Welcome to Part 1 of a 4 part series on Postnatal Nutrition where Nutrition expert Esther Street answers 4 questions exclusively for girlgetfit.org. In this series Esther presents some excellent and up to date advice as well as practical tips on meals, snacks and how best to look after your body by feeding it the right food.
What types of food or meals can you recommend for soon after delivery to help with recovery?
Preparation for recovery begins right back before pregnancy begins. Eating a healthy diet before conception builds up nutrient reserves for you and your growing baby. Continuing to eat healthily during pregnancy is essential for your postnatal recovery and breastfeeding as well as for your baby’s growth and development. Your baby receives its nutrition not only from what you eat but also from your body’s reserves so if you are not eating right before and during pregnancy, your body may suffer. The good news is you can prepare your body for a speedy recovery well in advance of the baby arriving before life gets a whole lot busier. Once the baby arrives there is still plenty you can do to help your body recover well, here are a few of my top tips:
The key is ‘keep it simple and avoid processed junk’! Food should be fresh, seasonal and organic if possible. Eat a wide range of foods to get a wide range of nutrients.
Stock up the freezer before labour with nutritious, home-cooked meals and have a collection of quick, healthy recipes to hand for you or someone offering to cook for you. If you have an extended hospital stay, why not ask friends to in bring salads and fruit.
Here are a few simple meals:
- salmon, new potatoes, organic crème fraiche with fresh watercress
- wholegrain pasta, pesto, organic chicken and broccoli
- wholegrain rice, omelette and vegetables lightly stir-fried in coconut oil
- baked sweet potatoes, hummus and salad
I always like to have plenty of healthy snacks on hand too, here are a few of my favourites:
- sourdough ryebread with nut butter and banana
- fruit and organic cheese e.g. cheddar and grapes, cream cheese and apple slices
- wholemeal pitta and hummus
- veggies such as carrots, peppers, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sugar snaps etc
- dried fruit, nuts and seeds (apricots are high in iron, figs high in digestive enzymes, prunes great for reducing constipation)
- oatcakes (these come in all different flavours) and goat’s cheese
- boiled eggs (full of nutrients for healing and recovery, brain function and energy)
- red bell pepper dipped in guacamole
- handful of strawberries and 2 squares of dark chocolate
- sliced tomato sprinkled with feta
- flaked coconut and dates
- raspberries or honey and natural greek yoghurt
Eating healthy food is the best way to get all the nutrients your body needs. However, before, during and after pregnancy, your body needs extra help. When you have a diet of hospital food (need I say more!) or are exhausted and barely have energy to eat, let alone prepare a healthy meal, your body needs good quality supplements to help boost recovery.
Buy a couple of pill organisers for your hospital bag and to keep at home. This helps you remember which supplements you have taken when all your days and nights tend to blur into one!
These are the supplements I would recommend:
- A good quality multivitamin and mineral (if you are breastfeeding make sure it is recommended for this). You can keep taking your prenatal vitamins but make sure they include iron (wound healing, building up reserves following any blood loss, protection against infection), calcium (for bone strength) and zinc (wound healing, to help lower the effects of postnatal depression, healthy hormones). I love Revital Essence by Zita West which is especially developed for postnatal recovery and breastfeeding.
- 1000mg Vitamin C with bioflavonoids – this is great for wound healing, iron absorption, skin repair and helping prevent postnatal depression and infection.
- Fish oils – may help healing and skin repair, lower inflammation, improve sleep, boost energy, reduce afterbirth pains, nourish your brain (most mum’s suffer from ‘mummy brain’ at some point!) and lower the chances of post natal depression. My favourite fish oil is Vegepa E-EPA 70 by Igennus (https://shop.igennus.com/ code STREET25 for 25% discount).
- Vitamin D3 – may decrease the risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, pre-term delivery and high blood pressure for the mother and may decrease the risk of asthma, low birth weight and heart disease for the baby. It is recommended that you take a minimum of 400iu, but many experts recommend up to 4000iu both during and after pregnancy.
- Glutamine – may help with the healing of soft tissue, especially following a caesarean (as long as you have no liver problems). As a supplement for the first 2 weeks and then eat glutamine rich foods (eggs, beef, chicken, yoghurt, milk, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, spinach, cabbage).
- Vitamin E oil – may help reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars (once the wound has healed) and improve skin condition. Pierce a capsule with a pin and rub the oil directly onto the skin.
- Coconut oil – may help to improve your skin after birth. I love Coconoil organic coconut oil as it smells great and tastes great too.
Esther Street is a nutritional therapist who works both in the UK and internationally. She lives in England with her husband and two kids who are just as excited about delicious, healthy food as she is.
This article is not intended as medical advice, just some notes from my personal experience of having babies myself and helping others who have had babies. The advice is not intended to replace advice from your doctor so please contact your healthcare provider with specific questions or issues.