It can be tough to remember your own dietary needs when you’re consumed with feeding a baby. Nutritionist Natalia Stasenko, founder of the New York City practice Tribeca Nutrition, reveals what every new mom should–and shouldn’t–be eating, post-baby.
Keep energy levels high (and constipation at bay). Snack on high-fiber foods like whole grain sandwiches with hummus and vegetables, nuts, dried figs, and prunes. You should aim for around 29 grams of fiber and eight cups of water daily.
Feed your mood. Fatigue and poor digestion can affect your mood. Make sure to get enough fiber and protein in the diet and avoid highly processed foods. Leave more room in the diet for lean protein sources, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Continue taking your prenatals. Many women stop taking prenatal supplements once the baby is born, but for breastfeeding moms, the iron and essential fatty acids in prenatals are important for baby’s proper development. Also, make sure to take a calcium supplement if you’re eating fewer than three servings of dairy daily.
Don’t starve yourself. Trying to lose weight too fast is a big mistake. Most women need about 1,800 calories per day postpartum and an additional 300 calories if breastfeeding. With rapid weight loss, toxins stored in fat may get into the breast milk.
Eat breakfast. Many studies point to the importance of breakfast for healthy weight loss and maintaining energy levels.
Eat regularly. Eat three big meals or three smaller meals and two snacks a day—just avoid situations where you are starving, moody from low blood sugar, and ready to eat the whole contents of your kitchen cabinets.
Watch the caffeine. More than 200mg of caffeine a day may interfere with baby’s sleeping. Also, it’s wise to avoid alcohol, although an occasional drink is ok. Alcohol gets into breast milk and can slow your baby’s motor skills development.
Stay on mercury alert. Steer away from large predator fish like swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark. Shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, sardines, pollock, catfish and tilapia are lower in mercury—you can eat up to 12 ounces of these weekly.
Boost your DHA intake. The Omega 3 fatty acid is found in coldwater fish, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, and has been shown to reduce incidence of depression.
Consider taking a B12 supplement. Especially if you’re staying away from animal foods.
Keep it fresh. Limit your consumption of food additives by eating lots of fresh produce and minimally processed foods. Snack on nuts, wholegrain crackers, or fruits and vegetables with a yogurt or a dip—especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Beware of endocrine disruptors. Choose lean meats, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and avoid buying and microwaving foods in plastic packaging.
Stay hydrated. Above all, be sure to drink a lot of water, especially if you’re breastfeeding.