Congratulations! Becoming a new mother is a special and exciting time. As much as it’s very important that your baby gets the right amount of nutrients needed for good health, growth and development, it’s also vital that you look after yourself during motherhood, which includes eating and drinking well so that you can take great care of your baby.
You don’t need to have a special diet as a new mother, but you should ensure that you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. If you are breastfeeding exclusively, your energy requirements may go up a bit, and there are some key nutrients to which you’ll need to pay special attention, such as calcium.
10 healthy recipes to help new mums achieve a balanced diet
1. Fruit salad
A fruit salad will contribute towards your five-a-day. This can be consumed as a snack in between meals or dessert after your main meal. It’s recommended that all adults should try to aim for at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins and minerals, which are essential for general health. They also are good sources of fibre, which is important for maintaining gut health.
2. Okra with tomato sauce & couscous
This wholesome meal contains okra, a vegetable with a subtle flavour. It is packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre, and enjoying it as part of a meal will increase your vegetable intake. If you don’t like okra, you can substitute it with any vegetable of your choice. Couscous can provide some energy as it’s a starchy carbohydrate, and it contains some B vitamins, iron, calcium and folate. However, couscous does contain gluten, and is therefore not suitable for anyone with a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease. If you’re gluten-free, try some healthy gluten-free alternatives.
3. Healthy spiced rice pudding
Breastfeeding mums need a bit more calcium (1250mg a day) than mums who are not breastfeeding (700mg a day for adults), as it supports milk production. This increase also helps replace any depletion in calcium stores. This comforting rice pudding is a source of calcium, but you can also increase your calcium intake through milk, cheese, yogurt and fromage frais.
4. Stir-fried noodles with vegetables & tofu
If you don’t eat dairy, you can still get calcium from non-dairy food sources. One example is tofu, and this delicious dish combines it with vegetables and noodles. You can add some broccoli, too, as it’s another source of calcium. Other examples of non-dairy calcium sources include brown bread, pulses and dried fruit.
5. One-pot harissa chicken
A healthy and balanced diet includes food sources of protein such as chicken. Protein is essential for the growth and repair of the body and maintenance of good health. But, breast milk supplies the protein a baby needs for growth, too. This tasty chicken casserole is packed with protein as well as vegetables, and is low in fat. If you don’t eat or like chicken, you can replace it with beans or lentils.
6. Salmon club sandwich
You should include some fish in your diet for both your and your baby’s health, as it’s a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals.
This quick and easy salmon sandwich recipe is great if you’re always on the go and don’t have much time to cook. As an oily fish, salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to your baby’s normal development. However, if you’re breastfeeding, you should have no more than two portions of oily fish a week (one portion is around 140g). This includes fresh mackerel, sardines and trout.
Though not classified as oily fish, adults should also eat no more than one portion per week of shark, swordfish or marlin, regardless of whether you’re breastfeeding or not. This is because these fish may contain more mercury than other types of fish.
7. Oat & chia porridge
This is a good breakfast idea that requires only a small amount of preparation, and is very easy to cook. It is packed with healthy ingredients such as flaxseed, which is a good plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. You can also add pumpkin seeds or nuts, which are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Porridge, with its slow-releasing complex carbohydrates, helps sustain energy levels through the morning and will help keep you fuller for longer.
8. Wholemeal flatbreads
This is a great snack idea that can be eaten alongside a nice hummus dip. If you find yourself feeling a bit hungry, these flatbreads will help you feel satisfied and give you some energy, thanks to the wholemeal carbohydrates. Breastfeeding mums require an extra 500 calories a day, so healthy, small snacks like this will help you meet this extra demand.
9. Fruit scones
If you prefer a sweet snack as opposed to a savoury one, these tasty scones are ideal. Have one on its own without jam and clotted cream to increase your calorie intake without upping the amount of sugar you’re eating. It’ll still taste delicious!
10. Fruit-infused water
This is a creative way to encourage kids to drink more water, but adults can also try this to increase their fluid intake. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Mums who are breastfeeding should drink around 10-12 glasses a day, compared to the normally recommended eight glasses for adults. Always have a drink beside you when you are breastfeeding. Water is a good choice, and a glass of fruit-infused water is good if you don’t enjoy plain water. You can also increase your fluid intake by having skimmed, semi-skimmed or plant-based milk. Decaffeinated tea and coffee, 100 per cent fruit juice (but no more than one 150ml glass per day) also count towards fluid intake.
A healthy, varied diet should provide all the vitamins and minerals you and your baby need for breastfeeding. However, it can sometimes be difficult to get enough vitamin D (which helps with the absorption of calcium to keep your bones healthy), especially during the winter months. All breastfeeding mothers should be advised to take a daily supplement of 10mg vitamin D each day.
Small amounts of what you’re eating and drinking can pass to your baby through your breast milk. If you think your diet is affecting your baby and they’re unsettled, please speak to your doctor, health visitor or dietitian for tailored advice. If you need more advice regarding your diet to ensure you are getting the right nutrients, speak to your dietician.
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This article was published on 23 February 2021.
Tai Ibitoye is a registered dietitian and a doctoral researcher in food & nutritional sciences. Tai has experience working in different sectors such as in the NHS, public health, non-government organisations and academia.
All health content on terms and conditions for more information.is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website