If you’ve recently become a new mom, congratulations are in order — how wonderful to have something to brighten up your life right now! But along with all the joy that a new baby brings, busy days (and nights!) can make it a challenge to plan and prepare healthy meals or find time for exercise. And while you may be eager to find a postpartum diet plan for weight loss, it’s best not to rush the process. The most important thing right now is to give your body the nutrients it needs as it recovers from pregnancy and delivery.
Keep in mind that it took nine months for your baby belly to form and losing the weight will be a slow, gradual process — so don’t be too hard on yourself. Nature urged you to store a little extra fat during your pregnancy to ensure that you would have the energy necessary to provide nourishment for your baby.
Losing the baby weight and building your energy levels back up takes time. That said, as a new mom, you need to focus on taking care of your baby and yourself by eating well, staying hydrated and getting enough rest (I know, easier said than done!) and not worrying about how many calories you’re eating. If you cut back too much on your calories now, it can be tough to meet your body’s energy needs, and you might shortchange yourself on important nutrients.
Once you and your baby fall into a routine, it’s a bit easier to establish an eating and exercise pattern that can help with weight loss. But for now, here are some postpartum diet plan tips to help you get there.
Focus on Balanced Nutrition
Especially in the first month or so, pay less attention to your calorie intake and a lot more attention to meeting your nutritional needs to help your body recover. The right balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats – and the right food choices – is needed to supply the nutrients you need while keeping calories under control.
The goal is to pack as much nutrition as you can into healthy, easy to prepare meals that include lean proteins, dairy products, healthy fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
- Keep fresh, whole fruits around for snacking. For convenience, frozen fruits and vegetables are also nutrient-rich, since they’re processed soon after picking.
- Lean, protein-rich foods are essential to keep you from getting hungry in between meals – which is so critical when trying to curb intake. Fish, poultry, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and vegetable protein sources, like soy products, provide the most nutrition with the fewest calories. Fish provides healthy omega-3 fatty acids and is quick to prepare, and canned tuna and salmon is convenient to have on hand. Cook extra servings of fish, meat, or poultry dishes that you can reheat quickly. And protein shakes or smoothies can be a lifesaver. It only takes minutes to blend up milk or soymilk with some protein powder and fruit, and it’s one of the quickest, easiest and tastiest ways to help meet protein needs, as well as providing a serving of calcium-rich milk and fruit. Fish, poultry and soy are also great sources of Vitamin B6, which helps regulate your hormonal activity.*
- Some of the most important minerals for new moms are calcium, and iron — particularly if you’re nursing your baby. The fat you stored away during pregnancy helps provide the energy you need to produce breastmilk — to the tune of about 500 calories a day. Make sure to keep those extra calories as nutritious as possible, and not use it as an excuse to binge on sugar and fats. Instead, get your calcium from milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese, and look to meats, beans, leafy greens, and fortified cereals to provide iron. To meet your needs for both, try a bowl of fortified cereal with milk or some beans heated with salsa and topped with low-fat cheese as a snack.
Make Extra Food
(When You Have Time & Energy)
As long as you’re going to the trouble, it’s great to have leftovers to freeze for another meal, or to refrigerate for lunch the next day. If you don’t have a slow cooker, think about getting one. Start cooking a soup or stew, or even a whole chicken, in the morning – and have a delicious dinner waiting for you at the end of the day.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Dehydration can lead to fatigue, so adequate fluids are essential. Whenever you sit down to feed your baby, make a point to have a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea. If you’re nursing your baby, avoid caffeine; if you’re bottle-feeding, curb your caffeine intake by afternoon so as not to disrupt your sleep at night.
Be Kind to Yourself
Pregnancy is not only a significant change for your body; your mind needs care, too. According to a study in Nature Neuroscience Journal, pregnancy changes a woman’s brain structure for at least two years after giving birth. Although this report is not conclusive and the science in this area is developing, it is still worth remembering that a new mom’s brain optimizes its resources and rewires itself to help cater to her infant.
Fatigue and lack of sleep make it hard to think about putting together healthy meals and getting adequate nutrition, but that is the foundation of physical and mental health. Stay positive and focus on what’s important. Your health and the health of your baby come first.
As time goes by and your baby starts sleeping for longer stretches, you’ll gradually have more time to prepare meals and find time to exercise, at which point you’ll begin to shed the baby weight. Focus on your achievements – especially the biggest one of all: You’re a mom!
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
About the Author
Susan Bowerman is the senior director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition. Bowerman is a registered dietitian, holds two board certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a certified specialist in sports dietetics, and a certified specialist in obesity and weight management, and is a Fellow of the Academy.