We get it. Baby’s needs are many, but so are Mama’s. That’s why we’ve got just the thing to help keep mama and baby happy and healthy. Two words: meal train.
It can happen in the blink of an eye. Your due date is quickly approaching, and your list of things to get done before your little one’s arrival keeps growing and growing.
The first 40 days after giving birth can welcome an abundance of precious moments and ups and downs, as you figure out new routines as well as a crucial period of rest and recovery for you and your babe.
At Expectful, we’re all about calling on our village of experts, friends, and family members to help expectant mamas prepare for the postpartum period as much as possible. Why? Because once your baby (or babies!) come, you’ll likely be forced into survival mode for a while!
Why a Meal Train is the Ultimate Mom Support Tool
Trust us on this one.
Perhaps investing in a postpartum doula to make you warm meals isn’t in your budget or comfort zone. That’s okay, that’s what a meal train is for. Meal trains are a great way to lean on your village for support. We’re talkin’ family, mom friends, and whoever else wants to help support you during your time of transition from pregnant to mom of a newborn.
A meal train allows you to:
- Focus on enjoying your new baby with your partner
- Pay more attention to nourishing yourself back to health
- Eliminate the worry of meal planning for yourself and your family
- Get help from your mom friends and family in a safe, healthy, and socially-distant way
Hearth Wellness’s Julie Vincent, is a mama, meal train expert, mom support guru, and holistic health coach for busy mamas. She so kindly gave us some insight into the details on meal trains, whether you’re looking to set one up for yourself (which is a-okay) or an expectant mom friend.
“Having a solid postpartum nutrition plan in place to nourish yourself back to health is important, and a meal train can be a big part of this!” — Julie
Meal Train 101: The Basics
When: The last month of pregnancy is go-time.
It’s best to start organizing your meal train during the last month of your pregnancy. You can organize the meals for any day of the week and for however long you want. It’s up to you!
“For most new parents, a month is a generous amount of meal coverage, but I have seen others that have stretched out longer as parents only wanted food a few times a week.” — Julie Vincent
Who: Time to rally your village.
You can ask as many people as you’d like to participate in your mom support team. It’s not a prerequisite that your meal train participants are experts in the kitchen. They don’t even have to prepare the meals for you! Gift cards or food delivery services are great alternatives, especially if you are a little wary of other peoples’ germs right now.
You can share a list of local restaurants, family meal caterers you like or use a food delivery service like UberEats, Caviar or DoorDash.
Consider designating one or two close mom friends or family members to be your “go-to meal train contact”. You want them to be well organized, readily available, and able to answer any questions that come up.
“Not everyone loves to cook, but they definitely want to support you.” — Julie
What: Focus on nutrient-dense foods!
“Warming” foods like steamy broths, soups, herbal teas, and recipes with warming spices like cinnamon and ginger are ideal for post-birth recovery.
Here is a rough list of items you may want to consider incorporating into your meal train ideas ingredient list:
- Slow-Cooked Meats
Healthy Fats – These can keep you full and enrich your breast milk with slightly higher fat content!
- Coconut oil
- Flaxseeds, Chia Seeds, or Walnuts
- Navy Beans
- Quinoa, Bulgur, Millet
- Brown Rice
- Whole Wheat Bread
Important Meal Train Tips About the “What”:
- Be clear about what you want to eat or say hello to lots of lasagna.
- Don’t be shy about sharing dislikes, not to mention any necessary information about allergies, sensitivities, or diet preferences (vegetarian, vegan, etc.). And don’t forget to list your favorite foods, too!
- If you go the family and friends meal route, make sure everything is labeled and includes any reheating or baking instructions.
“You might be surprised to learn that nutrient needs in the early postpartum phase—and especially while breastfeeding—are higher than while you were pregnant.” — Julie
Meal Train Ideas, Quick Tips & Alternatives
- What the best way to set up a meal train? Mealtrain.com has become a go-to for many new mamas. Or you can go the traditional route and use a Google doc, email, text thread or put a friend (like a really good friend!) in charge to take it on.
- How does drop-off work? Be sure to provide a preferred drop-off time. It might not be a mealtime, and that’s ok! If you prefer a little more privacy or contact-less delivery, putting a cooler outside is a great solution for this.
- What are the best containers for people to bring you food? Aluminum containers with lids like these are great for main meals. Ball jars or even reusable containers or serving dishes work well. But it’s best not to use beloved serving dishes because you might never get them back! (New moms have enough to worry about and keep track of!)
- Got too many meals? It happens! There is such a thing as too many meals on a meal train. If this ever happens, simply freeze ‘em and save them for later!
Bonus Tip: If you’re making a meal for a new mom, you can always make more of the meal and feed it to your own family that night and save the rest for the meal train!
- For the makers and bakers: Below are some meal train ideas from Hearth Wellness.
Simple Soy Salmon
- 2 wild salmon filets
- 1/3 cup tamari sauce (gluten-free soy)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1 T EVOO
- 2 t minced ginger
- ½ t red pepper flakes
- Whisk together the marinade ingredients.
- Marinate the salmon for 30 minutes.
- Seal each filet in foil and bake for 12-15 minutes at 450 degrees.
- Deliver as a main dish with a side of roasted veggies and/or grains, or make a salad to go with it!
One-Pot Mexican Quinoa
- 1 T olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 (15-ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned, or roasted
- 1 t chili powder
- 1/2 t cumin
- Salt + pepper to taste
- 1 avocado, halved and diced
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 T chopped fresh cilantro leaves or scallions
- Optional: Cheddar cheese for topping
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir in quinoa, vegetable broth, beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder, and cumin; season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir in avocado, lime juice, and herbs.
- Deliver with a side of shredded cheese and maybe some tortilla chips!
- Any other resources? The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou, Amely Greeven, and Marisa Belger is an excellent source of inspiration as you prepare for postpartum.
You’ll Thank Yourself for Setting Up a Meal Train
And there you have it! All the tools, tips, and tricks to set up your meal train and prepare for your postpartum period with ease and flow right at your fingertips.
For more information on meal trains and holistic health, you can follow Julie at @hearthwellness.