Eating and exercise BOTH need attention in our quest to be fit and healthy - as we all know very well. Laura Clark is a registered dietitian specialising in nutrition and women’s health including weight management. She combines her nutrition consultancy with part time work in the NHS, and actively embracing motherhood.
Laura's recommended approach to eating is very effective, and best of all it's really do-able. Like me, Laura believes that you'll take care of yourself better with a practical, realistic attitude.
Q: As a new mum yourself, what advice would you give to mums who are keen to get back to their pre baby weight?
Laura: Most importantly, keep it simple!
You constantly need to put your little one first, to think of a hundred things at once, to survive on less sleep - and now is not the time to also be trying to follow a complicated diet that involves any sort of mathematics.
Q: Great, so what simple changes to our diet would really make a difference?
Laura: Here are my top 4 tips that WILL make a difference.
1) Have breakfast!
Yes this old chestnut but it really does work ☺
It has been proven without doubt that people who eat breakfast are leaner than those that don’t. Breakfast time tends to disappear in the foggy haze that is the first few hours of the day with a baby, but it is essential to make grabbing something a priority. If you’ve no time to sit with a bowl of cereal or toast, go for something a little easier to eat whilst multi- tasking – a cereal bar, banana or malt loaf. Breakfast literally breaks the fast and kick starts your metabolism for the day.
2) Eat 3 meals and 2 nutritious snacks a day
Have you noticed as a new mum that there’s no such thing as a meal time anymore and that you are tending to graze on food throughout the day? This may also be because you have easy access to the kitchen? Or maybe it gets to 7pm and you realise the last time you ate was morning?
Grazing might seem like a good idea but in actual fact, you are likely to consume more as unbalanced snacks and ‘a bit of this and that’ will lurch you from one sugar high to the next. Going long periods of time without food isn’t great either – if you’re not hungry for food about every 3-4 hours, it’s a sign your metabolism isn’t working efficiently leaving you more prone to overeating when the sun’s gone down.
3) Count to 3!
I know I said it’s best to avoid mathematics when making dietary changes, but hopefully our sleep deprived brains can still manage to count to 3!
Try to include a food from the 3 most important food groups at each meal – a carbohydrate such as wholegrain bread, pasta, cous cous or rice, a protein such as fish, chicken, eggs or baked beans and some fruit and/or veg. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just balanced for improved well-being and satisfaction! For example, try cream cheese on toast with some cherry tomatoes or hummous with pita bread and carrot sticks. When looking at your plate the 3 food groups should cover equal proportions and to help with portion size, choose a smaller plate!
4) Notice how many cafes you have been in this week
Calories we drink often get forgotten. The average milky coffee contains over 200kcals with the ‘skinny versions’ containing over 100kcals. This can soon add up over the course of a week, especially if you have a lot of friends!
Q: I love the common sense of it all! And you're saying we SHOULD have 2 snacks a day? So snacking is not all bad?
Laura: Excessive unhealthy snacking will of course make you prone to weight-gain, but planned, healthy snacks are essential to keep your nutrition topped up and help to keep your metabolism pumping until your next meal. Good snacks include plain popcorn, fruit, low fat yoghurt or a crumpet with low fat spread.
Q: When is a good time to start dieting? Lots of breast-feeding mums worry about their milk supply for example.
Laura: If you are a very new Mum now is not the time to be restricting your calorie intake too much (can you hear me celebrities?!).
However, it is a myth that you should over-indulge with doughnuts and cakes to boost your milk supply. All Mums need a healthy, nutritious diet to give them essential fuel and nutrients and when breastfeeding additional calories are needed. However, this additional energy can be achieved through a slightly larger carbohydrate and protein intake at meal times and nutritious snacks such as cheese and biscuits or a milky drink. Medical evidence suggests the most important factor for milk production is in fact hydration. Drink a glass of water every time you feed and whenever you are thirsty in between.
Indulging in high calorie treats might be ok for a while – there must be some perks for new mums surely! But getting into habits where these foods become a significant, ongoing part of your diet will make it much harder to get back on track.... and back into those pre-baby jeans! ☺
I hope you enjoyed my expert nutritional advice just for mums - I provide consultations in Earlsfield or by phone for busy mums, for more check out my website www.lecnutrition.co.uk.