Keto? Vegan? Intermittent Fasting? Low carb? Low fat? The differing diet options out there are enough to make your head spin and can have you questioning every bite you take. Throw in being a new mom and figuring out what to eat can be downright overwhelming.
So What Should I Eat?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked and the answer is different for everyone. While some may find that response frustrating, I find it liberating. There is no ONE WAY to eat that is right for EVERYONE. The optimal diet for us must take into account our culture, food preferences, goals, sensitivities and medical history.
As they say, one person’s medicine can be another’s poison, so it’s important to get to know your own body and start paying attention to which food and lifestyle practices feel good and which don’t (regardless of what the latest diet guru may try to sell you). Truth be told some folks thrive on a paleo diet, while others do well on a vegetarian plan and some others a combination of many different diet principles. It really comes down to personalization and intuitive eating.
Possessing the self-awareness to know which foods are going to fuel you best is key. If a certain way of eating feels good and is working for you, then that’s awesome- keep doing that. It doesn’t, however, mean that everyone else will do well eating in a similar fashion. There are differences physiologically and hormonally between folks, especially those who have had babies. So while nutrition research and sharing of new diets and information is wonderful, I always encourage you to only use the approaches and foods that make you feel great. Take the best and leave the rest.
How to Get Started (What Most Nutrition Experts Can Agree Upon)
While conflicting experts may put more emphasis on one macronutrient or food group over another, I wanted to highlight a few takeaways that (almost) everyone can agree are important.
It seems so simple and because of that is often dismissed as something that can’t possibly have any major impact on health and wellness, but quite the opposite. Staying hydrated is so critically important, especially if nursing. Start your morning with water and aim to drink water throughout the day.
When you’re dehydrated your body will conserve water in less vital areas (like reproductive organs, our skin and digestive system) and redistribute water to life-sustaining functions. Blood also thickens when dehydrated, decreasing circulation. Water also helps balance hormones, flush out toxins, and deliver nutrients to the body. Plain water works well but if you’re looking for a way to jazz up your water, try this rosemary lemonade.
- 4 stalks fresh rosemary
- 6 cups of water
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- A touch of honey to desired sweetness (optional)
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced (optional)
Allow rosemary to sit in the water for 30 minutes, to release its flavour. Then add lemon juice, honey and lemon slices if using. Serve chilled over ice.
Nutritionist Tip: Lemons are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant, and studies show that vitamin C can also help in triggering ovulation. The scent of lemon and citrus is thought to lift the mood and the addition of rosemary helps aid the body in detoxification and is a powerful antioxidant.
2. Eating More Vegetables and Fruits
One of the things I give my clients is a checklist to help them put together their meals and snacks. One of the points is to always include a fruit and/or vegetable in order to increase the amount consumed each day. Fruits and vegetables are hydrating, fibre-ful, vitamin and mineral rich and contain an assortment of phytonutrients that have benefits ranging from decreasing risk of cancer, calming inflammation, boosting your immune system, supporting detoxification and protecting heart health.
Aim for a variety of different colours to maximize the benefits, but at the end of the day go with the ones you like best and are most likely to eat. No need to force feed yourself kale if you don’t like it; we’ve got lots of options! So give it a try, next time you’re putting together a meal or snack make sure you have at least one fruit or vegetable included. A super simple, yet powerful, way to enhance your diet and optimize your health.
3. Including Herbs and Spices Into Your Diet
This next category is very underutilized but can really take your diet from being good to being truly health promoting. We generally use herbs and spices from a culinary perspective to add flavour to meals, however traditionally they have also been used as medicinal powerhouses. Depending on your issue, there is likely an herb/spice to help. For example, cinnamon has been shown to curb blood sugar by lowering insulin resistance. Parsley can help decrease water retention, boost immunity and calm inflammation. Peppermint can help relieve digestive upset, menstrual cramps and tension headaches, as well as boost energy.
My recommendation is to get used to using herbs and spices at most meals. They boost the flavour and the benefits are extensive. Also, as a disclaimer, the majority of herbs and spices when used in culinary preparations (not in mega doses or as supplements) are perfectly safe during pregnancy and while nursing. If you have questions you can always ask!
Hopefully, that helps clear some things up. If you start with the three recommendations above, in addition to paying attention to which foods feel best for you, you’ll be on the right track. Have more questions? Feel free to book a free 20 minute consult with me so we can chat more.
Allison is a nutritionist and behaviour change expert. She works with women to help them regain energy, balance hormones, support detoxification, boost mood. Enhance postpartum healing and help them feel their best. You can work with her one on one or through a variety of online masterclasses, always with a non-judgemental, evidence-based, sustainable, body positive focus. Visit www.sweetpeanutrition.com to learn more.
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