As I sit down to write this article, I’m plagued with what feels like the most insufferable cold known to man. Head throbbing, nose running like a tap, and voice hovering somewhere between Cookie Monster (according to my son), and sexy (according to my husband, whose remark – while appreciated – is also resented as I’m certain I can feel my post-labour stitches tearing a little with each sneeze)...
While I am generally a proponent of blaming every illness that comes our way on day care, in this case, I need to take full responsibility. As a mother of a three-year-old and a 5-week-old, I’m the one who has dropped the ball. Whether it’s lunches that consist purely of my son’s neglected sandwich crusts, copious amounts of caffeine, or a haphazard commitment to the occasional vitamin C – it’s no surprise that my immune system has thrown in the towel.
And so it was somewhat of a selfish endeavour that I reached out to top Sydney naturopath Emma Sutherland (of Studio You), to find out her top wellness hacks for new mothers. Emma has shared her tips on how we can easily optimise our diets for maximum wellness and vitality. Read on for Emma’s tips to stay in top health when you’re too busy keeping the small humans in your life alive.
What are some of the most common health issues facing new mothers?
Adrenal depletion – which is when the demands on our body exceed our reserves. Motherhood is incredibly demanding on our body, and from a nutritional angle, it is quite easy to become depleted. Nutritional deficiencies are also very common with iron, iodine, zinc and magnesium at the top of the list. It’s usual for new mums to feel tired, but often having an underlying nutritional deficiency can compound it.
What is one thing a mother might not know about their health?
Surprisingly, breastfeeding is more nutrient-demanding than pregnancy! Pregnant women tend to prioritise a healthy diet, but once their baby is born, life becomes a series of tea and toast moments.
You’ve got that right... how can we fix it?
We need to recover from birth, optimise breast milk production and get through broken nights of sleep, day after day. And that requires a nutrient dense diet on a regular basis. Ask friends to drop over meals, do batch cooking and keep quick snacks (such as bananas and nuts) on hand.
If we want to up it a bit, what are three must-have nutrients?
- Iron – in the form of pate, spinach and sulphate-free dried apricots.
- Fish oils – in a capsule form, as they not only help support neuronal development in the baby, but they also help promote a healthy mood in mum.
- Zinc – which can be found in high concentrations in seeds, especially sesame seeds. That means tahini is your news best friend!
What’s the best way for a mother to try to make some healthy changes to her diet?
Always remember that small changes add up and make a difference. Whether it’s an extra glass of water each morning or making sure you don’t skip lunch. Aim to eat a wide variety of foods to obtain as many nutrients as possible through your diet. Foods rich in vitamin D (milk, fish, shellfish, eggs, yoghurt), folic acid (beans, vegetables, fruits, berries, lentils) and omega 3 fatty acids (oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and avocado, nuts and seeds) are a must.
Any tips to get us started?
- Banana on waking – full of complex carbohydrates.
- Avocado on sourdough toast – good fats and the perfect snack.
- Raw nuts and seeds in a jar next to your feeding chair.
- Apple slices with nut butter.
- Lots of water (and ditch the caffeine).
- Make some vegetable and fetta mini frittatas.
If we want to pack in a good nutritional punch, what superfoods should we reach for?
- Turmeric – one of the most recently discovered fertility superfoods, turmeric is receiving a lot of attention due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The active compound is curcumin, which gives turmeric its bright yellow colour. Use fresh turmeric and grate it into stir fries, omelettes or curries.
- Red capsicum – they are rich in vitamin C and 1 cup contains 117mg of the immune-boosting nutrient. They make the perfect snack when combined with hummus or guacamole. Remember that as vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient, it is best eaten raw.
- Pumpkin seeds – the “on the run” fertility superfood, which is a great source of zinc, the mood-boosting amino acid tryptophan and healthy monounsaturated fats. 30 grams of pumpkin seeds will give you 40% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium too.
- Sesame seeds – your highest source of zinc and calcium.
- Chia seeds – a native to South America, chia seeds are a wonderful source of protein and are also high in fibre. A perfect choice to stabilise blood sugar levels when you are sleep deprived with a newborn! I add a teaspoon of chia seeds to my cereal, porridge or smoothie and they also make a great snack when combined with yoghurt.
- Quinoa – a superfood of the South American Incas for over 5,000 years, quinoa is a relative of spinach. It is considered a grain by many and being a complete protein, it contains all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa contains a plethora of nutrients that boost vitality and support healthy DNA. Use quinoa instead of couscous or rice.
If we’re ready to feel fabulous, is now a good time to go paleo? Or quit sugar? Or cut carbs?
No. Don’t take out major food groups unless you are allergic or intolerant to them. A restrictive diet is never beneficial for a new mum. Simply focus on eating fresh, clean foods that are unprocessed. Be gentle on yourself and focus on replenishing your body from the demands of pregnancy and motherhood
I love a goal. What can I tick the box on from a health perspective?
Here are five good health goals for a new mother:
- Aim for five different coloured vegetables at every dinner.
- Juice – aim for 75% vegetable and 25% fruit, with a nutrient driver like ginger, lemon or parsley.
- Salads – raw, fresh salads contain a mountain of goodness. Always add fresh herbs at the end.
- Swap caffeine for herbal tea (rosehip is high in vitamin C, while liquorice root will tonify your adrenals and reduce stress).
- Smoothies – start with a base of coconut water or almond milk, add natural yoghurt, chia seeds, frozen berries and finish it off with your favourite superfood, such as acai.
Finally, let’s talk breakfast. What’s the ultimate way to begin our day – starting tomorrow?
Either of the following two options are perfect for a nutrient-filled breakfast:
- 1 cup oat porridge, 1 tsp. chia seeds, banana, 1 tsp. flaxseeds, drizzle of honey and almond milk.
- Stewed apple, pear & prunes with cinnamon and ½ cup natural yoghurt and 2 tsp. chia seeds.
With that, I’m off to the supermarket to do some damage. Oh, who am I kidding? Online grocery store, I’m coming for you.