Consuming enough food and healthy, balanced meals can be incredibly difficult with so much going on. Juggling life with a newborn (and quite possibly other small children) can leave you with less time to focus on how you’re eating. Tiredness also has an impact on our food choices.
To help you stay on track here are my top 10 practical tips to help you eat healthily in the fourth trimester.
1. Meals instead of gifts.
Ask a friend/family member to bring/prepare a meal rather than bring a present. And if your baby is no longer a newborn and presents have dwindled, when your guests ask if they can bring anything – be honest!
2. Get your partner involved in food prep the night before
Soups or overnight oats (recipe available below) are ideal for meal prep. Overnight oats are a filling and nutritious breakfast that take a couple of minutes’ prep the night before. Soups are a fantastic way to increase your vegetable intake (important for overall health including your immune system). Remember that shop-bought soups are also fine. Look for soups that have a source of protein within them to help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
3. Always have snacks on you when you go out
Fruit, nuts, cereal bar, trail mix – if you start to feel signs of hunger, get munching! By eating little and often, it will help to keep your blood sugars stable and prevent reaching for less healthy snacks because you are famished.
4. Stock up on the basics/essentials
The following pantry essentials can be thrown together to make quick, easy and nutritious meals.
- Carbohydrates – e.g. packets of rice, quinoa, other grains, bread, wraps
- Proteins – e.g. roasted chicken, lentils, salmon, hummus, different cheeses, yoghurts
- Fats – e.g. cheese, nuts, avocados
- Vegetables – e.g. tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, carrots
- Fruits – e.g. bananas, berries, apples, oranges, satsumas, grapes (anything that doesn’t involve lots of prep)
- Seeds e.g. mixed bags to add to salads, soups and overnight oats
- Ingredients for nutrient-rich smoothies e.g. fruit, vegetables, coconut water, yoghurts.
5. Don’t restrict yourself
If you fancy a piece of cake, have it! Just try not to eat the whole cake….The important thing is to aim for a balanced diet across the week and some cake fits within a balanced diet. Nutrition/what you are eating should be thought about in weekly terms not daily. If you’ve not eaten well for a couple of days, don’t panic and try to eat more healthily when it suits.
6. Keep things simple
Remember that you shouldn’t always aim for perfection in this phase of life. Cutting corners is fine! Likewise, having more numerous, smaller meals is also okay if that fits better with feeding your baby.
Smaller, simple meal ideas include boiled eggs (eggs are a very good source of protein and other nutrients) and toast, hummus or guacamole with vegetable crudités, baked beans on toast or peanut butter on toast. If you are eating a healthy breakfast and dinner, don’t worry so much about what you have for lunch, as long as you are eating something.
7. Eat to fuel and nourish yourself, not to lose weight
Bouncing back to your original body size and shape post baby can be high on the priority list for some. But this is not the time to start dieting. Your body needs sufficient energy to get through the day and the many roles you are fulfilling. Your body also needs a balanced, healthy diet, and reducing calorie intake or restricting food groups (other than due to intolerances associated with breastmilk e.g. dairy) will not allow you to do this.
8. Stay hydrated
Consuming enough fluids is incredibly important, especially if you are breastfeeding. The production of milk further dehydrates your body and being so busy, many women simply forget to keep the hydration levels up and become very thirsty.
To stay hydrated, always have a water bottle with you when you leave the house and keep glasses or water bottles around the home in spots where you like to breastfeed. If you aren’t partial to the taste of plain water, try adding flavours to it (e.g. mint, lemon or berries) or no added sugar squash.
9. Try to remember to prioritise your own care
If you’re not eating properly, it has a knock on effect. Your baby and your family need you to be functioning as well as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
10. Overnight oats recipe
These are so good, they get two mentions!
A few minutes’ prep the night before gives you a tasty and nutritious breakfast option (protein and fat from the milk, yoghurt and chia seeds to give slow-releasing energy, fibre from the oats and some of your 5/day target). There are so many different combinations – nuts, dried fruit, defrosted fruit, fresh fruit, tinned fruit, honey, maple syrup, seeds, coconut.
Here is the basic recipe, which can be adapted to suit your own preferences. It keeps for two days in the fridge so you can make double and have breakfast sorted for two days!
- 50g porridge oats
- 125ml milk (use your preferred choice)
- 75ml Greek yoghurt (any yoghurt will do but you may not need/want to add extra honey/syrup if you have sweetened yoghurt)
- Handful of fruit (your choice!)
- 2 tsp of chia seeds
- 1 tsp of maple syrup, mixed seeds & desiccated coconut
- Mix everything together, bar the fruit and syrup (if using that day) and leave it in the fridge overnight.
- Add the remaining ingredients in the next morning.
- Eat and enjoy!