When I think back to my first 3 months postpartum with my child, I can safely say that one word can name how I felt the majority of that time (besides tired):
Rav-eh-nous. Food was all I could think about and the minute I was done with one meal, I’d be thinking about the next.
In those beginning few months when you’re producing tons of milk for your baby on demand, the hunger can seem more overwhelming than anything. Couple that with arms that are full 90% of the time and you probably find yourself with a pretty big problem!
So while this can be a challenging time, there are healthy strategies that can really help you stabilize your blood sugar so that you’re not looking for the nearest drive-thru out of desperation.
Here is what I did and have my nursing clients do as well:
3 high protein/fat/fiber meals
The number one thing I hear from my clients when they begin is that they are too busy to eat all three meals, so they find themselves scouring the pantry and grazing/binge eating from late afternoon until bedtime. This happens frequently because of lack of planning (see meal prep section below): we assume that when the time comes to eat we will have the time to prepare something, but then breakfast/lunch time comes and goes and we realize we are starving and grabbing handfuls of cereal and eating the crust off our kids’ sandwiches instead.
When our blood sugar is low, we feel shaky and our bodies begin screaming at us for fast energy: white carbs and sugar. We eat the white carbs and sugar and feel better temporarily. However, because they are so fast digesting and cause another blood sugar crash, it’s just a matter of time before we feel the same again: and the cycle continues.
In order to keep blood sugar levels stable, it’s important that we make breakfast, lunch, and dinner mandatory. But not only should they be mandatory, to stabilize blood sugar they should consist of mostly protein, fat, and fiber.
The easiest way I have found to start your day off in this way is to prepare a green smoothie. Mix the following in a blender as soon as you wake up, and you should feel stable and satiated for at least a few hours:
- 1 serving protein (greek yogurt, protein powder, milk)
- small serving of frozen fruit (about 1/4 cup, berries are preferable)
- greens (kale, spinach, anything green and leafy)
- 1-2 tablespoons of fat (avocado, chia seeds, nut butter, coconut)
- 1-2 tablespoons of fiber (cacao powder, oats, pumpkin, hemp seeds)
(To keep blood sugar stable, avoid the urge to add sweetener to your smoothie – use frozen banana or the fruit to sweeten.)
Easy, filling snacks
When it comes to snacks, don’t overthink it. They can be simple and still be incredibly healthy and satiating. Make sure your snack has some amount of protein or fat to help with those blood sugar levels. Couple fruit or starches along with some protein or fat.
Larabars are my number one go-to easy snack, you can throw them in your diaper bag or grab one out of the pantry in a flash. Other easy ideas:
- string cheese with fruit or whole grain crackers
- fruit with nut butter
- greek yogurt singles
- mixed nuts with a small amount of chocolate chips
When you’re feeling hungry or beginning to think about food, don’t wait to grab a snack! Waiting will start the whole low blood sugar cycle all over again and before you know it you’ll be eating all the things.
Prepare in bulk and be repetitive
Many of my clients are intimidated by meal prepping. At first, it can feel like there is no time to do such a thing. But once you actually try it and think of it as an investment in the rest of your week, you will never want to stop.
Find a delicious, healthy meal that fits the protein/fat/fiber guideline, and then take an hour in your kitchen to make it once: but make it in big, reheatable batches. Again, easy is key. Here are some favorite high protein/fat/fiber meals that you can easily prep and eat all week:
- Large breakfast casserole (whisk 12-14 eggs, greens like spinach or kale, cheese, and other chopped veggies, bake at 350 for 30 min)
- BBQ chicken and avocado wrap (cook chicken with low sugar bbq sauce in slow cooker, shred, add to wrap w/ mashed avocado)
- Salad with chicken, chopped veggies, nuts, cheese, and an olive oil based dressing recipe. Season and bake the chicken, chop the veggies on meal prep day, throw it all together at lunch.
- Greek yogurt with chopped almonds and a drizzle of honey
- Something you throw in a slow cooker with a few ingredients, then serve with roasted veggies (like this)
You might be turned off by the idea of eating the same thing every day, or eating leftovers, but if you can manage to find meals you really love, that will balance out the need for variety and really improve your ability to adhere to healthy eating.
Cut back on artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners may not have calories, but your body reacts to them the same way it would react to sugar. Limit your diet sodas and any other artificial sweeteners you’re adding to recipes and drinks.
Manage your stress
Stress can also cause you to feel the need to eat, and having a new baby can be one of the most stressful times of our lives! It is imperative that you find at least 5-10 minutes each day to manage your stress so that you don’t go seeking food. I keep a list at my desk of stress-busting activities that do not involve eating. Here are a few:
- deep breathing exercises
- listening to music
- asking for a hug
- texting a friend or even better, meeting them somewhere
- kitchen dance party with my kids
- taking a walk outside
Lastly, find some support! Don’t be afraid to ask your partner, spouse, friends, and/or family for help so that you can do these things to practice self-care! You can’t pour from an empty cup.
After all, self-care is the new martyrdom. 😉