Eating Healthy During Pregnancy and Postpartum

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)
  • Oatmeal
  • 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
  • Banana
  • 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
  • Daal/Lentils/Soup
  • Avocado

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?

Notes:

  1. Avoid citrus fruits in the morning as they tend to give you heartburn
  2. Avoid very spicy and oily food. Again, anything you can do to reduce heartburn.
  3. 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.
  4. Avoid store bought juices since they are high in sugar and other additives.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.     
  4. 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!
  5. 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:
    1. Chicken, Fish, Lamb, Goat Meat
    2. Cottage Cheese
    3. Whole Milk
    4. Nuts or nut butter
    5. Tofu
    6. Legumes (split peas, black beans, red/white kidney beans)
    7. Eggs

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!

Xo, Naya

Planning Your Pregnancy!

Happy New Year, my ladies and gents!

It’s the New Year and I know a lot of us are thinking about new beginnings whether it be on the fitness, mental, spiritual or life :). Making a big change in our lives is always nerve wrecking and we’re never sure if it’s the right thing or the right time. How can one even decide when the right time is to bring another human being into this world? Now that is a loaded question and only YOU know the right time. You and your partner should’ve probably already talking about this for a while now and you know this year might just be the right year for it! Some quick tips before I start on how to plan on getting pregnant:

What are the things to consider before getting pregnant?

TIPS:

  1. Being married for certain number of years does not determine your readiness for baby. This is a collaborative exercise and you and your partner need to feel ready emotionally, physically and yes financially.
  2. Do not listen to what others have to say, esp. my Desi Community people. First comes: “when are you getting married?”, then “when’s the baby you’ve been married for almost a year now” and next when’s the second baby. Does it ever end? Listen to YOURSELF.
  3. You will get anxious by the thought of it but think one little step at a time. You don’t have to think about birthing (trust me, this isn’t even the hardest part, oops) or sending them to college just yet. Again, listen to yourself and find out what the anxiety is about. Talk to your partner and talk to yourself on preparing yourself for this.

Just how do you plan, where do you start (besides the obvious), what are some pregnancy checklists? Let’s get started, shall we?

Health: assuming that you have made a decision on getting pregnant this year; the first and foremost thing to ensure is that you are healthy to have a baby. You may have heard; healthy mom equals healthy baby (considering everything goes well). Here are things to do:

A. Health is the number one priority for you when you plan to have a baby. Find a gynecologist and set up an appointment to get a physical, view your iron levels, any other blood work, etc. Your partners should also get a physical done along with blood work to get all the bases cleared. Now, I’m not a doctor so please use discretion when following any advice on this blog post. Take the right prenatal vitamins that works for you. I personally took the NatureMade. I also have heard great things about Rainbow. Take prenatal at least 3 months in advance of trying.

B. Physical health and fitness go hand in hand. No, you do not have to be an athlete or someone with a six-pack.. However, it is highly advisable to be physically active whether you do yoga, walk/run everyday for 30-45 min, or do other sports. Being involved in physical activities before and throughout the pregnancy will help you stay fit and also happy. It releases a chemical known as endorphins and it triggers positive feeling in the body. You want to stay positive throughout your pregnancy as they say the baby senses everything from the momma (no pressure) 🙂 However, if you are trying to lose weight, I highly encourage you to do so before trying because you can end up putting on a lot of weight during pregnancy and also after and the cycle will continue. Being in your best shape before pregnancy will help you get back into shape quicker too, just my experience. See my “What to eat and types of workout during pregnancy” post (coming soon).

C. Mental health plays a big part in the whole process. Keeping yourself calm (yet being yourself), composed and aware of your feelings will help you throughout the pregnancy journey (just life in general too!). I highly recommend doing at least a 10 min meditation (guided or self) to connect with yourself and your emotions. I personally used Headspace. Going back to staying positive meditation will definitely help you with that effort. You’ll thank me later 🙂

D. Financial planning is one of those topics that I know is really important but I am no expert on it. It should be understood that with an addition to your family your expenses are also going to increase. You should also think about whether you want to wait. It also depends on where and how you decide to spend your money towards your little one. For example, decorating baby room with the most high-end furnitures and carpets, etc. If you can afford it, great, if not, then don’t go crazy! Babies literally do not care about what’s in their surrounding and the older they grow the messier everything will get 🙂 So be wise and spend wisely.

Last but not the least, download an app that will help you keep track of your ovulation cycle. As crazy as it sounds, you will need to monitor the days that have ‘higher chances’ at you being pregnant and schedule your sessions with your partner accordingly! I used the Glow Cycle & Fertility Tracker and we followed it religiously. However, some people feel that it takes the excitement out of the whole thing and puts pressure on people. Do whatever works for you.

I’m sure there are a million other considerations you can search on the web. Just like with marriage, you will know when you’re ready to have a baby. I cannot emphasize this enough: use your judgment with the things you read on the internet. Not everything that is found on the web is true or even applies to you and your life. And remember, don’t be a hypochondriac!

Happy beginnings to those who are trying this year!

XO, Naya