Healthy Eating Postpartum

healthy food in fridge

To Diet or Not to Diet?

This has been a major struggle for me lately, trying to find a good balance between eating healthy and dieting. Now the word diet as defined by google means

a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

In the crossfit community there is a big emphasis on ‘going paleo’. If you aren’t familiar with the paleo diet it restricts you to eating meat, vegetables, nuts and fruit and..well that’s pretty much it. To be 100% paleo you must cut out all grains, legumes, dairy, and processed food. You can read more about the paleo rules here. Now there is another diet which is gaining popularity, called the Whole 30, you can check that out as well if you’d like. Personally, I have adopted a lot of the concepts from these diets without being 100% strict on what I can and can’t eat, since that hasn’t worked for me in the past. Now dont get me wrong these diets are fantastic if you want to lose weight, increase energy and get out of a slump and on your way to a healthier lifestyle. But can be difficult for some people to sustain if this is a drastic change from their usual way of eating.  An effective diet is one that promotes you to have a permanent change in the way you think about food, and hopefully have you on your way to a healthier lifestyle! 

So, what do I eat while breastfeeding!?!

Can you go paleo, or do the Whole 30? Well, I did for a week, my milk supply dropped and I am still struggling to get it back up. So I’m going to say it’s probably not a good choice. Any drastic loss of weight after having a baby can negatively effect your milk supply. You want to aim to lose 1-2 pounds a week and no more. Remember breastfeeding burns approximately an extra 500 calories/day which you MUST eat in order to sustain this. Here’s a quick little math lesson on weight loss….

what goes in > what goes out = weight gain
what goes in < what goes out = weight loss

So if you take a woman my size (these numbers are approximate by the way)
800 calories- basal metabolic  –> this is what you need in order to live even if you just laid in bed and did nothing.
500 calories – breastfeeding
500 calories – workout
200 calories – extra walking around/picking up baby/cleaning the house, etc ,etc
= 2000 calories/day.

That means that if you want to stay the exact same weight you should eat 2000 calories a day. I usually aim for 1600-1800 to promote a slow and steady weight loss. Now I have a vague idea of how many calories are in various foods based on my previous experience in the field but I highly recommend using a calorie counting app (like MyFitnessPal) for a few weeks to get an idea of how many calories you are actually eating. Make sure you pay attention to portion size! You would be surprised how many servings you are actually eating if you measure what you eat. After doing this for a couple weeks I no longer feel its necessary to track calories everyday. By this point  you should have a general idea of how much you can eat and stay under that 2000 calorie a day goal. I actually found by using this app that I wasn’t eating enough! I would have days where I would have a salad for lunch and chicken  and vegetables for dinner and hardly reach 1200 calories for the day.

So when people ask what kind of diet I follow I tell them I eat by the Canada Food Guide (I’m from Canada, gotta represent eh!). What this means is that I eat a variety of foods from different food groups each day. I try to eat whole, non-processed foods when possible and limit the amount of junk in my diet. You can read more about the Canada Food Guide here.

canada food guide Image Source

Now this is also not a one size fits all for everyone! I made some changes to suit my own nutritional needs. I like to eat slightly less grains and more protein to satisfy my hungry muscles, I also don’t each much dairy so I replace this with vegetables that provide me with necessary calcium. I also require a slightly higher fat content because of nursing so I eat an extra serving of grass fed butter or coconut or olive oil with one of my meals (usually breakfast). So as you can see this is simply a guideline that helps people understand the importance of eating from all 4 food groups.

What foods are best while breastfeeding?

Fish (low mercury content like salmon) – high in Omega3’s essential for brain function
Lean Beef – high in Iron and B-12 for energy
Fruit – healthy carbohydrates and high in vitamins, fruit like blueberries and Oranges are a great choice.
Whole Grains – for energy and calories
Eggs – for protein and DHA (if they are fortified)
Leafy Greens – vitamin A, calcium and Iron
Prenatal vitamin – keep taking those vitamins to make up for the nutrients you may of missed during the day
WATER- this is #1. You MUST drink enough water everyday. And when you think you drank enough have a little more. It’s important to stay hydrated especially if you are sweating it out at the gym.

Now just a reminder, I am not a nutritionist (I have taken 2 courses in nutrition which by no means makes me an expert) but I am a mother and a health coach so these recommendations are based on what works for me. See your dietician or nutritionist for more personalized recommendations if you have special diet needs!

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