A healthy diet is not only important during pregnancy, but afterwards too. Time Out Kids talks to Hala Abu Taha, a dietician for Right Bite, on ways to stay healthy and get your body back into shape.
Most women know good nutrition is vital during pregnancy, but it is also important to know that eating healthily after you have a baby is equally important. It is necessary to get all of the required nutrients your body needs, and more, in order to maximise the little energy you may have as a new mother.
While breast milk is not generally affected by any specific type of food, if the body doesn’t get the required amount of nutrients it will start using from its own storage. Eating correctly can combat the exhaustion and mood changes that are associated at the start of motherhood.
Hala Abu Taha, a dietitian for Right Bite, who works closely with pregnant and nursing mothers, explains, ‘The two most common symptoms of being a new mum are fatigue and depression.
‘Luckily, there are a variety of super foods that can help fight these things. Complex carbohydrates increase serotonin levels in the brain, the hormone that controls your mood. The best way to fight fatigue is by incorporating small, frequent snacks that are loaded with complex carbohydrates such as trail mix, oatmeal, yoghurt and high fibre cereals.’
Vitamin B3 has an essential role in energy metabolism; foods such as beef, dried beans, chicken and fish are a good way to get Vitamin B3 in your diet. Zinc is another important mineral that supports different processes in the brain and body. Lack of zinc in your diet can lead to irritability and depression. Foods that are loaded in zinc include eggs, fish, and yogurt.’
Similar to zinc, Vitamin C deficiencies have also been linked with depression.
Hala said that increasing your diet with foods such as peas and raspberries can help battle depression. ‘Adding servings of calcium-rich foods may help ward off depression and anxiety. Your best bets for calcium are yoghurt, cheese, sardines with bones, milk, and salmon with bones, sesame seeds, or calcium-fortified juices. The important thing to remember is that you need to eat!’ This is not the time to follow a strict diet as your body needs enough energy and the right nutrients during this period and so it is necessary to know that it’s not about eating less - it’s about balancing your meals. Another thing to keep in mind is to watch the clock; eat something about every three or four hours to help keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady throughout the day,’ she adds.
Keeping healthy post birth
When asked for advice about healthy weight loss after giving birth, Hala said, ‘Eating healthily is not the only thing that can get you back into shape and help you lose those extra baby pounds. Most women tend to try too hard to do so much too soon and if this happens, you’re likely to find yourself feeling exhausted and discouraged and less likely to continue, and you’ll wind up carrying that baby weight a lot longer. A post-partum mum needs at least 400 extra calories a day if breastfeeding.
‘If she is exclusively breastfeeding, or giving the baby breast milk only, a woman loses an average of 400 - 600 calories, which means that simply breastfeeding can help you lose weight but it is also necessary to make sure your diet is aligned with your new needs.
‘Women aren’t necessarily ready for strenuous exercise until six months after the birth of their child, however once given the green light from their physician, a walk around the block is a great start! Weight training will also go a long way towards speeding up your metabolism. For the first six weeks, using gym equipment that could be harmful is not recommended.’
Right Bite Nutrition Centre The American Surgecenter, 26th Street, Villa 408, Al Rawdah Area, Abu Dhabi. www.right-bite.com (02 443 0909).