As a new mom, you need extra nourishment to keep up with your enhanced schedule and demands. Lack of sleep and physical stresses of having a baby can leave anyone drained and reaching for quick fix stimulants like coffee and sugar.
The wrong foods will give you “false energy”, which quickly crashes and leaves you further depleted. Refined and sugar-laced foods will also hinder your natural weight loss and rob your body of energy providing nutrients like B vitamins. There are no magic foods that will substitute a good night of sleep, however, with the right kinds of foods you can increase sustainable energy levels and help your body recover.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and pecans are the perfect nutrient dense go to snack for new mothers. They provide essential nutrients like magnesium to help combat stress and increase calcium absorption.
Nourishing polyunsaturated fats support blood sugar balance for healthy weight and cognitive function. Nuts and seeds also provide good sources of vitamins A and E, needed to help repair damaged capillary walls (hemorrhoids) and skin (stretch marks). Choose raw nuts and seeds instead of salted and roasted varieties. You can make a trail mix by combining a few different types of nuts and seeds, make your own nut milk or use nut and seed butter as a dip for veggies, fruit or as a spread on gluten-free toast.
This superfood is loaded with B vitamins, which are essential for carbohydrate metabolism and energy production. Avocados also provide B vitamins which are crucial for helping your body adapt to stress and balance your mood. Half an avocado has 6 grams of fibre and 2 grams of protein, making it a great for blood sugar regulation and healthy weight loss. Eat it on its own with a sprinkle of sea salt and lemon, spread it on toast or put it into your smoothie for a creamy texture.
This easily-digestible plant protein not only helps build and repair tissues, like muscles, bones and skin, but also helps to keep you full for longer. Protein is also used to produce enzymes that digest food and activate your metabolism, helping your body reach and maintain your ideal weight. Hemp seeds are a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 (essential fatty acids) and provide an ideal balance between the two. Essential fatty acids are important for balanced mood, reduce inflammation and to increase satiety, so you are not left craving sweets and refined carbohydrates during times of stress and fatigue.
This superfood contains chlorophyll, vitamin E and B’s, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium, all nutrients involved in energy metabolism. Hemp products include: shelled hemp seeds, hemp protein powder, hemp seed butter and hemp milk (choose unsweetened hemp milk).
Coconut Butter and Oil
The medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) in coconut oil provide energy and also fight pathogens in the digestive tract that contribute to fatigue. MCFAs are sent directly to your liver, where they are immediately converted into energy rather than being stored as fat. Coconut oil and butter helps to prevent low blood sugar, supports thyroid function and can help stimulate your body’s metabolism, leading to weight loss.
MCFAs are easily digestible, thus putting less strain on your digestive system and increasing energy levels. You can use coconut oil for cooking and baking, and coconut butter as a spread or in smoothies.
Keep your refrigerator stocked up with this high-quality complete protein, providing 6.3 grams of protein (13% of the daily value for protein) in one egg and only 68 calories. All the B vitamins, which are needed for energy production, are found in eggs, including choline. Choline is important for healthy cognitive function. Choose organic pasture-raised eggs, which are higher in beneficial nutrients, including omega 3 fatty acids to support brain and nerve function.
Majority of the beneficial nutrients are found in the yolk, so make sure to eat the whole egg. Eggs are best consumed boiled or poached so their delicate nutrients and oils remain intact.
Whenever you are craving a quick snack, remember apricots, dates, prunes and figs are high in fiber, vitamin A and C, potassium, iron and calcium. These are all nutrients your body needs for stable energy levels and for a healthy digestion. Dried apricots also contain phytoestrogens that help to balance the hormones involved in lactation and the amino acid tryptophan, which naturally boosts prolactin levels to ensure adequate milk flow. Tryptophan is also used to synthesize serotonin (feel-good hormone) in the brain and induce the feeling of satiety, which in turn leads to fewer cravings. Look for sulfur-free unsweetened varieties of dried fruits and add them to porridge, trail mixes, and even smoothies.
This superfood is fast-becoming a stable pantry item because of its many benefits. Quinoa is a gluten-free pseudo grain that is high in complete protein, iron, and calcium, magnesium and a mix of B vitamins. The combination of high protein and high fibre makes this grain a superstar for balancing blood sugar levels and providing sustainable slow released energy. You can use quinoa to make salads, add it to soups and stews and baked goods, or make a quick porridge from quinoa flakes.
Dark Leafy Greens
New moms can really benefit from eating turnip greens, chard, spinach, kale, and collard greens. These greens provide great sources of calcium, iron, Vitamin K, A, and folate. Folate (or folic acid) is particularly important for women who are breastfeeding.
Dark leafy green vegetables contain high amounts of chlorophyll, which helps to rebuild and replenish our red blood cells, boosting our energy levels. Chlorophyll is beneficial for improved digestion and absorption of nutrients, which further increases our energy levels. Greens can be eaten raw in salads, smoothies and wraps, but also cooked in soups, stews or lightly sautéed and steamed.
Include in your meal planning, chickpeas, lentils and black beans which are full of protein, iron and antioxidants. Legumes are also a source of the mineral manganese, a key antioxidant in the energy-producing mitochondria found inside most cells.
The high-fibre content of legumes leads to greater food satiety, balanced blood sugar and stable energy levels. To decrease the gaseous component soak your beans ahead of time, cook them with kombu seaweed and add spices like cumin. Beans can be used to make soups and stews, added to salads and made into dips for a high-energy snack.
Make fruit breaks a regular part of your daily routine. They help to hydrate the body, which is especially important for increasing energy levels. Some fruits that are especially beneficial include apples, pear and blueberries provide vitamin C (needed for healthy immune and healing the skin) and a type of fibre called pectin.
Pectin has the ability to help detoxify the body and improve the intestinal muscle’s ability to push waste through the gastrointestinal tract. A healthy digestion is key to increased energy levels. Pectin fibre also prevents spikes in blood sugar and will help you avoid the blood sugar “crash” that leaves you craving more sweets. Choose organic whenever possible and eat the skin, which is where most of the nutrients and fibre are located.
Refer to this article whenever you are putting your grocery list together. By staying stocked up with superfoods, you will always have nourishing food choices readily available for meals and snacks.
Annaliisa is a registered holistic nutritionist, freelance writer, and wellness speaker who lives in White Rock. She focuses on educating pre and postnatal women about the benefits of good nutrition. www.annaliisakapp.com