Few things are as important as the food we eat. It’s our body’s fuel to grow, heal and get stronger. While a nutritionally balanced diet is always important, it’s even more so for a pregnant or nursing woman. After all, those same nutrients are now helping you grow and feed a developing baby. Talk about work.
If you have found yourself overwhelmed on keeping up with what foods you should or should not be eating, don’t worry you’re not alone. The good news is that no matter your dietary restrictions, whether they be from personal choices (vegan, vegetarian, etc.), food allergies (peanuts, soy, dairy, etc.) or illnesses like Crohn’s Disease or Diabetes, these five simple tips will help you get on the right path.
Make water you best friend.
Water is essential for life and helps carry vital nutrients to you and your baby. During pregnancy drinking enough water can help elevate common ailments like constipation and bloating; and while nursing, can be one of best things you can do to help support your milk supply. So find your favorite water bottle, fill it to the brim multiple times a day and never leave home without it. Much like your cell phone, it should go wherever you go. Since the amount of water you need will vary based on the climate and your exercise regimen, look for your pee to be pale yellow or clear. If you’re getting tired of plain water or would rather reach for juice, make some flavorful fruit and herb infused waters. They are easy to make, taste delicious and are much better than store-bought options.
Focus on whole foods.
Start each meal with as many whole food ingredients as possible. Think fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, pseudo-grains like quinoa, seeds, nuts, meats, fish and eggs. Go for ingredients that look the same way in your kitchen as they did on the farm. When you’re choosing your foods, select options that will give you the most nutritional bang for your buck. Try brown rice or farro over white rice. Choose darker leafy greens like spinach or arugula for your salads. Go with whole grain breads over white. If you are buying prepared foods always be sure to read the ingredients before making a purchase. This quick guide on reading food labels will help you make great choices.
Make every plate colorful.
Variety is the spice of life and it’s also the key to proper nutrition. From the lycopene in red beets, Beta-Carotene in orange carrots and folate in leafy greens, the color of a whole food brings something different to your diet. No need to worry about which foods have which nutrients, just create a rainbow on your plate each meal to help ensure you’re getting a good variety of vitamins and minerals.
Always have a snack on hand.
Eating frequently throughout the day is almost as important as having a well-balanced meal. Since it’s hard to make smart decisions when you’re ravenous, always have a healthy, whole food snacks on hand to grab and eat as needed. Fresh or dried fruit, mixed nuts and seeds make awesome grab and go snacks. Find a mixture you like and keep a few portions in your purse to enjoy as needed. Make fresh fruit super accessible by cutting it when you get home from the market and putting in the fridge in snack sized containers. If you’re looking for additional suggestions, take a look at these Top 5 Snacks for Pregnant & Nursing Moms.
Give into cravings but don’t jump ship.
Healthy eating shouldn’t be an all or nothing proposition, it’s about making smart choices over time, not every single time. If you have a hankering for chocolate, go for it. If you’re really in the mood for a pizza, get a few slices and enjoy. Just don’t go crazy. If you have a particular craving, dish yourself a moderate portion and eat up. Remember you’re eating to help support a growing baby, not an NFL linebacker.
Entering into the world of all things baby can be overwhelming but eating well while you’re nursing or pregnant doesn’t have to be. Take simple steps each day, know the food that you’re eating and you will be surprised how easy it can be. Since each of us is biologically unique, just remember to listen to your body and eat whole foods that give you lasting energy and make you feel good inside and out.
For great whole food recipes check out the momme meals blog for seasonal dishes that are healthy and delicious.
Kristen Bocanegra is the owner and chef of momme meals, an organic food company that provides nutritionally balanced meals for moms and their growing families.
This post originally appeared on the CareLuLu blog.
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