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Post-Pregnancy Meal Plans

by
author image Walli Carranza
Walli Carranza is a professor, author, Certified Professional Coach and national speaker who brings medical and educational discoveries to front-line providers and the public alike. Her writings include "Six Seasons of Optimal Wellness," "8 Realms of Life by Intention," "Zero Balance Day" and "Body ReCreation." Carranza holds a Doctor of Nursing from the University of Texas, Austin.
Post-Pregnancy Meal Plans
Healthy foods can greatly boost a new mom's energy. Photo Credit mother with baby image by Pavel Losevsky from Fotolia.com

Optimal preparation for pregnancy includes correcting weight to a healthy body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9. It also means establishing a diet high in the nutrients critical for fetal development. These include the omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish, nuts and olive oil, as well as the vitamins and minerals supplied by vegetables and fruit. This way of eating is also ideal throughout pregnancy and after delivery as well.

Breakfast

When you're waking up every three hours during the night to feed a newborn, breakfast takes on a new meaning. Besides needed nourishment, breakfast becomes the signal that a new day has begun. Menus high in protein and low in carbohydrate are associated with weight loss, a goal common to the majority of new mothers. At breakfast, a two-egg omelet filled with spinach, mushrooms and red bell peppers is a healthy and high protein choice. If egg whites are used, the number of calories will be even lower while the protein content remains unchanged. Eggs can also be baked. This is an easy way to prepare a healthy breakfast in advance. The night before, two raw eggs can be cracked and placed into a custard cup that has been prepared with a calorie-free, baking spray; in the morning, they can be baked in less than 30 minutes.

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Omega-3 Rich Lunches and Dinners

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the health of mother and child; they are readily transmitted into breast milk. Nursing mothers should eat cold-water fish, such as halibut, lake trout or salmon, at least several times each week to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and many forms of cancer in both her own life and that of her child. Unfortunately, methylmercury from industrial pollution and volcanic eruptions has contaminated many bodies of water; mercury exposure is associated with an elevated risk of brain injury in infants who are exposed to excessive amounts of the chemical either before or after birth. Restrict your white tuna steak's size to 6 ounces each week; avoid all large sport fish, including shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel, while breastfeeding. Filling half of each meal's plate with a dark-green, leafy vegetable that is high in nutrients is a wise choice. Arugula, kale and spinach all meet that requirement. These vegetables have high concentrations of calcium, iron and a form of omega-3 fatty acids that converts to the one found in fish making them especially important for vegetarians and vegans who don't eat fish. Another quarter of the plate should hold a 1/3 cup of a whole grain, such as quinoa or brown rice. Even more nutritious is a 1/2-cup serving of winter squash such as Hubbard, butternut or spaghetti squash. These vegetables supply additional omega-3 and add vitamin A to the diet at the same time. The final quarter of the plate can hold a 3-ounce serving of a protein, such as salmon, tuna or shrimp. Shrimp, chicken or turkey are other lean protein alternatives although they don't supply as much omega-3.

Snacks

Snacking is not optional for a woman in the months following childbirth. Motherhood is a 24-hour position and including several small snacks into a daily plan of 1,200 to 1,600 calories helps to keep both her blood sugar and energy levels stable. Mid-morning, mid-afternoon and late evening snacks of 100 calories each will add important nutrients to the diet. Snacks are the good time to indulge in a cup of plain yogurt or kefir, a yogurt-like drink. Choosing one with active yogurt cultures helps a mom restore a healthy bacterial balance to her own colon. Mom's consumption of these probiotic foods also helps to prevent infant colic in breastfed babies. This offers parents a nutritious way to help infants who suffer from this temporary condition and the inconsolable crying it causes. With one snack devoted to supplying probiotics, the other two can combine a serving of fresh, whole fruit with 1 ounce of walnuts or almonds, both rich in omega-3. Blueberries, cherries and watermelon are excellent choices because they offer many nutrients for very few calories.

Beverages

Only one mammal on the Earth drinks anything but water to satisfy thirst. Humans do not benefit by being the exception to the rule. There is no other beverage that hydrates as well. Drinking the recommended 8 to 12 cups of water daily has no side effect to a mother or her breast-fed infant. Babies should not be given water to drink until after 6 months of age, but the healthy habit of reaching for water when you are thirsty is reinforced every time he sees Mom take a glass from the faucet. Conversely, juice, sports drinks and all other sugar-laden beverages add 180 calories per cup, more than 10 percent of the daily caloric target and drinking coffee or tea exposes the infant to caffeine, a stimulant. Many women trying lose weight after childbirth turn to diet soda, but this is not a wise choice. Jennifer Nettleton, Ph.D., a University of Texas epidemiologist, and her colleagues at several American medical schools have determined that drinking even a single diet soda each day raises the risk of metabolic syndrome by 38 percent. This combination of high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and insulin resistance can be a precursor of diabetes and progress to diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Since artificial sweeteners pass into breast milk they also expose the newborn, whose pancreas and liver are even less prepared to deal with them. If you are trying to eliminate diet soda and juice and drink water, add a few slices of lemon, lime or orange to add a touch of flavor with negligible calories.

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