Postpartum Diet Plan: What’s Safe While Breastfeeding?
You want to lose that baby-weight faster than Wonder Woman’s bulletproof bracelets can deflect missiles, quicker than two tribbles can turn into twenty, and with more speed than Florence Griffith-Joyner on the racetrack. We get it. But is dieting healthy for you right now?
While some women miraculously shed those extra pounds without even trying during the breastfeeding phase (it does burn approximately 500 calories a day after all), not everyone is so blessed. Losing weight while breastfeeding is not a given because the energy that’s depleted makes moms hungrier. While just being thin is no longer #lifegoals for the population at large – good health is – it would still be nice to be able to fit back into that pre-baby wardrobe ASAP.
If you’re tempted to try any of the most popular weight-loss plans out right now, you might be surprised to learn that some of them are actually safe and many can be good for you, and could even provide more than enough nutrients for rich milk production.
Jennifer Ritchie (I Make Milk…What’s Your Superpower?) gives some sage advice: “It took a good nine months to put that weight on, so give yourself at least nine months to get it off and get your body back.” Exercise, along with calorie cutbacks, is the key. “As long as you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, you’ll lose weight.”
Here are the three most popular diets trending now. Each has it pros and cons, but all are okay (in moderation) while breastfeeding:
What is it? The keto diet is a weight loss trend that has stayed at the top of the hefty heap for a couple of years now. A sort-of-but-not-really Atkins-type diet, keto is a high-fat, low-carb plan, which restricts the body's main source of energy (carbohydrates) and pushes it to use fat for energy instead. This puts your body into a state called “ketosis”. That’s the brass-ring of dieters! You are encouraged to load up on meat, vegetables, cream, butter, nuts, and avocado, but turn your nose up at grains, fruit, beans, potatoes, and sugar.
There's no medical evidence that low-carb diets decrease milk production or hurt the quality of milk for breastfeeding mammas, but Elizabeth Ward, author of Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy, warns against it anyway. “Inadequate intake of starchy foods, such as whole grains, potatoes, and beans, is bad news for gut health because beneficial bacteria feed on the fiber in those foods,” she warned in an interview with Parents. “Ketosis can be dehydrating.” Fruit, which naturally provide fluids, is not allowed on the diet so you’ll have to drink a lot more water.
Yes: Veggies that grow above ground, beef, chicken, salmon, butter, heavy cream.
What is it? DASH, which stands for ‘Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension’, puts an emphasis on eating foods that are thought to fend off high blood pressure – but it’s also been shown to lead to weight-loss. It’s all about consuming high fiber and low to moderate fats.
This has been rated the 'Best Overall Diet' in the US, and for a good reason: It's not a restrictive plan, and you're not counting calories. Instead, it's more of a lifestyle choice of choosing lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains. No crash dieting = no negative effect on your milk supply. (On the downside, the weight loss may come slowly.)
Yes: Lean protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and low-fat dairy.
No: Red meat, salt, tropical oils, and sugary foods and drinks.
What is it? This is a diet of what’s traditional in Mediterranean countries, typified especially by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein.
If you're constantly bloated months after giving birth, you might want to give this a try. Studies show that a Mediterranean diet promotes weight loss and reduces in inflammation in breastfeeding women.
Yes: Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil, seafood (especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids), herbs and spices, and then even more fruits and vegetables.
No: Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly processed foods.
Less Processed, More Whole Foods
If you’re not sure about going whole-hog on a diet but you’d still like to eat better, here are a few suggestions gathered from various nutritionists:
• Breakfast: Steel-cut oatmeal, an egg with spinach, or Greek yogurt
• Lunch: Salad with yogurt or cottage cheese as dressing, diced almonds or pumpkin seed for crunch
• Snacks: Air-popped popcorn, unsalted nuts, ½ avocado, or berries and a banana
• Dinner: Baked chicken breast or baked salmon, green vegetables, whole grains (quinoa, brown bread)
Avoid processed, pre-packaged food and eating out all the time. Stock up on produce, fill your pantry with healthy snacks, and as much as possible, and aim for lots of home-cooked meals. Not only is it good for you, it's also great practice for when you start making delicious and nutritious homemade baby food.
The most important thing: Don’t starve yourself. “If a mom waits too long between meals, there’s a hormonal effect that affects milk supply,” warns Richie. “Her body will start pulling energy from her reserves, which decreases insulin production and affects thyroid hormone levels. That lowers prolactin, which is the hormone that controls how much milk we make.”
Much as we wish there was a magic bean or a secret shortcut when it comes to losing weight, there simply is not. The best thing you can do is eat as many whole foods as possible, cut out processed sugary snacks and drinks, quit procrastinating, and enjoy this special time between you and your newborn.
What do you eat while breastfeeding? Share your tips with us!
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