Every stage of the motherhood game — TTC, pregnancy, postpartum, and full-on mom mode — seems to have a nutritional warning label attached to it. “Eat this diet,” “Don’t eat that,” “You’re overdoing it,” “You’re not doing enough.” Motherhood nutrition is overwhelming, as many will concur. It adds to the already hefty mental toll of the perinatal experience. Not to mention that many of us in today’s society already have a love/hate relationship of varying degrees with dieting, meal planning, and otherwise.
How do we manage those social personal and medical rules? Realistically? Moreover, how do we come out on the other side as strong, healthy mamas with a healthier outlook on how we fuel our bodies?
Say hello to Danielle McAvoy, registered dietitian and the Senior Manager of Nutrition at Territory Foods. Expectful had the pleasure of sitting down with her and asking for her expert take on legitimate ways to developing and sustaining healthy nutrition habits across these stages of motherhood. (We underline legitimate because we didn’t want this to be just another conversation about “balance” and “whole foods.” We wanted real, tangible ways to enhance your nutritional experience for a happier, healthier motherhood, where food is a joy, not a stress.)
Here are Danielle’s top takeaways for Fertility, Pregnancy, and Motherhood. Danielle was such a pleasure to speak with and had so much more insight than we can fit into a single blog. To check out her full, free conversation, download the Expectful app and find her feature in our Explore Tab.
“That means lots of fruits and veggies, seafood, whole grains, beans, and nuts. The Mediterranean Diet is very plant forward and nutrient dense, and it works to increase pregnancy rates for a couple reason.
“It’s high in fiber from all of the plants and that can help reduce chronically high insulin levels, which is one of the major causes of infertility. And then the healthy fat that you get from all of the olive oil, the nuts, and the seafood reduces inflammation, which can make the body more sensitive to insulin. The Mediterranean diet also is very limited in red meat and processed foods, which have also been shown to make it difficult to conceive.
“And then my second tip is you could also try eating gluten free for a bit, because undiagnosed celiac disease can also make it difficult to conceive.”
“There are a lot of extra nutrients that you need during this time, but you also may not have a lot of control over what you eat, at least during the first trimester. Aversions and cravings can make all of your best intentions go out the window. So I think the important thing is to take your prenatal vitamins, because that can just take the pressure off having to get enough of those critical nutrients from foods. The second important thing, for the entirety of pregnancy, is to eat smaller meals more often than you’re used. Digestion slows down during all of pregnancy. Your body just isn’t able to process as much food at one time, as it used to. You’re also more sensitive to stomach acid. So you don’t want to go too long in between meals. So eating a snack or a small meal, every two to three hours is the key to feeling good. And also it helps you sneak in a few extra healthy foods throughout the day.
“One easy, quick tip? For ‘morning sickness,’ I recommend eating a couple crackers right when you wake up because you’re more sensitive to the stomach acid during pregnancy. That can make you feel really nauseous. And throughout the day, even if you don’t feel the hunger because you’re nauseous from the acid, it’s great to just constantly keep a little bit of food in your belly. It can really help.”
“The first is no extremes. Postpartum is not the time to eliminate important foods or entire food groups like carbs. Um, we save that all the time balanced meals with plenty of protein, fat, and carbs during the postpartum period are the best to support healing.
“The second is nutrient rich, real, mostly plant foods. Whole foods help mom heal from the inside out! Research has shown that a plant forward diet that is anti-inflammatory is the best to support healing.
“The third thing is abundance. A new mom needs to eat probably every two to four hours postpartum to get enough nutrients required to heal, and ample calories are also necessary for her milk supply, if she chooses to breastfeed. So we don’t recommend eating salads or things that are light or low in calories.
“The fourth thing is that the food should be easily digested. So postpartum meals should ease the resources that the body needs for digestion not make digestion difficult so that the body can focus on recovery and milk production. New moms should eat mostly warming foods like well cooked meat, broth, stews, soups, and all fruits and veggies should be cooked.
“And then the fifth principle is that the food should be pleasurable. Every meal should include something that’s appealing to mom’s senses, whether it’s the flavors, the textures, or the colors. Food should be a reminder that a woman is not just a body that grew and birthed a baby, but it is an important being that also requires and deserves nourishment, too.”
“Don’t worry your mind with pre-planning your meals out, at least in the beginning.” Instead, McAvoy recommends keeping your fridge and pantry stocked with nutrient-dense foods, things that you can quickly heat up, or even just stored in a portion that’s easy to grab and go.
To us, that sounds like a great opportunity for a meal delivery service, like Territory Foods, which has Mom-focused meals that are expertly created just for you as you focus healing your body & mind and nurturing your baby. Thanks to Danielle McAvoy and the Territory Foods team for sharing this great knowledge and foundation on a healthy food relationship for Moms everywhere.
Get 20% off your first two weeks of Meals for Mama plus free shipping to try our meals using code EXPECTFUL20 at checkout. Click here to claim your discount.
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