Diet? ‘New’ – trition for New Mums…

Eating and exercise BOTH need attention in our quest to be fit and healthy – as we all Screen-shot-2013-10-29-at-15.06.14know very well. Laura Clark is a registered dietitian specialising in nutrition and women’s health including weight management. She combines her nutrition consultancy with part time work in the NHS, and actively embracing motherhood.

Laura’s recommended approach to eating is very effective, and best of all it’s really do-able. She believes that you’ll take care of yourself better with a practical, realistic attitude.

Q: As a new mum yourself, what advice would you give to mums who are keen to get back to their pre baby weight?

Laura: Most importantly, keep it simple!

You constantly need to put your little one first, to think of a hundred things at once, to survive on less sleep – and now is not the time to also be trying to follow a complicated diet that involves any sort of mathematics.

Q: Great, so what simple changes to our diet would really make a difference?

Laura: Here are my top 4 tips that WILL make a difference:

  1. Have breakfast!

    Yes this old chestnut but it really does work ☺

    It has been proven without doubt that people who eat breakfast are leaner than those that don’t. Breakfast time tends to disappear in the foggy haze that is the first few hours of the day with a baby, but it is essential to make grabbing something a priority. If you’ve no time to sit with a bowl of cereal or toast, go for something a little easier to eat whilst multi- tasking – a cereal bar, banana or malt loaf. Breakfast literally breaks the fast and kick starts your metabolism for the day.

  2. Eat 3 meals and 2 nutritious snacks a day

    Have you noticed as a new mum that there’s no such thing as a meal time anymore and that you are tending to graze on food throughout the day? This may also be because you have easy access to the kitchen? Or maybe it gets to 7pm and you realise the last time you ate was morning?

    Grazing might seem like a good idea but in actual fact, you are likely to consume more as unbalanced snacks and ‘a bit of this and that’ will lurch you from one sugar high to the next. Going long periods of time without food isn’t great either – if you’re not hungry for food about every 3-4 hours, it’s a sign your metabolism isn’t working efficiently leaving you more prone to overeating when the sun’s gone down.

  3. Count to 3!

    I know I said it’s best to avoid mathematics when making dietary changes, but hopefully our sleep deprived brains can still manage to count to 3!

    Try to include a food from the 3 most important food groups at each meal – a carbohydrate such as wholegrain bread, pasta, cous cous or rice, a protein such as fish, chicken, eggs or baked beans and some fruit and/or veg. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just balanced for improved well-being and satisfaction! For example, try cream cheese on toast with some cherry tomatoes or hummous with pita bread and carrot sticks. When looking at your plate the 3 food groups should cover equal proportions and to help with portion size, choose a smaller plate!

  4. Notice how many cafes you have been in this week

    Calories we drink often get forgotten. The average milky coffee contains over 200kcals with the ‘skinny versions’ containing over 100kcals. This can soon add up over the course of a week, especially if you have a lot of friends!

Q: I love the common sense of it all! And you’re saying we SHOULD have 2 snacks a day? So snacking is not all bad?

Laura: Excessive unhealthy snacking will of course make you prone to weight-gain, but planned, healthy snacks are essential to keep your nutrition topped up and help to keep your metabolism pumping until your next meal. Good snacks include plain popcorn, fruit, low fat yoghurt or a crumpet with low fat spread.

Q: When is a good time to start dieting? Lots of breast-feeding mums worry about their milk supply for example.

Laura: If you are a very new Mum now is not the time to be restricting your calorie intake too much (can you hear me celebrities?!).

However, it is a myth that you should over-indulge with doughnuts and cakes to boost your milk supply. All Mums need a healthy, nutritious diet to give them essential fuel and nutrients and when breastfeeding additional calories are needed.  However, this additional energy can be achieved through a slightly larger carbohydrate and protein intake at meal times and nutritious snacks such as cheese and biscuits or a milky drink. Medical evidence suggests the most important factor for milk production is in fact hydration. Drink a glass of water every time you feed and whenever you are thirsty in between.

Indulging in high calorie treats might be ok for a while – there must be some perks for new mums surely! But getting into habits where these foods become a significant, ongoing part of your diet will make it much harder to get back on track…. and back into those pre-baby jeans! ☺

I hope you enjoyed my expert nutritional advice just for mums – I provide consultations in Earlsfield or by phone for busy mums, for more check out my website

A physically active recovery from childbirth

Let’s Bust Some Myths…

“You will show you’ve recovered from childbirth by getting thin.”

“Getting back into your pre-pregnancy shape within weeks of giving birth normal.”

“Mums should avoid doing anything active at all for months after giving birth.”

“Unless you eat everything you crave, you’ll reduce your breast-milk supply.”

The good news is that these are all medically proven to be wrong! Please, only listen to advice that helps you stay balanced. We don’t need to be sickly thin, but nor wallow on our sofas either.

Taking a balanced approach to physical activity and exercise for new mums has many benefits. After 9 months of growing a baby and giving birth, your body has done the most amazing thing. Extreme fitness training and obsessive slimming will do nothing to help you recover inside. And the pressure you put on yourself will made you miserable too. At the other end of the scale, sitting around eating muffins and neglecting yourself won’t help either.

As soon as you become a mum, and even while you’re pregnant, you can and should start exercising your pelvic floor and thinking about your posture. Rebecca Bennett is a chartered women’s health physiotherapist. She regularly deals with incontinence (many women leak a little when they sneeze or lift a heavy object), prolapse (where the bladder, uterus or bowel bulges into the vagina), and vaginal trauma from childbirth, and she cannot stress enough how important the pelvic floor exercises are. “First you need to learn to activate your pelvic floor muscles, and then you need to make a habit of exercising them,” says Rebecca.

As well as the physical benefits you’ll gain, you will be making a difference to you wellbeing and self-esteem.  “The links between improved self esteem and physical activity levels have been proven time and time again,” says Baz Moffatt, Personal Trainer and a recently retired World Championship Medallist GB Rower. “New mums are often very self conscious about how they look, exhausted from lack of sleep, and feel like their life is totally out of their control. Exercise is a great way to tackle all three of these issues and it makes new mums feel good about themselves.” Dr. Helen Honey, who regularly treats patients with postnatal depression, agrees, “There is a growing body of research to prove that exercise is beneficial for mental health.” We do not yet understand all the mechanisms involved but we do know that exercise causes the brain to release chemicals that make us feel happier. Having a baby and feeling tired and busy all the time can feel like a great excuse not to exercise, but Helen believes that “a little bit of exercise is essential for physical and mental health”.

Many of us worry we’ll push it too far too soon, and it’s important to take things at our own pace. But Dr. Salim, a GP who has worked for most of her 20 year career with new mums and babies, says: “Many mums wait too long. It is almost always helpful to start doing gentle activity right after birth. Some think (wrongly) that they should do nothing active until 6 weeks. With very few exceptions, mums will get so much out of being physically active immediately. Less depression, better sleep, fewer back problems…”

We need to distinguish between full postnatal exercise and gentle activity. At six weeks Dr. Salim usually touches on proper exercise with her patients. Is the rectus abdominus getting back together? Are there any on-going skeletal or muscular problems from pregnancy? Are scars healing? She considers all these things when advising on actual exercise.

There is no magic deadline though, before which you’re helpless and after which you can do full on exercise! And we are all different. In general, it’s best to build up gradually with walking and core-strengthening exercises. Many new mums also enjoy yoga and swimming to start with, but you should avoid running or sit-ups at first. If in doubt, ask your GP for advice.

Next time you hear any sickly or wallowing advice, take a deep breath and smile. You know you will take care of yourself better with a practical, realistic attitude to exercise and eating. Your baby will benefit from having an active, happy mum.