Eating well while caring for a newborn can be difficult. Follow these 5 tips from a dietitian, and download my free 7 day healthy eating meal plan to help you out!

7 Day Healthy Eating Meal Plan with gluten-free breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes, plus a printable menu and shopping list! | iowagirleats.com

Hey everyone! I’m back with the second installment of my “Life After Baby” series with the fabulous providers at UnityPoint Health. Today we’re talking diet (not dieting!) after welcoming a baby, and I’m giving away a FREE 7 Day Healthy Eating Meal Plan with gluten-free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack recipes, plus a printable menu and shopping list – whew! As they say, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail, and no one’s failing in the healthy eating department under our watch! 😉

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If you’ve had a baby then you know eating, let alone eating well, falls below caring for your newborn, nursing, doing laundry, sleeping and, well, surviving, on your priority list. As someone who has never forgotten to eat a meal, and is usually thinking about the next one before the current one is finished, it’s a bizarre phenomenon. When the moment finally arises to snag a bite it’s got to be quick, easy, and preferably able to be eaten with one hand, which is why I ate an ungodly amount of peanut butter the first couple of weeks after having Cameron. Chunky even, because poor Ben, who fell asleep at Walgreens waiting for my pain meds prescription to be filled, was too sleep deprived to properly read labels after being shaken awake by the pharmacist. #thathappened

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Thankfully chunky peanut butter-gate didn’t last too long as we slowly got our stuff together enough to write proper grocery lists, and finally mastered the art of meal planning. Only took having another baby to get that train a rollin’! Nourishing meals we could assemble ahead of time, like Make-Ahead Breakfast Bowls, filled the freezer, and healthy snack recipes like No-Bake Cranberry Chocolate Almond Energy Bites have become refrigerator staples. When I’m tired and stressed my instinct is to reach for empty carbs like crackers, pretzels, and cookies, so meal planning has helped me choose healthier options instead.

No-Bake Cranberry Chocolate Almond Energy Bites taste like chewy cookie dough and provide a burst of energy whenever you need it. Make a double batch to stock the freezer with! | iowagirleats.com

All that said, the 7 Day Healthy Eating Meal Plan is full of the recipes I’ve been making on repeat these past two and a half months. Each day contains healthy yet filling recipes and meal ideas that can be made in 30 minutes or less, and with as few ingredients as possible. CLICK HERE to sign up for new post updates and receive the free 7 Day Healthy Eating Meal Plan. Current subscribers, I’ll send it out to you tomorrow!

7 Day Healthy Eating Meal Plan with gluten-free breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes, plus a printable menu and shopping list! | iowagirleats.com

In addition to the meal plan, I thought it might be helpful to share a day of typical eats for me. Like I said, right now literally everything I snag has to be quick and easy, aka I’m definitely not whipping up omelets for breakfast and stirring risotto for dinner!

  • Breakfast: Peanut butter toast x2, half of Lincoln’s banana, coffee, coffee, coffee…
  • Snack: No-Bake Cranberry Chocolate Almond Snack Bites + blueberries
  • Lunch: Deli turkey rollups, peanut butter + apple, baby carrots OR leftovers from previous night’s dinner
  • Snack: Skinny Pop Popcorn
  • Dinner: Crock Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (I made this recipe as freezer packs before having Cameron – just added everything but the chicken broth to a Ziplock freezer bag then froze. Thaw before cooking.)
  • Snack: Applegate Farms Genoa Salami + Simple Mills crackers + cheddar cheese slices

I rely heavily on leftovers for lunch because they’re so easy to reheat and eat. I also can’t say enough about individual sized bags of Skinny Pop Popcorn as they satisfy my urge to CRUNCH on something when maybe I’m not truly hungry. Baby cheeks also make a great snack. Just saying.

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Alrighty, now let’s hear from the expert! Recently I was able to chat with a UnityPoint Health dietitian about eating after baby. It’s said that abs are made in the kitchen, but right now I’m more focused on fueling my body to best care for my baby vs getting a 6 pack!

5 Postpartum Eating Tips from a Dietitian

  1. EAT! On average, exclusively breastfeeding mothers need an additional 300-500 calories per day above what was needed before pregnancy. While dieting most likely won’t affect the quality of your breast milk, it could have an impact on your milk supply and energy levels. Personally I eat when I’m hungry. Simple as that. Best “bang for your buck” foods recommended by our dietitian include eggs, salmon, quinoa, avocado, and dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli.
  2. Eat often. Getting back on track in regards to a healthy diet if you’ve slacked a little during pregnancy can be difficult (hello nine month nacho craving.) Start by getting on a consistent, frequent eating schedule of 3 meals a day, 4-5 hours apart, with 1-2 snacks if needed. Focus on filling your plate with whole foods and limiting those that are high in sugar and saturated fat, which can cause inflammation and affect heart health.
  3. Eat breakfast. Not only do breakfasts containing healthy fats, protein, and carbs (like the Monkey Salad in my meal plan,) kick start your body and metabolism first thing in the morning, they set you up for a healthy day of eating ahead. I know you’ve heard the saying “sleep begets sleep” in regards to newborns, well healthy eating begets healthy eating in my experience. The better I eat in the morning, the easier it is to continue to do so throughout the day.
  4. Snack smart. Yes, crackers, pretzels, and cookies are “easy” snacks, but like I said, they don’t fuel anything but a burning desire to eat more. Recommended smart snacks for busy new moms include hardboiled eggs, vegetables with hummus, yogurt with fruit, apples with peanut butter, and low-fat string cheese.
  5. Don’t restrict. It’s not necessary to avoid certain foods while breastfeeding unless your baby is having an obvious reaction (for example my SIL’s youngest would break out in a rash when she ate foods he’s allergic to then nursed him.) If you feel like something you’re eating is upsetting baby, keep a food journal to help pinpoint exactly what might be affecting your little one. Otherwise, it’s not necessary to unnecessarily restrict yourself. Case in point, Lincoln has a dairy allergy, yet I was able to eat dairy the entire time I nursed him without any adverse affects.

If you know you need to make a change to eat healthier after having a baby, but aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend speaking to a dietitian. I’ve visited with two since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and they are a wealth of information on how the food we eat impacts our bodies. It’s really fascinating stuff!

If you live in Iowa, Illinois or Wisconsin, UnityPoint Health provider services are available to help. Visit www.unitypoint.org, select the location you live in, click the “Find a Doctor” tab, then select “Dietitian” to find a provider near you.

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I know losing weight is a popular topic among women who are ready to do so after baby, which is what we’ll dive into in the next “Life After Baby” post. But first, what are your favorite quick and easy post-baby meals and snacks?