Post Pregnancy Diet: 20 Must-have Foods For New Moms

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A post-pregnancy diet is as important as your pregnancy meals. The nutrients that you consume are what your baby gets through your breast milk. Therefore, the food that you eat during the postpartum period should not only help you lose the extra weight but also provide the right nutrients to help you regain your strength and energy.

Thus, knowing the right foods to eat during this period is crucial for your health and your baby’s health. Read on as we have compiled a list of foods to help you during this crucial phase.

What To Eat After Delivery?

Your body undergoes tremendous physical and hormonal changes post-delivery. As you breastfeed, your body requires an additional 300 calories every day, just like during pregnancy (1).

Below is the list of the right foods new mothers should eat. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, iron, calcium, and omega-3s. They will help your body system recover from childbirth (2).

1. Low-fat dairy products:

Dairy products, whether milk, cheese or yogurt, form an important part of the diet during breastfeeding. They are an excellent source of calcium, protein, and B vitamins. Your baby absorbs calcium from the breastmilk for bone development (3). Therefore, have calcium-rich foods to replace the lost calcium in your body. Include three cups of dairy every day in your diet.

2. Lean meat:

Lean red meats is low in saturated fat and can offer vital nutrients, such as high-quality protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, that can help boost your overall health (4). Lean meat is useful for you to make up for the draining energy levels while breastfeeding.

3. Pulses:

Pulses (dals) are a primary element in a well-balanced vegetarian diet. They are good sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can have green and red grams by boiling and seasoning them, so that they are easily digestible and tasty to eat. Pulses also prevent fat from accumulating in the body.

4. Legumes:

Dark-colored legumes such as kidney beans and black beans are a high source of non-animal protein. They help in replenishing energy during breastfeeding and are perfect for vegetarians and vegan mothers.

5. Green vegetables:

Image: Shutterstock

They are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Green veggies are also low in calories and rich in heart-healthy antioxidants, which help in losing post-pregnancy weight. Leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, and Swiss chard contain abundant amounts of vitamin A that are good for you and your baby. Eat more of these leafy greens, beans, pointed gourd (parwal), apple gourd (tinda), lotus stem, and other such seasonal veggies.

6. Brown rice:

You may be thinking of cutting down the carbs to lose weight. But drastic changes in your weight can affect your milk production and make you feel sluggish. Choose whole grains such as brown rice to boost your energy levels. They provide you and your little one with calories.

Point to consider
Rice may contain traces of arsenic (more in brown rice), which is harmful to health. However, rinsing raw rice thoroughly in water, cooking in a 6:1 (water and rice) ratio, and draining excess water can reduce arsenic content (13).

7. Blueberries:

A great choice to meet your daily nutrient requirements post-pregnancy, blueberries are filled with the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. Moreover, they offer healthy carbs which raise your energy levels.

8. Citrus fruits:

Citrus fruits such as oranges provide you with vitamin C, which you need in abundance when breastfeeding. You can have either the fruit or the juice. Calcium-fortified drinks could also benefit you.

9. Salmon:

It is said to be a nutritional powerhouse for new mothers. Like any other fatty fish, salmon contains DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a type of fat, which is useful for your baby’s nervous system development. Although breast milk contains DHA naturally, the levels of this fat are higher in the milk of mothers who have DHA-rich foods.

DHA also elevates your mood and plays a prominent role in warding off postpartum depression.

Note: According to the US FDA guidelines, you can eat only an average of 12 ounces, i.e., two servings of salmon per week, to avoid mercury exposure to your baby (5).

Caution
Smoked salmon (especially cold smoked) may not be suitable for lactating moms as it may be contaminated with bacteria (listeria) and causes infections (14).

10. Whole wheat bread:

Image: iStock

Folic acid is vital for fetal development in the early stages of pregnancy (6). Babies get this essential nutrient from breast milk. Fortified whole-grain bread and pasta are good options to increase your daily dose of iron and fiber, including folic acid.

11. Whole-grain cereal:

When you have a sleepless night, whole grain cereals make the best breakfast option for the next morning. Most of the cold cereals available are fortified with vitamins and minerals, which help in meeting your everyday requirements.

Oats are an excellent source of calcium, iron, proteins, and carbs. They are also high in fiber, which helps relieve constipation (7).  You can make a simple recipe of oatmeal with fruits, milk, and nuts. Other alternatives include khichdi or oats upma.

12. Eggs:

They are a rich source of protein. You may have egg scramble for breakfast, hardboiled egg along with a salad for lunch, or an omelet for dinner. Choose DHA-fortified eggs to improve the essential fatty acid levels in your milk.

13. Water:

You are at risk of dehydration when breastfeeding. Therefore, you need to hydrate yourself to keep up your milk production and energy levels. Juice and milk may help, but none of the fluids can be as filling and hydrating as water. Take as much water as you can. Cut down the caffeinated drinks as they can cause sleep problems and irritability in the baby.

14. Turmeric:

Turmeric contains essential vitamins and minerals including vitamins B6 and C, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and fiber. Turmeric aids in treating inflammation and therefore, helps heal post-pregnancy wounds and stomach disorders (8). You may consume it by adding half a teaspoon to one full glass of warm milk, preferably before bedtime.

15. Dry ginger powder:

Image: Shutterstock

This is another common ingredient you should include in your post-pregnancy diet as it contains vitamins B6 and E, magnesium, iron, potassium, manganese, and selenium. It is known for its anti-inflammatory uses (9). You can add a pinch of it to your meals. and chutneys.

16. Carom seeds:

Carom seeds are known to stimulate milk production and aid in the contraction of the uterus. They also relieve pain from indigestion and gas. They have antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, and antiseptic properties. You can toss a few carom seeds in your food as a seasoning or drink water boiled with carom seeds.

17. Finger millets:

This is an excellent source of iron and calcium. It will help you renew the strength you lost during childbirth. If you are allergic to dairy products, this can be the best alternative. You can make ragi malt, roti, idli, dosa, and halwa from it.

18. Almonds:

It is another ideal food to include in your post-pregnancy diet. The rich carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins B12, E, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, calcium, and potassium present in these nuts help you recover from delivery. You can add them to milk, or any foods that you eat. They are a great munching snack too.

19. Fenugreek seeds:

Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of calcium, iron, vitamins, and minerals. They are known to relieve your joint and back pains though little evidence is found in its support. You can add a few seeds in the daily dishes that you make, or dry fry and powder them, and mix in your food. , roti, vegetables, and meats. You can also consider taking fenugreek tea, a favorite drink for nursing mothers.

20. Sesame seeds:

Image: iStock

The abundant iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus levels in sesame seeds make them suitable for a post-pregnancy diet. They help in replenishing your body system with essential minerals and regulating bowel movements. They can be added to chutneys, curries, and sweets.

Quick fact
The requirement for iodine and choline increases during lactation. Iodine can be obtained through dairy products, eggs, seafood, or in iodized table salt. Choline can be found in dairy products, eggs, meats, some seafood, beans, peas, and lentils (12).

These are the superfoods that you can add to your post-pregnancy diet. For a customized diet plan, you may consult a doctor or a dietitian.

However, before you include any food in your diet, you need to consider your health requirements and those of your baby too. Tweak your plan in consultation with your dietitian to meet your specific needs.

What Not To Eat After Delivery?

Most foods are safe for new breastfeeding mothers. But remember, whatever you eat, you pass on to your baby through breast milk. That and your gut instinct will tell you what not to eat after delivery. Here are some major no-no foods that you need to steer clear of when planning the after-pregnancy diet plan (9).

1. Spicy foods:

Spicy foods quickly pass on to your baby and affect her intestines and blood flow. The baby’s digestive tract and spicy food can make her irritated and fussy. So, avoid spicy foods for about six months post-delivery (10).

2. Oily food:

Oily foods can pile up fat in your body, making it difficult for you to regain your original shape. Do not eat sweets, butter, or other fatty foods. Rather, choose healthy fats such as walnuts, soybeans, flax seeds (omega-3 fatty acids), vegetable oils and seeds (omega-6 fatty acids), olive, peanut, and canola oils (monosaturated fats).

3. Gas-producing foods:

Steer clear of foods that produce gas, belching, and acidity as they will affect your baby too. Also avoid soft cheese, oats, beans, ice cream and carbonated drinks.

4. Avoid foods causing allergies:

Newborns are vulnerable to allergies or irritants that come with breast milk. If you find your little one experiencing them, you may have to stop the food that you ate lately. Check with your healthcare provider.

Follow the diet or a food journal suggested by the doctor. It will include what you should eat, when, and the time of breastfeeding. You will also find a column to note any reactions or fussiness your baby might have suffered post-feeding.

5. Eliminate CAN:

Image: Shutterstock

Limit Caffeine to two cups a day, and eliminate Alcohol, and Nicotine entirely from your diet (11). If you think that your pregnancy is done, think again. As long as you breastfeed, your baby is still part of your body. CAN will lead to dehydration, diarrhea, and colic in the baby.

6. Medications:

Do not take any medications without consulting your healthcare provider or the baby’s pediatrician. The medications and its compounds will pass to your baby through breast milk. Even if you want to start a new multi-vitamin or antacid, ask your doctor to prescribe a breastfeeding-friendly one (12).

This list of what to include and what not to include in your diet applies for at least three months after delivery.

Healthy Eating Habits Post Pregnancy

When you focus on healthy eating over the long term, it will not only help you in weight loss but also keep your body healthy. Here are the five eating habits that can make a great difference in your progress:

  • Eat whenever you are hungry
  • Eat moderate amounts and slowly
  • Eat healthy fats
  • Include protein in every meal
  • Include fruits and vegetables in every meal

Although all these dos and don’ts seem pretty overwhelming, keep in mind that they are in the best interests of your body, and most importantly, your baby’s health. At this stage, a healthy and happy mum means a healthy and happy baby! Your body needs to return to its normal, healthy state because mommyhood takes a huge toll on physical and emotional health. Along with healthy eating, a daily exercise routine is important to return to a pre-pregnancy state.

After Pregnancy Diet Plan

Here is a sample diet plan for a week that gives you an idea of how you can include superfoods in your diet.

Breakfast Snack Lunch Snack Dinner
Sunday Sliced fruit, sandwich Wholegrain crackers with peanut butter Wrap sandwich with vegetarian/ non- veg protein source Veggies and hummus Shredded chicken salad
Monday Cereal with skimmed milk, fruit Trail mix Veggie pasta Graham crackers with peanut butter Shrimp salad and parfait
Tuesday Banana sandwich with peanut butter Apple and string cheese Shredded chicken salad Veggies and hummus Rice and vegetables
Wednesday Cereal with skim milk and fruit Fruit smoothie Wrap sandwich Trail mix Frozen entrees
Thursday Toast, hard-boiled egg, and grapefruit Apple, string cheese Vegetable pasta Fruit smoothie Shredded chicken salad
Friday Cereal with skimmed milk, fruit Trail mix Bread with soup and fruit cup Graham crackers with peanut butter Wrap sandwich
Saturday Banana sandwich with peanut butter Fruit smoothie Frozen entrees Veggies and hummus Rice and vegetables

Given below are some sample foods you may include in your every day diet menu –

For breakfast:

  • A glass full of water, first thing in the morning
  • Omelette along with one slice of whole grain toast (or)
  • Flaxseed porridge with unsweetened rice, one tablespoon of flax seed oil, half teaspoon of cinnamon, and coconut milk (or)
  • Berry smoothie made of natural yogurt, handful of berries, and two tablespoons of nuts and seeds

For lunch: 

  • Large garden salad with grilled chicken (or)
  • Lentil quinoa salad along with spinach, tomatoes, and some herbs (or)
  • Baked sweet potato along with cottage cheese, colorful vegetables, and two to three tablespoon butter

For dinner: 

  • Brown rice served with stir-fry beef (or)
  • Steamed salmon, mashed sweet potato with sauteed green leafy veggies (or)
  • Tuscan bean soup along with brown pasta, cannellini beans, onions, tomatoes, vegetable stock, and seasoning

As snacks: 

  • Two oatcakes and hummus (or)
  • Fruit salad topped with seeds and nuts like almonds (or)
  • Natural yogurt topped with sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or)
  • Banana along with nuts

So, eat well while you breastfeed to gain enough strength for the next phases of motherhood challenges. Above all, having any more doubts about the post-pregnancy diet plan, trust your instincts and keep your doctor in the circle of trust.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you eat desi ghee after C-section?

Desi ghee is one such traditionally advised food by elders, irrespective of whether you have a vaginal or C-section delivery. It offers strength and is rich in calcium. However, you should take it in moderation as eating too much would add to your weight.

What are the benefits of eating panjiri after delivery?

Panjiri is a traditional Indian staple from Punjab, consumed as a nutritional supplement. It is also known for its healing properties for new mothers and is made of whole wheat flour, sugar, ghee, dried fruits, and herbal gums. When you eat it right after delivery, it can help you regain strength as it provides you with all the essential nutrients required to breastfeed.

It is also known to stimulate breast milk flow, regain uterus shape, improve immunity, and keep the body warm. However, there are no studies to confirm the goodness of this food.

Now that your baby is born, you can resume eating some of the foods you avoided during your pregnancy. However, incorporate all nutrient-rich foods in your post-pregnancy diet while nursing and in the postpartum recovery phase. Eat a healthy diet, including legumes, pulses, green vegetables, and citrus fruits, and do not forget to drink plenty of water. Moreover, you should continue avoiding certain foods, such as spicy and oily foods, caffeine, and foods that you know may cause you allergies. You may speak to a dietician who can design a pregnancy diet plan in case of doubts.

Infographic: Healthy Eating Habits To Follow After Childbirth

New mothers must pay attention to their food after delivery to return to their pre-pregnancy weight and speed up the healing process. Additionally, healthy eating helps digest the nutrients required for nursing. So, check out the infographic below to explore healthy eating habits you should consider following.

eating advice for post pregnancy diet [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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  2. Nutrition and Exercise.
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/ob-gyn/obstetrics/after-delivery/nutrition-exercise.aspx
  3. Calcium.
    https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/calcium.html
  4. Updating Advice on Eating Seafood.
    https://nsgl.gso.uri.edu/flsgp/flsgpg13004.pdf?web=1&wdLOR=c3A4F7B6C-08EB-4603-A201-EA65C26DBAA4
  5. Folic Acid for a Healthy Baby.
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  6. Oats.
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  7. G Mahmudi et. al.; (2015); The Impact of Turmeric Cream on Healing of Caesarean Scar.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4909076/
  8. A. Sangwan et. al.; (2014); Nutritional composition of ginger powder prepared using various drying methods.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4152547/
  9. Goun Jeong et. al.; (2017); Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5383635/
  10. Diet for Breastfeeding Mothers.
    https://www.chop.edu/pages/diet-breastfeeding-mothers
  11. INFANT NUTRITION.
    https://health.mo.gov/living/families/wic/pdf/4-0InfantFeeding.pdf
  12. Maternal Diet.
    https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html
  13. How much arsenic is in your rice?
    https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm
  14. Vicdalia Aniela Acciari et al.; (2017); Listeria monocytogenes in Smoked Salmon and Other Smoked Fish at Retail in Italy: Frequency of Contamination and Strain Characterization in Products from Different Manufacturers.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28221976/
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