Breastfeeding Nutrition: What's on Mom's Plate?
We know that whatever mom eats will be transformed into energy (protein, fat, carbohydrate) and immunoglobulins (the chemicals that support the immune system to fight infection) in breastmilk. That’s pretty clear. What isn’t clear? The kinds of foods that create the best breastmilk for baby!
As a nutritionist, I get asked about this all the time. So I’ve written down my top tips...from reading nutrition labels to building a healthy plate. Because hey, breastfeeding makes us hungry. And momma’s gotta eat.
Step one? Always look at the back of the box!
Breastfeeding moms should eat foods with as few ingredients as possible (my rule of thumb is if you can’t read it, don’t eat it). Keep these 3 handy nutrition label tips in mind next time you grocery shop:
Choose foods with 6 grams or less per a serving
Choose foods with 3 grams or more (no more than about 8) per serving if it’s grain-based
Choose foods that have a sodium level that is less than double the calorie level. For example: If a product has 100 calories, ideally the sodium level is 200 mg or less. Low sodium is not needed unless there was pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.
Next, try to balance your plate with each meal:
- ½ full of non-starchy colored vegetables – cauliflower counts!
- ¼ protein – about 3-4 ounces of flesh protein (ideally organic, but at least hormone-antibiotic free). If vegetarian, have about 20 grams protein from tbeans, organic tofu, or veggie burgers (not made from soy protein isolate).
- ¼ starch – whole grains such as quinoa, millet, or root vegetables such as potatoes or winter squash
- 1-3 tsp fat – grass fed butter, ghee, olive and avocado or grapeseed oils
Snack, snack, snack.
Snacks are so important while breastfeeding because you and baby are using a lot of energy for growth! I love these protein and carb-fueled options:
- Apple and almond butter
- Cottage cheese with sliced banana
- Organic, seeded crackers with black bean dip
- Kind Nut Bars (look for ones with lower sugar))
What does a day’s menu for a breastfeeding mom look like?
2 eggs, an Ezekiel English muffin with a pat of butter, ¼ avocado, a handful of grape tomatoes, and green tea
Baked apple with almond butter and cinnamon
½ package of organic turkey breast diced over salad (or into a bowl of Amy’s Vegetable Soup) with simple oil + vinegar dressing, olives, and 1-2 servings of organic crackers
Grass fed plain yogurt (or Kite Hill plain almond Greek yogurt) with ½ cup Cheerios or Puffins cereal and crushed walnuts
4 ounces of organic, grass fed and finished steak (or 1 cup black beans), a medium baked sweet potato with a pat of butter, and oven-roasted green beans in oil
Ask away, mommas.
Here are the most common questions I get as a nutritionist from moms:
Why am I so thirsty?
Fluids make up most of your breastmilk, so do not forget to hydrate! Drink fluids mostly in between meals and about ½ cup with meals. This preserves your digestive enzymes for the meal and prevents excessive bloating.
What’s the deal with fruits?
While fruit is healthy, remember it is very sugary (with about 15 grams in a 4 ounce serving). Limit fruits to 1-3 servings per day depending on your tolerance for sugar. Fructose (the sugar in fruits) can be challenging for some.
What happens when the fructose intake is high or metabolism is impaired?
Inflammation! It leads to many of the chronic diseases we face as a country. Not to mention, inflammation can increase the risk for dangerous reactions to COVID-19. Read more about inflammation here: Research at the Stony Brook University Cancer Center .
I know this is a lot to put on your plate (pun intended). But really, the key to a happy and healthy baby + mom is balance. Please reach out to me with any questions that you may have!
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