The food you eat in postpartum can significantly impact how you heal and how you feel. You’ll find five important considerations for your postpartum recovery diet below.
When in postpartum – whether that be two days, two months, or two years after giving birth – it can often be overwhelming to think about the specific nutrients needed to heal from pregnancy and birth and fuel motherhood adequately.
There are most definitely specific nutrients that are needed in specific amounts for optimal postpartum health. Still, it’s most likely not in a new mom’s bandwidth – and maybe not even in service of her overall health – to consider her diet in such detail.
I find that by embracing these five pillars, moms can build a well-balanced diet; the pillars offer a tool for creating a diet rich in necessary postpartum nutrients and create healing therapeutic effects without having to think explicitly about certain vitamins and minerals.
The five pillars of a nourishing postpartum diet
By ‘warming,’ I mean two things: warm in temperature and warm in therapeutic effect.
This means choosing cooked foods over raw foods to aid your digestion, most likely compromised in the early postpartum phase. It also means choosing foods like root vegetables, whole grains, and others foods seasonal to the cooler months. As well as utilizing spices and herbs to increase your meals’ color, flavor, and heat.
Read next: An Introduction to Ayurvedic Postpartum Care
I mean ‘building’ as opposed to ‘cleansing.’ It is incredibly common for women to want to enter a calorie deficit after giving birth to ‘drop the weight’ and ‘bounce back,’ but the postpartum phase is most definitely not a time for restriction, deprivation, or elimination.
Especially when breastfeeding, you need to be consuming enough calories to account for what you’re giving out, and even beyond breastfeeding, you need to embrace this ‘more’ mentality until you are well out of the woods of being at risk of depletion. This is the kind of thing that a nutritionist can really help you to figure out.
While you can utilize food strategically to balance your hormones, balance your mood, balance your energy levels, your top priority should be balancing your blood sugar.
Imbalanced blood sugar is incredibly stressful for our bodies and can contribute to otherwise avoidable health conditions. Not to mention the fact that moms are already running on not enough sleep, and wonky blood sugar greatly affects our energy and moods throughout the day.
The simplest approach to keep your blood sugar balanced is:
- Eat every three hours or so
- Prioritize fiber-rich foods (focus on whole plant foods)
- Avoid refined sugar
It is becoming clearer in the medical community that inflammation is at the root of almost every illness and disease, including conditions like postpartum depression and postpartum depletion. Moms are prone to overactive inflammation by being sleep-deprived and probably more than a little stressed.
I teach a simple two-fold approach to alleviate inflammation:
- Reduce consumption of pro-inflammatory foods
- Increase consumption of anti-inflammatory foods
That means reducing consumption of sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and your unique food sensitivities. Then, increasing your consumption of:
- Antioxidant-rich foods like berries, leafy greens, cauliflower, cacao, pecans, etc.
- Omega-3-rich foods like hemp, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, salmon, etc.
- Spices like turmeric and ginger
5. Stress- and shame-free
The key is to approach your postpartum diet from a place of ease and empowerment. Nurture the mindset that food is fuel and is to be enjoyed. Stress around what to eat actually causes more harm in your body than whatever ‘guilty pleasure’ you might choose to consume.
Truly, stress creates inflammation, remember? We already talked about that.
More to consider on your postpartum recovery diet
A nourishing postpartum diet is about eating an abundance of colorful whole foods.
So, what does a postpartum diet look like on the plate?
The nourishing postpartum diet is made up primarily of whole grains, leafy greens, lentils and legumes, root vegetables, nuts and seeds, and spices and herbs.
The other key component beyond what to eat is how to eat. I always advise my clients to throw out any conception of three meals a day. When postpartum, you have to eat frequently and eat intuitively. That might look like ‘breakfast’ at 5 am or ‘breakfast’ at 1 pm – there’s no right or wrong.
Both your typical sleep schedule and Circadian rhythm are thrown off. Your eating schedule should not be expected to fit into the regular rhythm of the day either.
Remember: food is fuel and is to be enjoyed. Embrace a diet abundant in colourful, whole foods, and you’ll be doing your body a world of good.
Olivia Kelava is a Mom and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in Vancouver, BC. She specializes in postpartum wellness, as well as stress and burnout, helping new moms to prioritize themselves and create lasting healthful changes in their diet and lifestyle.