Been a couple of months since delivery, and you're tired of still looking six months pregnant? We feel you! New moms look forward to the time when they can get their fitness and energy back, but don’t you fall for crazy diet plans that promise magic pills to firm up that saggy stomach and still-wide waistline! At this moment, your body is still in recovery mode—so it needs all the TLC and nutritional help it can get (especially if you are still breastfeeding). So, banish thoughts of drastic calorie cutting, and pick a plan that takes you down the path to fitness, slow and steady.
The golden rule of weight loss is that only gradual weight loss works—it is healthy and sustainable. And come on, you’ve just gone through the physically taxing task of nurturing and giving birth to a baby—which basically means you’ve a strong body, so it’s time to love your body back.
Rule of thumb is to junk any diet plan that leaves out or limits any major food group like healthy carbs and good fat, this is not the time to severely curb your calorie intake. Rather, choose foods that are fibrous, but low in calories so they fill you up without filling you out. Check out these ideas:
Snack smartBreastfeeding moms burn about 500 calories a day more than an average woman. Which means you’re likely to have a healthy appetite because the body needs these extra calories. So, keep the calorie-dense, sugar-laden snacks away—off go the chips, namkeen, chocolate bars and sweetened juices. Clear your kitchen of them! Stick to regular meal times and keep some smart snacks handy: whole-grain crackers with hummus, nuts and seeds, hardboiled eggs or chana, sprouts, carrots and cucumber sticks, millets porridge, fruits with yogurt and the like.
Also read: A handy guide to must-have baby items!
Pack in the proteinWe all know that protein is essential because everything in our body—from haemoglobin to enzymes, hormones, antibodies to our bones is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. In fact literally every function of all our cells is controlled by proteins. Which is why eating enough protein every day is mandatory. Average daily requirement of protein is about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 60 kg, you ought to consume 60 gm of protein daily. But the need of this nutrient goes up substantially during lactation, and a deficiency can have a drastic negative effect on the health of both the mother and the baby.
Also read: Do you really need a high-protein diet?
Take protein seriously and look closely at your plate to check if there is enough high-quality protein in there. These 5 pointers can help.
1. Focus on both right quantity (required number of grams) as well as high quality protein. If you’re a vegetarian, pulses, nuts, seeds and dairy products are good sources. Lean meat, fish, and eggs are good sources for non-vegetarians.
2. Animals products (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) score higher on the quality of protein index (as they supply all of the essential amino acids), but a vegetarian diet can also provide all essential amino acids by eating a wide variety and making smart combinations of vegetables with grains, legumes or seeds.
3. Include high protein vegetables in your diet. Some examples are peas, broccoli, spinach (250 gm give 7 gm protein), French beans, mushrooms, avocados, okra and potatoes (250 gm give 5 gm protein).
4. Try to include grains with higher amount of proteins like ragi, bajra, jowar, quinoa, oats, buckwheat and amaranth. All of these deliver much more protein than the regular staples of rice and wheat.
5. Often it gets difficult to meet protein needs through food. In such cased supplementation with a high-quality protein source can help. Speak to your doctor or nutritionist for advice and don’t just fall for marketing gimmicks.
Focus on nutrientsWhen you aren't getting the needed nutrients from your diet for milk production, your body will take them from your own stores. In fact, studies have shown a strong correlation between postpartum depression and nutrient deficiency, inflammation and lower serotonin levels. So, to enjoy your child’s early days, eat a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet. Here’s a checklist: Folate (spinach, leafy greens, black-eyed peas or lobia), vitamin C (guava, papaya, kiwi, oranges, strawberries, pineapple, bell peppers, broccoli), vitamin D (best absorbed through sunshine and vitamin D3 supplements), iron (dark leafy greens, black beans, pomegranate), zinc (pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cocoa powder), selenium (eggs, sunflower seeds, tuna, chia seeds) and good fats (fatty fish, walnuts, seeds, flaxseeds).
Hydrate hydrateBreastfeeding moms are especially at risk for energy-draining dehydration. Drink 10 to 15 glasses of water a day to quench thirst and produce enough breast milk. Plus, the more fluids you consume, the faster your body can rebuild and regenerate, and also keep your energy levels up. Fond of coffee? You may have to cut down your intake and stick to a cup or two during the day.
Also read: Is breastfeeding good for both mom and baby?