Becoming a mother changes everything: our sleep, bodies, work schedule and relationship with our spouse. It also changes our eating habits. Meals that were once quiet and carefully planned often give way to eating on the run—and poorly.
What moms eat and how they feel directly correspond, according to a new survey conducted by the Produce for Better Health Foundation. When they experience positive emotions like happiness or contentment, a full 70 percent say they are most likely to eat healthy foods like fruits or vegetables. On the other hand, when they are feeling negative emotions like sadness or stress, almost half of moms say they are most likely to eat sweets and almost a quarter turn to salty snack foods and heavy foods like cheeseburgers. The same goes for their state of mind after eating. Almost half feel guilty after eating too many sweets or salty snack foods, while more than half feel good about themselves after consuming a generous portion of fruits and vegetables.
Sound familiar? Try to nurture yourself by eating well so you have more energy and the ability to get through your day.
A new baby
Adjusting to a frequently nursing or bottle feeding infant while also trying to cope with sleep deprivation can challenge anyone. Instead of resorting to survival-by-caffeine, start off your day with a breakfast that provides both protein and a complex carb, such as a slice of whole wheat toast topped with a scrambled egg. And take the time to eat a nourishing lunch that includes some cut up veggies and a piece of fruit.
Succumbing to bad habits
Some moms eat mindlessly one bite at a time, such as frequent tasting while cooking, nibbling samples at the grocery store and polishing off leftovers during meal clean up. In their minds, these bites don’t "count" because they weren’t eaten with a fork, served in a dish or at the table. Yet, the calories in foods eaten standing up can and do add up to hundreds of extra calories. Kick the habit by logging every morsel into a notebook to identify patterns—and where you can cut.
Late afternoon trouble time
Eat enough food during the day to keep blood sugar steady. When that dips, we tend to crave sweets and other comfort foods. Registered dietitian Debi Silber, a mother of four and author of The Lifestyle Fitness Program: A Six Part Plan So Every Mom Can Look, Feel and Live Her Best, offers these tips for dealing with the late afternoon munchies:
• Have cut up vegetables on hand to munch on or something to drink (a hot drink takes longer).
• Make a smoothie using fruit, milk, ice and instant breakfast powder.
• Put tooth whitening strips on—you can’t eat for 30 minutes.
• Chew gum or brush your teeth—you may not want to ruin that minty taste.
• Wear rubber kitchen gloves.
• Put on a coat of nail polish or creamy scented lotion so you can’t use your hands.
A woman’s nutritional status before and during pregnancy can actually "program" a baby for future health problems. Dietitian Bridget Swinney, a mother of two and author of the book, Eating Expectantly, says if a woman "starts out her pregnancy overweight or gains excess weight during pregnancy, this increases her baby’s chances of being overweight and having problems with glucose intolerance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, collectively known as metabolic syndrome." Ironically, she points out that "a baby born small for his age, more common in women who start their pregnancy underweight, are at risk for the same problems." So if you’re planning on another child, try to achieve a normal weight beforehand.
Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with nourishing items and eat only when you are truly hungry. Taking care of your nutritional needs will result in a healthier, more confident mom who’s better able to feed and nurture her child.
Avocado Garden Salad
6 cups mixed salad greens
3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
5 green onions, chopped
1 small cucumber, partially peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoon lemon juice, divided
1/3 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large ripe California avocado, peeled
Thoroughly mix bite-sized salad greens, tomatoes, onions, and cucumber in a large serving bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, garlic powder, black pepper and salt. Peel and cut avocado in half. Remove pit and slice into thin wedges, about 1/8-inch thick. Arrange slices on top of salad like a starburst. Brush with remaining lemon juice and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Nutrient content per serving: 81 calories, 3 grams protein, 10 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 0.7 grams saturated fat, 5 grams dietary fiber, 216 milligrams sodium. Recipe courtesy of Produce for Better Health Foundation, www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org
Dear Good Sense Eating
I’m experiencing fertility problems after conceiving my first baby easily. Can my eating habits be sabotaging my efforts?
Jessica L., Chicago
Possibly. Researchers from Harvard University reported that certain patterns can increase the chances of ovulatory infertility. Foods with a high glycemic load, especially regular soda and foods with trans fats, like bakery goods, French fries and doughnuts, are the culprits (and not healthy for you in any case).
Christine M. Palumbo is a registered dietitian practicing in Naperville. Send your column ideas and questions to info@ChristinePalumbo.com.