Following a healthy diet while you were pregnant was crucial for the growth and development of your baby, but getting the right nutrients after your baby is born is essential for your own health. After all, as a new mom, you’ve got to keep up your energy, regain your shape and enjoy your new little bundle of joy to the fullest. Here are important nutrients to include in your diet.
Waking up for nightly feedings to soothe a crying baby is par for the course for new momhood. To keep you energized despite your lack of sleep, make sure you get enough iron. A deficiency in iron can lead to anemia, which will leave you exhausted. Iron-rich foods include lean beef, turkey, sesame seeds, almonds, spinach and figs. Eating lean meats will also give you a healthy dose of protein, which you’ll need for healing from childbirth and to adequately fuel your body for the demands of breastfeeding.
Even if you plan to bask in the sun for 15 minutes a day so your body can manufacture its own vitamin D, you should still incorporate foods rich in the “sunshine vitamin” into your daily meals. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that actually acts as a hormone. It is not only essential for your bone and teeth health, it plays a role in boosting your mood, supports muscle function and promotes a healthy immune system – and as a new mom, you can’t afford to come down with a cold, flu or worse. Foods rich in vitamin D include milk, cod liver oil, fatty fish, egg yolks, vitamin D-fortified beverages (soy milk, rice milk and orange juice), and breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D. You can also consult with your doctor about taking supplements.
A key mineral for strong bones and teeth, calcium can help you lose the baby weight; research suggests that eating calcium-rich foods can aid in weight loss. Further, calcium plays a role in muscle contraction, blood clotting and nerve function, and studies suggest that calcium is heart-healthy and can reduce the risk of some cancers. Calcium-rich foods include milk, yogurt, cheese, canned salmon (with bones), calcium-fortified beverages, tofu and leafy greens.
Antioxidants are the powerhouse nutrients found abundantly in fruits and vegetables. If you aim to fill your plate with antioxidants, you’ll easily meet your daily fruit and vegetable quota while fueling your body with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and carbohydrates. Follow the “eat your colors” rule and include as many different brightly hued fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants can help ward off cancer and heart disease as well as boost your skin and hair health.
This may not exactly be a dinner table topic, but postpartum constipation plagues many women. A result of hormones, diet, lack of exercise and stress, constipation is the last thing you need to deal with while attending to the demands of your new baby. Eating fiber-rich foods and aiming for at least 25 grams of fiber each day can help “get things moving.” Just as important, fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and will help you slim down and control your appetite. Fiber can also reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Though you may be thinking fat is exactly what you’re trying to shed after nine months of pregnancy, dietary fat can actually promote weight loss. Healthy fats, such as omega-3s (found in flax and salmon) and monounsaturated fats (found in olives, olive oil and avocados), are not only heart-healthy, they will also keep you feeling full longer and are beneficial for skin and hair health, which can take a beating from fluctuating hormones. If you’ve got the postpartum blues, omega-3s can help boost your mood, too.