Healthy eating for moms
The importance of healthy eating.
Healthy eating is more than just the absence of indulgent foods. It's a lifestyle of balance, not being caught up in eating whatever you want whenever you want. The term encompasses more than what we put in our mouths (the food), but also how we treat our bodies and what they do for us emotionally and physically. And there's powerful evidence that healthy food choices benefit our brains and bodies directly, improving both cognitive function and life expectancy, as well as lowering the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Healthy eating during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
A healthy diet is important for moms, both during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. It's also key for the development of your baby.
Pregnancy: During pregnancy, it’s important to make sure you get enough calories and nutrients from a balanced diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein (such as beans or fish), low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats (like nuts and olive oil). Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Make sure you are getting enough iron (found in leafy greens) and calcium (found in broccoli or yogurt) to keep your bones strong. Your doctor may recommend a prenatal vitamin that includes extra folic acid; this helps prevent birth defects.
Breastfeeding: It’s also important that you eat well while breastfeeding since what you eat can affect your breast milk — although there's no set list of foods to avoid while nursing. Avoid consuming large amounts of any one food group or individual food item so that your baby won't develop an allergic response; instead keep a varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables on hand. Besides helping with digestion and weight loss after the baby is born, eating well while nursing can improve the quality of your breast milk by providing vital nutrients to both you and your child.
How to overcome obstacles to healthy eating as a mom.
If you’re a mom, there are many obstacles that can stand in the way of eating healthy. You may feel so busy and stressed out that you eat junk food out of convenience or eat too much because it’s like a reward after a stressful day. Other moms may not get enough time to cook fresh foods and end up eating microwave meals and processed food. There are ways to overcome these obstacles, though.
First and foremost, don't beat yourself up over unhealthy meals! Some days are going to be better than others and some weeks will be better than others when it comes to eating well. If you have a particularly bad day or week, don't let it turn into a bad month or year! Learn from your mistakes and be ready for your next opportunity for strong healthy living habits.
Use cooking apps on your phone if necessary! These apps make cooking faster by providing recipes that can be made quickly with what's available in the kitchen at the moment (like looking for recipes using eggs), giving shortcuts during preparation (like telling you how long an egg should boil for), giving information about which foods go well together (so you can use them as ingredients), etc. There are also meal planning services which do all the thinking for you; they'll give you recipes and instructions on how to make them while taking into account things like budgeting, dietary restrictions, etc.
Feeding your child their first solids.
When is the right time to introduce your child to solid foods?
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that children be breastfed exclusively during the first six months of life, with solids being introduced at six months. However, four months is a more typical age for introducing solids. If you have any questions about what's best for your own baby, talk with your pediatrician. Do not introduce solid foods before 4 months unless directed by your doctor.
How do I know if my baby is ready for solid food?
Your baby will tell you when he or she is ready to eat food other than milk or formula. This usually happens between four and six months of age. Some signs that a baby might be ready include:
sitting up well without support (around 6 months)
having lost the tongue-thrust reflex and being able to move food from the front to the back of his mouth using his tongue (around 4-6 months)
Maintaining a healthy diet while caring for a baby or toddler.
The key to eating well while caring for a baby or toddler is planning. It can be very tempting to reach for sugary treats or other unhealthy choices when you are tired, but this will only cause you to crave more of these items later because your body is craving nutrients. Instead, it's much better to plan ahead and have healthy options ready.
Schedule mealtimes. Write them on your calendar and commit to them just as you would any other important appointment or event.
Plan your meals ahead of time. Even better, prepare the ingredients in advance so that cooking goes quickly and smoothly when you're hungry at the end of a long day with the kids.
Create a list of healthy snacks that have a balance of protein, fat and fiber so that they keep you full longer and are not too high in sugar (which will make you hungrier). Make sure these snacks are easily accessible from where you spend most of your time with the baby/toddler: kitchen countertops work well because they're easy to reach even when holding an infant!
Meal planning and ways to make cooking easier.
Meal planning is a great way to keep yourself organized and healthy. Every Sunday, take some time to plan out your meals for the week, taking into account any important dates or plans you have coming up. Consider what meals you'll need to make on those particular days, and create a list of ingredients you will need to buy in order to cook these dishes. Having that prepared shopping list means less stress and more time at the grocery store!
Now that you've got a menu planned out, it's time for a little prep work! If there's anything you can make in advance (or freeze), do it! For instance, many soups and stews are great when made ahead of time. Additionally, cooking grains like rice or quinoa takes very little effort but just enough extra time that it's an ideal task for the weekend instead of right before dinner. You can also take this opportunity on Saturday or Sunday to pull together ingredients for quick lunches throughout the week. The more of your meals that are ready-to-eat as soon as you get home from work, the better!
If your schedule allows for it, consider using appliances such as pressure cookers or slow cookers throughout the week. These gadgets greatly simplify meal preparation by allowing unattended cooking at controlled temperatures for long periods of time—perfect if you're going to be out all day but want something delicious when you get home! Even if pre-made foods are tempting after a long day at work with kids in tow (trust us!), having something already done will give you extra willpower not to succumb to drive-thrus and other unhealthy fast food options.
You can find ways to incorporate healthy eating into your busy lifestyle as a mom
It's completely understandable that your ability to eat well will change after you have a child. Taking care of an infant is difficult, and it can require constant attention that makes it hard to find time for yourself. However, the effort you put into eating healthy meals and snacks is worth it; in addition to helping you feel better, being healthy will help make sure your child gets the right nutrients as they develop.
There are some ways to make healthy choices easier. Preparing meals at least one day in advance can be helpful, as long as you keep them refrigerated or frozen until they're ready to be served. If you're feeling adventurous, there are plenty of recipes online that only take 15 minutes or less to prepare. Additionally, make sure your spouse or another close friend or relative knows the importance of bringing home healthy food and choosing the right options when eating out—particularly if he's going out for meals without you. If he eats greasy burgers regularly with his friends while he's on a business trip out of town, ask him to limit those indulgences and instead focus more on healthier options like grilled chicken sandwiches and salads. Emphasize how important it is for him also make wise food choices so your family stays healthy together!