Advice for new mums who find themselves with changed eating habits.
Life's pretty busy when you have babies and young children. This can mean you fall into new eating habits without even realising, which can lead to unwanted weight gain. If this sounds like you, you're not alone. Here are some common traps, and some easy solutions.
1. Breastfeeding and weight loss
Whatever you may have been told, breastfeeding is not a miracle cure for the weight you have gained with pregnancy. It's natural to feel hungry while you're breastfeeding and it can be tempting to choose 'treat' foods. To keep your energy up without encouraging weight gain, choose fruit, grain-based crackers and cheese, yoghurt, bran muffins, smoothies, or make 1/2 a sandwich with whole grain bread.
2. 'Eating for two'
While you need more food when breastfeeding, as breastfeeding demands change your appetite will change, too. When your appetite returns to normal, make sure you make adjustments to your serving sizes, or cut down on how often you eat. Tune in to your hunger and think about how you used to eat before your baby came along, and aim for that.
3. Bolting down your meals
Eating quickly is a trap for new mums. Babies typically need you just when you sit down to eat, so you learn to eat quickly. Although it is difficult, try to eat slowly so that you can recognise when you have had enough to eat. Try putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, or don't place your next serving on your fork until you have finished what you are already eating.
4. See food – eat food!
Being at home with the children means you suddenly have access to food all day long. Do you open the pantry or fridge to get something, spot a tasty morsel and devour it without thinking? Take the time to pause and think: are you hungry or are you just eating it because it's there? Here are some healthy snack ideas for when you feel like 'picking':
- Low-fat crackers such as ryvita, rice crackers or crispbreads; keep some tasty chutney in the fridge to add interest.
- Have a jar of mixed dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
- Keep the fruit bowl well supplied and add a different flavour by dipping chopped fruit in yoghurt.
- Make a tasty, crunchy snack from pita pockets that have been lightly brushed with oil, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and slowly baked in the oven; store in an airtight container.
- Pretzels are a low-fat alternative to chips.
- Commercial biscuits with fruit fillings are a better alternative to other sweeter biscuits.
5. Picking and sampling
It's easy to pick at food left on the children's plates. Then there's the game of 'one for me and one for you' to encourage them to eat. The trouble is, over a week or month these little bits of food do add up. Little nibbles will not satisfy your appetite so you'll probably find you continue eating the same amount of food at your main meals. To get out of this habit, try to avoid leftovers. It can be really hard to judge how much your child will eat and often we put more on the plate than they need as it just doesn't look enough. Try to think of serving sizes based on the palm or the fist of your child's hand. Avoid getting caught in the trap of playing food games. They can can start off being a great joke and distraction technique and for a few nights you can feel like you are winning. Unfortunately you will generally tire of the game more quickly than your child. Stopping the fun can just set you off in the search of a new distraction technique. One lesson I have learnt is that children eat so much better if they are fed early before they get too tired.
6. Coffee groups
Coffee groups are a great way to keep in touch with other parents. But as the name suggests, they are bound to involve coffee and food. If you only meet once a month, treats may not be a concern. But if you are a coffee group addict, take care with your choices. Try taking your own healthy snack like fruit, yoghurt, crackers, vegetable sticks, nuts and raisins, bran muffins, or take a sandwich and have an early lunch. Usually, everyone is too busy looking after their own children or having a good chat to notice if you are eating your own snack or choosing not to eat at all.
7. Regular morning or afternoon tea
Did you regularly eat morning or afternoon tea before you had children? When you give your child a snack in between meals, do you now have something, too? Snack times can be a good time to sit down and spend quiet time with your child, and it's a good opportunity to catch up on the school day. But you don't have to eat if you are not hungry. Listen to your body, and at snack times have a drink, but try not to have a snack if you are not hungry.
Another reason for weight gain once you have had children could be due to the change in your exercise routine. It can be difficult to find a time of day when you have the energy and the time to get out for your workout. Walking is a good option (especially at the age when the child will stay in the pram without getting out). Another option to consider is taking turns at babysitting duties during the day with friends – this way you all get a chance to have time out and get some exercise in.