Eating Healthy to Nourish and Heal Your Body
Being healthy has always been an important aspect of my life. I’ve never really been unhealthy because I didn’t really LOVE eating junk food or fast food all that much. As everyone says, portion control is everything! However, things changed during and after pregnancy. During pregnancy, unfortunately, my morning sickness was so bad that I lost 11 lbs in the first trimester. After that, I just made sure to eat regularly, every 2 hours, and eat good. I gained about 30 lbs altogether (including the 11 lbs I had lost) during the course of my pregnancy. Once I delivered the baby, I may have lost about 10 lbs. I breastfed for about 8 months and trust me, when you are breastfeeding, you find yourself starving all the time.
Being from the South Asian part of the world, our culture really embraces taking care of the mother during postpartum and what better way to show it than through delicious meals, right? Thanks to my mother-in-law and my mom. I devoured rice, lentils, chicken, vegetables every day, morning and night, for about 5 months. I was hungry all the time and found myself carb loading. Don’t get me wrong, I love my carbs but I started getting them love handles and belly rolls which I have never had in my life! I panicked but then really started watching what I ate thereafter and started regular workouts to my schedule. It took me more than 6 months to get back into shape, meaning that I feel myself now and feel healthier. In the hindsight, I probably would have planned my meals to eat better. Meal planning isn’t quite the thing you want to do during pregnancy or postpartum, but hopefully the plan below will give you an idea on how to stay satiated and get your calories in!
NOTE: please don’t deprive yourself of any food at any point in your life. You don’t want to be binge eating those things during pregnancy to satisfy you ‘cravings’ :). Everything in moderation is ok. Also remember you are not really eating for 2, you’re just adding about 300-400 extra calories.
What to eat during pregnancy: Meal Plan
Breakfast (options) 7-8 AM
- Milk (whole, almond) with protein powder or a dollop of ice cream
- Homemade smoothie (without added sugar , try dates instead)
- Toast with Avocado or peanut butter or almond butter
- Yogurt with homemade granola or oats
Snack 1 (options) 9-10 AM
- I would recommend not doing spicy or oily snacks such as pakora, samosa or other packaged savory snacks. Save yourself from the heartburn!
- Boiled Eggs – 2
- A handful of raw nuts (walnut, pecans, almonds, dates)
Lunch (options) 11-12 PM
- Peanut butter & Jelly
- Chicken/Tofu Sandwich, wrap/kathi roll
- Chicken salad (if you don’t feel comfortable eating raw food, substitute with cooked vegetables)
- Fish (salmon) with vegetables or rice or salad
- Rice/Whole Wheat Roti/Quinoa with chicken curry, chick pea curry or any other vegetables
- Pasta with chicken, tofu or vegetables
- Pan fried shrimp tacos or pastas
- Quinoa Salad
Snack 2 (options) 1-2 PM
- Cheese (pasteurized)
- Greek Yogurt (whole milk) – refrain from any low fat low cal diet
Snack 3 (options) 3-4 PM
- A handful of raw nuts (if not previously snacked on)
- Fruits (apple, banana, grapefruit, blueberries, whatever you are feeling). Avoid papaya and pineapple as these are considered to be labor inducing fruits
- Raw vegetables like cucumber, carrots, celery with hummus or other dip
- Homemade poha
Dinner: 7 PM
- Chicken and vegetables (such as kale, broccoli, green leafy vegetables)
- Roti with Saag Paneer , Rajma, Edamame
- Salmon with Rice/Quinoa or Sweet Potato
- Hearty soup (daal/lentils or asparagus or butternut squash) with rice or roti
What to avoid during pregnancy?
- Avoid citrus fruits in the morning as they tend to give you heartburn
- Avoid very spicy and oily food. Again, anything you can do to reduce heartburn.
- Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. The recommended water intake is 12 glasses. However, if you are not a water drinker, don’t start chugging glasses to get the intake. Make your way slowly. I would carry a water bottle with me at all times.
- Avoid store bought juices since they are high in sugar and other additives.
- Limit coffee intake to 1 if you must and take it easy with those desserts/mithais 🙂
Our South Asian diet includes a lot of carbs which turns into sugar during digestion. South Asian women are considered to be at a high risk for developing gestational diabetes so you want to balance your diet from the get go. Be mindful of your choices and make a conscious decision of what you are putting in your body.
What to eat after deliver: postpartum
Postpartum Meal Plan
In general, you need 500 extra calories a day if you are a breastfeeding mom. This typically adds up to 2000-2500 calories per day for those who are trying to maintain their weight. You can pretty much follow the same meal plan as listed above although may be difficult the first few weeks so have friends and family help (if possible). Below are some of the items you may want to add to your diet for postpartum:
- Lactation Supplement: a lot of women start taking fenugreek pills to increase their milk production. You may have family members who have homemade recipes with fenugreek seeds, that works great as well.
- Bone broth: if you are not a vegetarian, bone broth is a fabulous addition to your diet during pregnancy and postpartum. It is rich in collagen and gelatin which contribute to strong bones, tendons and connective tissue in mom and developing baby. Decreases fatigue and weakness which is especially helpful during the first few weeks postpartum. Lastly, it contains amino acids glycine and proline which are needed for soft tissue and wound healing which may help speed recovery if you have C-section like I did. You can make your own or buy it at Whole Foods or one of the other super markets.
- Lentil Soup: Moog or Mung Daal is by far one of the healthiest and heartiest soups. It is packed with nutrients, high in antioxidants and rich in potassium, magnesium and fiber which are all essential throughout your pregnancy and postpartum.
- Green Leafy Vegetables: rich in fiber, antioxidants, calcium, vitamin C and iron, make sure you have at least 2 servings of green leafy vegetables. It can be spinach, kale, broccoli, mustard greens, etc. FYI, you will need to test and try out a variety of food during this period as you will get gassy (like bad smelly ones) and that’s OK!
- Meat/Protein: protein is a must during pregnancy and postpartum. Depending on where you are in your pregnancy doctors recommend anywhere between 75-100 grams of protein a day. It sounds like a lot and yes, it is if you are not used to protein being part of your every meal, that’s how you are going to need to up the intake. It does not necessarily need to be all meat or fish but those definitely will give you the most:
- Chicken, Fish, Lamb, Goat Meat
- Cottage Cheese
- Whole Milk
- Nuts or nut butter
- Legumes (split peas, black beans, red/white kidney beans)
Ladies, as always these recommendations are just my opinion based on personal experiences. This post is not meant to offend anyone or any culture. You know your body the best and should listen to what it wants. If you have any kind of allergy, please substitute those items with an alternative. Also check with your doctor recommend food, diet, supplement and exercise and do what works for you. I hope this helps to at least plan things out. Please let me know your thoughts on this and previous posts in the comments section below.
Next post will be on fitness journey, stay tuned!