Growing a baby is a momentous achievement. That little human you produce has grown from a cell to very small person using the energy and nutrients from your body which continues if you’re breastfeeding. Even when the babies are children and are no longer dependent on your body for nutrition, it can be easy to get so caught up in their needs that we forget ourselves. I’m a doctor and I have three children, so I know what it’s like to be busy, but I also firmly believe that I deserve to feel energised and healthy and that food is critical to this.
1. Fibre is your friend – fibre comes from the walls of plant cells and is a favourite food for all the good bacteria in your colon. Fibre is essential to avoiding constipation which will help your pelvic floor function. Fibre is also digested slowly, which means staying full for longer.
2. Eat healthy fats – fat can come from many sources, but the differing biochemical structures mean they have very different effects on your body. The fats in olive oil, nuts, salmon and avocado are particularly good for your health and your baby if you are breastfeeding. Fats also are digested more slowly than carbohydrates, which is good for the breastfeeding ‘hungries’!
3. Eat with the kids – I get ravenous by the evening, so instead of picking at the kids meals and eating my own later, I make one early dinner for everyone. Not only is it fun to eat together, this is also a great way for the kids to see me eating all my veggies, even if they don’t!
4. Preparation – I know it can be hard to have time to make meals with small children, which is why once a week I try and roast a big batch of veggies and cook some rice or quinoa. Then all I need to do is add a dressing, and perhaps some eggs and I have a quick and nutritious meal.
5. Don’t succumb to the sugar high – as a veteran of sleep deprivation, there is nothing worse than being tired and the horrible feeling of coming down from a sugar high. When you eat a food with added sugar, it quickly enters the bloodstream, which leads to insulin being released, so your blood glucose drops rapidly and you feel hungry again, and more tired than ever. This doesn’t happen with foods that have natural sugars, like fruit because the fibrous cell walls mean that the sugar is absorbed more slowly. If you feel like a sweet treat, it’s best to remember that it’s exactly that: a treat, and make sure you eat something more substantial to satiate your hunger first.
6. Avoid Processed foods – processed foods are designed by food companies to do one thing: make you eat more processed foods. There is a perception that these are more convenient, but what could be more convenient than snacking on fruit, vegetables and nuts?
7. It’s a team sport – I really enjoy cooking and find it relaxing so my partner makes sure I had time for it, but if it’s not your thing he or she should be stepping up and cooking things you both enjoy.
I know how easy it is to forget to consider your own needs when you are beholden to a small, helpless dictator (or three!), but your health still matters. It is perfectly reasonable to want to feel well and energetic and making food choices that prioritise your wellbeing one of the best things you can do to have the energy to manage the intense and wonderful journey that is motherhood.
Dr Kate Gregorevic is a specialist in ageing and longevity. You can find her program for older adults here