hydrating mini meal.
- Cottage cheese and fruit. Buy it already prepared or open a can of pineapple in its own juice and mix it with low-fat cottage cheese for a calcium and protein-rich snack.
- Whole grain waffle sandwich and a glass of low-fat or skim milk. Toast a whole grain frozen waffle, cut it in half, top it with chunky nut butter and sliced banana along with an ice cold glass of milk for a delicious and nutritious snack.
- Egg sandwich and herbal tea. Eggs are nutrient powerhouses and can be a quick meal if you hard boil a few in advance and keep ready in the fridge. Another option: Microwave an egg in a custard dish by piercing the yolk, covering with plastic wrap, and cooking at 50% power for 2-3 minutes. Place egg and a slice of cheese on whole grain toast, bagel, English muffin, or pita for a quick egg sandwich. Sit back and enjoy with a relaxing cup of herbal tea.
- Turkey sandwich and piece of fruit. Roasted turkey or chicken, a slice of cheese, and a slice of tomato on a whole grain roll or lettuce wrap is a cinch to prepare and loaded with nutritional goodness. Pair it with fruit for a nutrient-rich meal.
- Cereal with fruit and low-fat dairy. Top your favorite whole grain cereal with fresh or frozen fruit and milk or yogurt for a perfect anytime meal rich in calcium, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Greek yogurt berry pops. Combine low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen berries and freeze in ice pop molds. This taste delight is more like an icy-cold treat but qualifies as a nutritious snack.