There’s no doubt that keeping a tiny human alive can be exhausting. The postpartum period, particularly the fourth trimester, can be hard. Not only are your energy levels depleted but you’re also navigating the ins and outs of having a newborn. It’s easy to neglect yourself, particularly when it comes to your diet. You may find yourself just grabbing anything to tide you over until you can eat a proper meal (which let’s face it, sometimes might not happen). It’s vitally important that you fuel yourself with the right foods. Healing and recovering from birth, not to mention the additional nutritional requirements if you’re breastfeeding (you need to consume an extra 2000kj per day) means what you eat is important. So, what should you be aiming for when it comes to what’s on your plate? Here are a few simple things to remember.
Go for no-fuss
You may not have time to play Masterchef in the kitchen with a newborn, so keep things pared back and straightforward. The aim is to boost your diet with plenty of nourishing whole foods. Have plenty of healthy snacks at the ready, whether it’s hard boiled eggs, nuts, bliss balls, or frozen smoothie ingredients in a bag, ready to be blitzed up. To make it easier, opt for uncomplicated meals that are packed with nutrients — think brown rice mixed with tuna, legumes like chickpeas or lentils and a handful of veggies, a tray bake of chicken and vegetables or a casserole in the slow cooker.
Up your protein intake
Protein is a critical part of the body’s recovery process post-birth so try to include plenty of it in your daily diet (aim for a palm-sized serving with your meals). Think meat, poultry and fish, legumes like chickpeas and beans, tofu, nuts and dairy. The added benefit is that protein also keeps you satiated for longer.
Include more iron in your diet
Your iron stores are often depleted in pregnancy and birth, so it’s important to boost your intake postpartum. Additionally, if you’re breastfeeding, iron is important for your baby’s development and thyroid function. Great sources of iron include green leafy vegetables, red meat, fish, chicken, legumes, and wholegrain breads.
Get plenty of Vitamin D
Research has found that Vitamin D reduces the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. It’s also necessary for the immune system, nervous system and brain. Aim to spend some time outside every day, but also include foods in your diet that are rich in Vitamin D such as fatty fish like tuna and salmon, liver, and egg yolks.
Incorporate healthy fats
Healthy fats are necessary for keeping you full, and also helping to absorb nutrients more efficiently. Great sources of healthy fats include avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish and eggs. Yet another great reason to enjoy that avo on toast every morning.
Eat lots of whole grains
Whole grains are full of fibre and help with regularity, have plenty of B vitamins and aid in boosting energy (something every recovering mama needs). As a bonus, it’s relatively easy to incorporate whole grains in your diet, with staples like bread, pasta and rice all great sources of whole grains. You could easily whip up a meal such as a tomato-based pasta dish or rice mixed with vegetables and protein as they not only deliver on the wholegrain front, but tick all the boxes for other postpartum dietary musts too.
Watch out for empty calories
Sometimes you really just need to eat some chocolate and that’s okay! However, for the most part, try to minimise the amount of snack foods you’re having that are high in sodium, sugar and saturated fat such as chips, fried foods and sugary treats. Aim for a diet that is mostly comprised of whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein.
Women should be aiming for around 8 cups of water a day, but this is particularly important if you are breastfeeding. Expect to feel extremely thirsty when you’re feeding your new little bundle of joy round the clock so be sure to always have a water bottle on hand during feeds so you can ensure you’re on top of your daily fluid intake.
By Tania Gomez