After the baby is born it’s easy to put yourself last on the list of priorities, but your body needs good nutrition to recover from the pregnancy as well as support any breastfeeding. Here are 10 of my favourite superfoods for new mums:
1. Lean red meat
During your pregnancy you have an exceptionally high requirement for iron to fulfil both you and your growing baby’s needs. It’s common therefore for new mums to have low iron stores and often mild to moderate iron deficiency, while others may tip into anaemia.
Although we get much of our iron from plant foods, it is not as well as absorbed. If you do like and are willing to eat red meat this is therefore a brilliant choice to provide the iron boost your body needs.
2. Natural yoghurt
Your baby has drawn a lot of calcium from your body during the pregnancy to build her own bones. If you weren’t getting enough from your diet you will have taken that calcium from your own bones. You now want to ensure that you have plenty calcium coming from your diet to halt that bone loss and try to redeposit minerals to keep your bones strong.
Natural yoghurt is ideal as it’s calcium rich, but also provides protein, a whole bunch of other nutrients and a few probiotic bacteria for gut health to boot. It’s also an easy food to add into your day – add a dollop to smoothies, have with cereal or muesli for breakfast, or have with fresh fruit as a snack. (Want a great breakfast recipe? Look no further. Post continues after video.)
With all the fear over allergies, many new mums avoid having nuts themselves while breast feeding. This is such as shame as nuts are loaded with nutrients your body needs including magnesium, along with fibre, plant protein and plenty of those good fats that keep you healthy.
Allergy specialists actually recommend that potentially allergenic foods are included in mum’s diet so that the baby is exposed early via breastmilk. It may be the delayed exposure of some foods that increases the risk for an allergic reaction. If you have severe allergies in your family of course speak to your allergy specialist first.
If you are breastfeeding your energy requirements are now higher than they were at any time during you pregnancy. Your body is working seriously hard to produce all that milk and so you need to provide your body with the energy it needs to do this.
Oats are ideal as they have a low GI meaning that you absorb them slowly, giving a steady stream of glucose into your bloodstream and helping to give sustained energy over the morning. Oats are also rich in soluble fibre which contributes to the benefit on blood glucose control, but also plays a role in gut health. Just be sure to buy traditional or steel cut oats rather than instant - the latter have a higher GI.
5. Firm bananas
New mums need sustained energy over the day and frequent snacks if breast-feeding. Bananas are brilliant to have in your fruit bowl and easy to eat along with a glass of milk (or soy milk for those on dairy free diets) for an easy mid morning or afternoon snack.
They are rich in potassium, important for blood pressure control, and if you eat them while still nice and firm you get a nice dose of resistant starch. This is a particular type of fibre that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. The knock-on effect is a boost to your immune function as well as good gut health.
When time is short and you need a quick nutritious meals, eggs are pretty hard to beat. Be sure to eat the whole egg including the yolk - no egg white omelettes! The yolk is where almost all of the nutrition is and you’ll give your body a magic boost of B group vitamins essential to turn the food you eat into energy for use by your body.
Eggs don’t need to be just for breakfast, they are terrific for quick lunches and dinners too. Team with a few vegies, perhaps some beans, avocado and wholegrain toast for a wonderfully nutritious meal.
While kale has had all the attention, spinach remains a true superfood. It contains many of the same nutrients as kale, but is in fact higher in folate. You continue to need this B group vitamin even now your baby is born, and you’re better to ensure a good dietary intake than relying on supplements for evermore.
Spinach is also easier to get into your day than kale - wilt a bowl of spinach leaves for 30 seconds in the microwave and have with your eggs, pop into smoothies, add to salads or stir through a casserole, sauce or pasta dish at the last moment before serving. (Post continues after gallery.)
Without vitamin D your body can’t make use of calcium. The trouble is that most of our vitamin D we get from sunlight exposure to bare skin. With a new baby in tow getting out the sun can be tricky and so you may well be low in vitamin D.
Mushrooms are one of the few food sources of this vitamin and the level is even higher if you sit your mushrooms in the sun for an hour. Just three mushrooms a day gives you a significant boost in vitamin D.
Zinc is a mineral that plays an important role in healing so post childbirth it’s important that you have sufficient to support your recovery. Shellfish are one of the best food sources of zinc, with oysters topping the charts. But if you don’t like oysters there are plenty of other options - mussels or pipis are truly easy to cook at home and fast! Don’t be scared to give them a shot. Toss through pasta with a tomato-based vegie sauce and dinner is on the table is about 20 minutes.
10. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants along with super healthy monounsaturated fats. Not only that but when you add it to a salad, or cook your veggies in it you also increase the uptake of antioxidants from the veggies. You’ll also eat more plant food if it tastes good so you get a double whammy! This is the only oil with such as solid scientific backing for its benefit to our health. Make it the staple in your pantry and use it every day.