While it can be tempting to shed that baby weight as soon as possible, it’s important to drop pounds gradually. Losing too much, too fast could cause your weight to jump right back up again, not to mention affect your ability to heal after giving birth. Generally speaking, you should try to lose no more than a pound a week.
This is especially true for breastfeeding moms. Breastfeeding requires calories, so if you’re nursing exclusively, you’ll likely want to continue eating an extra 300-500 calories just like you did in your second and third trimesters, as eating too little can affect your milk supply. Exclusively breastfed babies also get all their nutrients from their moms, so it’s important for breastfeeding women, in particular, to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
But even if you’re not nursing, watching what you eat is a critical part of losing the baby weight. You don’t need fad diets or crazy calorie restrictions. Many people are able to lose weight — and keep it off — with a balance of healthy eating and exercise. Here are some suggestions for good-for-you meals and snacks to help you keep your calorie intake in check during the postpartum period.
Dark, Leafy Greens
They aren’t sexy, but darn if leafy greens aren’t amazing for you. They are packed full of nutrients, as well as a good amount of fiber to help with digestion. Collard greens, broccoli, and spinach are all great sources of essential vitamins like vitamin D and calcium, too, which are important for women in general, but especially during the postpartum period. While salads are an easy way to get in your greens, you can also add them to pasta, soups, sandwiches — and even pizza!
Fruit and Nuts
Fruit and nut combos like apple slices with a little bit of peanut butter aren’t just healthy, they’re filling, too. Apples have tons of fiber and vitamin C, and peanut butter is loaded with healthy fats and protein to help tide you over until your next meal. Steer clear of trail mixes, however, because these tend to have dried fruits and candy pieces with lots of extra calories and sugar.
Fish isn’t just good for you, it’s also crazy easy to prepare. Just toss it in the oven with some butter and seasonings, or make a simple salmon salad (or tuna salad) sandwich using canned fish and a little bit of mayo and mustard. Other types of seafood like shrimp also work great in tacos, salads, or pasta dishes.
Veggies and Hummus
Health experts recommend filling half of your plate with veggies and fruit at every meal, but the same-old dry carrots and cauliflower can get boring. Mix it up by adding a dip into the mix. Hummus is a healthy alternative to high-calorie ranch dressing, while still giving those veggies a little extra flavor.
Cottage Cheese or Yogurt
Dairy is a great source of both vitamin D and calcium, but it’s also high in protein, which can help you feel full and satisfied, even if dinner is hours away. Instead of cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, opt instead for a cup of yogurt with some berries (frozen or fresh), or a dish of cottage cheese, and you might just be able to last until lunch time without needing to reach for a snack.
Smoothies are amazing postpartum fuel because you can often blend in multiple servings of each of the major food groups. In addition to fruits, toss in some greens, oats, yogurt, and peanut butter to make a well-balanced and oh-so-satisfying meal that only requires one hand to drink! As a bonus, the liquid will help keep you hydrated, which is especially important for breastfeeding moms. Smoothies are easy to make at home, but if you’re getting them at a restaurant, be sure to check the ingredients. Many recipes include tons of added sugars, so try to stick to smoothie combos that are sweetened naturally with fruit like ripe banana or applesauce instead of empty-calorie sweeteners like sugar or syrups.