When you’re pregnant, eating for two comes with a long list of restrictions and precautions. The good news about breastfeeding is that – while a balanced, healthy diet is always best for you and your baby – you can have a lot more flexibility with what you eat. You will probably find that you are hungrier than usual when nursing. Your body is working overtime and burning extra calories to produce breast milk, so be sure you are giving it the fuel it needs.
Here are some of the best foods to stay full, healthy and energized while you’re breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding draws from your calcium stores, so it’s important to eat foods that are calcium-rich. Yogurt is a favorite because it’s versatile, tasty and fast. Eat a container straight from the fridge, or add some fresh fruit or a handful of nuts or granola for a quick snack or breakfast. (Keep an eye on your baby for any digestive or respiratory problems; some infants have a milk protein allergy, and these breastfeeding mothers should avoid dairy products.)
Eggs – whether boiled, scrambled or poached – are an excellent source of protein. Prepare a quick scramble with leftover veggies, or make a batch of hard-boiled eggs to keep in the refrigerator and eat plain or add to sandwiches and salads.
Dark greens, such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard, are full of healthy vitamins and minerals that nourish you and your baby. Eat them to boost your calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and iron intake. Sauté greens in olive oil, adding salt, pepper and spices for flavor; sprinkle in canned garbanzo beans for a meal in minutes. Or add a bag of prewashed greens to any soup for a pop of healthy flavor.
Low in mercury, but bursting with omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, selenium and vitamin B12, salmon is a filling and delicious choice for breastfeeding moms. It also contains a fat called DHA, which is important for development of your baby’s nervous system. Canned salmon also contains tiny, edible bones that are full of calcium. Poach or broil fresh salmon filets for an easy gourmet dinner, or make crispy, pan-fried salmon cakes from canned fish.
These little legumes are high in fiber, protein, folate and magnesium. And unlike many beans, they cook quickly and don’t require any pre-soaking. Simmer up a pot of lentils in about 20 minutes, and store them in the fridge to make simple soups, salads and stir-fry recipes.