6 Smart Diet Moves After Pregnancy

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on August 26, 2021
Mother at table, eating with daughter (9-12 months

Starting to think about losing the baby weight? Changing some of the food habits you picked up when you were pregnant could be the key.

There's no rush and no pressure to get back to your old size in a certain amount of time. When you're ready, use these six nuggets of advice to kick-start a plan that can put you on the path to healthy weight loss.

Even if you didn’t take this old saying seriously, you may have gone a little overboard on the calories while you were pregnant. Well, now is the time to cut back, unless you are breastfeeding.

For most new moms, 1,800 to 2,400 daily calories is about right, depending on your activity level. Breastfeeding moms need to add an extra 450 to 500 calories per day.

You don't have to count every morsel of food you eat (who has the time anyway?) But you do need to stay within a reasonable calorie range each day if you want to lose weight.

Download a calorie-counting app that does the calculating for you. But if daily tracking sounds too taxing, focus on finding a handful of foods and snacks that you plan to eat most often.

Make sure your go-to dishes are easy to prepare, tasty, low-calorie meals.

During pregnancy, hormones were behind your sudden desire to eat barbecue potato chips by the handful or dip your pickles into heaping bowls of mint chip ice cream. Now that you've delivered, physical exhaustion and lack of sleep may leave you reaching for junk food.

Stay on top of your hunger so you can avoid the urge to splurge. Keep fruit slices or veggie sticks in the fridge or freezer so you have a quick and healthy snack option. Also, choose foods that keep you full for longer, like a handful of nuts.

Protein is one good option to fill you up. Pair it with a slow-burning carb for a long-lasting fuel source. Examples: grilled chicken wrapped in a whole wheat pita, or scrambled eggs and cheese on whole-grain toast.

Smoothies, protein drinks, fortified juices, and milkshakes are quick ways to load up on bone-building calcium and nutrient-dense fruits and veggies during pregnancy. Yet these drinks are also loaded with sugar and calories you don't need now.

To trim them down, substitute skim milk for whole, and low-fat frozen yogurt for ice cream. Also try to drink more water during the day. It will fill you up, leaving less room for high-fat drinks or unhealthy foods. Craving soda? Spritz some lemon or lime juice into sparkling water for a bubbly treat.

You needed extra protein during pregnancy to help your baby grow big and strong. But if you threw a few too many steaks on the grill, now's the time to back off a little. Overdoing it on high-fat red meat has been linked to higher risks of heart disease and cancer.

You still need two to three servings of protein daily, but make sure you’re not having more than 3 to 4 ounces per serving, from lean sources like lean meat, fish, and turkey.

A little butter or cream might not have seemed like a big deal when you had a baby on board, but you don't need all the extra saturated fat now. Switch to healthier oils, like canola and olive. And use cooking methods that won't weigh you down. Bake, broil, or grill -- don't fry.

It's hard to motivate yourself to move when your belly is weighing you down. Now that your load has lightened, it’s time to get going again.

Check with your doctor first, to make sure your body is ready to get back into an exercise routine. It may take a little longer for your body to recover if you had a C-section.

Start slowly with simple exercises like Kegels (to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles) and stretches. Work your way up to leg lifts, abdominal curls, and aerobic activities like walking when you feel up to it.

Exercise will help you shed that pregnancy weight faster than diet alone. So, take your baby for a stroll a few times a week, or join a mommy-and-me workout class.

Show Sources


ChooseMyPlate.gov: "How Many Can I Have?"

Cell Press. Science Daily, Sept. 6, 2006.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: "What are the DGAs for Moms & Infants?"

National Institutes of Health: "Risk in Red Meat?"

March of Dimes: “Cravings During Pregnancy.”

News release, Cell Press.

Alabama Department of Public Health: "Weight Loss."

American Heart Association: "Know Your Fats."

University of California San Francisco: “Nutrition Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers.”

News release, John Wiley & Sons.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period."

California Pacific Medical Center: "Postpartum Exercises."

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