Energy Foods for the New Mom
It's important that the foods you eat provide your body with ample energy and stamina to spare—you'll need it as a new mom! Does your current diet need an energy boost? These power foods will make powering through your very busy day a breeze.
If it’s stamina you seek, ditch the instant oatmeal and start your day with a steaming bowl of steel-cut oats instead. Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source—and steel-cut oats have lots of them. But because the oats’ fibrous outer hull has been left intact, it takes longer for the body to breakdown the carbohydrates in steel-cut oats, giving you a steady stream of energy, rather than the crash and burn cycle processed grains typically provide. Sustained energy levels provide for enhanced brain clarity (combat Mommy brain!) and stable blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber in oats has also been shown to lower blood cholesterol, a nice side bonus for this yummy, filling breakfast choice. If you can’t find steel-cut oats, try “whole oats” or “slow cooking oats” instead.
Fix your flagging energy levels by noshing on several mini-meals and snacks throughout out the day. But because you’re a new mom—and not Julia Child—keep it simple. What to make? Combining quality carbohydrates with protein is a surefire recipe for stamina to last until your next snack, so try easy, healthy choices like hummus with cucumber, sprouts and tomato in a wrap, or sliced fruit and cheese on whole grain crackers.
Because protein slows down the rate at which energy in food is used up by your body, foods that are rich in the nutrient can provide you with enough slow-burning energy to keep you active and focused (and full) for hours. The best
protein to include in your diet? With 6 grams of the high-quality protein and 14 key nutrients, eggs are an inexpensive, versatile, and healthy source of fuel that can fit into just about any meal. For an anytime snack, try
deviled eggs or give eggs a starring role at lunchtime with this quick wrap made with egg, turkey bacon, and low-fat cheese. In addition to giving you energy, your body uses the protein and other nutrients found in eggs to build and repair body tissue and cells, grow strong hair and nails, build and maintain healthy muscles, and fight infections (eggs are naturally rich in vitamin D). Get cracking!
Balanced amounts of fats, protein, and carbohydrates turn peanut butter into an energy booster, whether spread atop a slice of crunchy whole grain toast or used as a dip for a cupful of fruit slices. Allergic? Almond, cashew, sunflower, or soy-based nut butters are good alternatives for when a stamina-producing snack is what you need. If you can’t stand the sight of one more PB&J at lunch, give your humble jar of peanut butter a gourmet makeover with these healthy recipes for
snow peas with Asian peanut butter dip (great for kids, too) or chicken with peanut dipping sauce.
White, red, black, or kidney, beans are full of fiber, protein, and plenty of slow-burning carbohydrates. But the real secret to beans’ energy boosting powers may come from the legumes’ high iron content. Because the body needs
iron to make red blood cells (which, in turn, carry oxygen to working muscles), moms with inadequate iron levels can feel wiped out before the day has even begun. New moms may be especially susceptible to low iron levels, so bulk up beans! Mash up a can of garbanzo beans and throw in some chopped garlic and splash of olive oil for a simple hummus. Or try your hand at making a delicious pot of black bean soup. A traditional combination like beans and rice also provides lots of sustained energy, especially when you use brown (whole grain) rice.
Because oranges come with all their juicy goodness locked up in lots of fibrous pulp, the fruit sugars are released into your bloodstream at a relatively slow rate, keeping your energy levels on an even keel. Why not just guzzle a glass of OJ? When the pulp is removed before making orange juice, fruit sugars are rapidly absorbed, leading to crash and burn energy levels that may leave feeling more tired than ever (OJ with added pulp still doesn’t match the fiber power of eating a whole orange.) Oranges are also a good source for vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that appears to support immune health. And because the last thing a new mom needs is an energy-draining case of the sniffles and sneezes, peel and eat one today!
Low energy in new moms could be due to dehydration (especially for breastfeeding moms), so drink up! Aiming for around eight glasses of water a day is a good place to start. Plain drinking water is best, but if this is a little too plain, try seltzer water mixed with a few tablespoons of juice or add some lemon or mint springs to a jug of water as it chills in the fridge. Soups—like this tasty
lentil soup—are another easy way to up your fluid intake. Because they contain diuretic properties, avoid using coffee and other caffeinated beverages to meet your water quota for the day.
Crunch and munch your way to more energy! Almonds, pecans, cashews… nuts are filled with healthy fats, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates for stamina-sustaining power. But that’s not all. Nuts are also a good source for selenium, a trace mineral that acts as a powerful antioxidant in the brain. So powerful, in fact, that studies have linked low levels of selenium with poor moods, decreased cognitive function, and memory loss. Brazil nuts are the best source for selenium (96 micrograms per 1 ounce serving). Other nuts that contain beneficial amounts of selenium include almonds, walnuts, and pecans.
With peel and eat ease, bananas are a good source of fuel no matter where your day takes you. Sure they are sweet, but the energy-boosting power of bananas doesn’t just come from its healthy dose of carbohydrates. Bananas also contain plenty of potassium, a mineral that helps relieve muscle fatigue by breaking down lactic acid waste products that builds up in overworked muscles. That’s why rest stops along marathon courses hand out bananas to runners—and what new mom doesn’t feel like she is in the sprint of her life? Keep a bunch of ripe bananas within plain sight in the kitchen to avoid less healthy temptations hidden away in cupboards or the fridge—or try popping one in your nursing bag for an extra dose of on-the-go stamina.
You might reach for snack foods to give yourself a boost when energy levels flag, but processed, refined flours used to make cookies, snack cakes, white breads, and other favorites might be why your stamina sunk so low in the first place. When the fibrous outer husk of grain is removed before milling, the resulting white flour (or white rice) becomes a rapidly absorbed carbohydrate. When eaten, refined carbohydrates tend to give your blood sugar levels a momentary lift before plummeting; creating a crash and burn energy cycle that can leave feeling more wiped out than ever. The solution? Ditch the white flours and refined grains in favor of fiber-filled whole grains. Whole wheat and whole grain breads, brown rice, and whole wheat pastas are easy additions to most diets that can bring about a serious switch in stamina levels. Need some inspiration? Try this family-friendly recipe for whole wheat pasta with broccoli pesto and garlicky breadcrumbs.
Lots of moms reach for a power bar when energy levels need a boost. But how does your pick stack up when it comes to giving you a true dose of long-lasting power and stamina? Some power bars are more like candy bars, complete with lots of refined sugars and unhealthy fats. Read ingredients carefully! Quality power bars that live up to their name include energy-boosting ingredients like nuts, whole grains, and naturally sweet figs and dates. If you just can’t find any to your liking at the store, you can always make your own. Tried-and-true granola bars—like these crunchy favorites—offer a hefty, healthy dose of slow-burning carbohydrates (and are a snap to make).
Could it be a sluggish thyroid that’s making your energy levels drag? You will need to meet with your doctor to know for sure, but every new mom can make sure she is meeting her recommended daily intake for iodine, an important mineral for optimum thyroid function. (According to the USDA, about 32 percent of women don’t meet the current RDI for iodine.) Iodized salt can help you meet your iodine requirements, but also adds lots of sodium. So why not try sea vegetables? Spread some avocado and brown rice on a sheet of nori and roll your way to an energizing snack. Or sprinkle some seaweed atop your next garden salad. Sea vegetables also contain other trace mineral that are good for your health. So go ahead, get swept away!
Spinach and Liver
Give me a B! Vitamins B6 and B12 assist in the body in synthesizing a substance called glutathione, sometimes referred to as “mother of all antioxidants.” Your body’s ability to produce and maintain high levels of glutathione is important for reducing fatigue and maintaining optimal energy levels throughout the day. Excellent sources of vitamin B6 include spinach and other leafy greens. Beneficial amounts of the vitamin are also found in such healthy picks as garlic, cauliflower, bananas, celery, cabbage, crimini mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in most meats, including beef liver, which provides 800 percent of the daily value (DV) for B12 in every serving. Vegetarians can look for B12-fortified cereals or should take a supplement to make sure their intake is adequate.
It’s got the calcium new moms need, but milk also provides an excellent source of long-lasting energy, thanks to the drink’s balanced amounts of proteins and carbohydrates. It can keep you hydrated, too, another key part of keeping your stamina strong throughout the day. Just not a milk drinker? Add milk instead of water when you make your morning oatmeal, use milk as a soup base (try this creamy zuke soup or whip up a batch of banana smoothies for a creamy, energy-boosting treat.
Apples come wrapped in a fiber-rich skin that turns the sweet fruit into a portable, crunchy, and relatively slow-burning source of fuel. Pairing a sliced apple with cheese and whole grain crackers can slow down the body’s absorption of carbohydrates even more, leaving you feeling full and on an even keel for hours. Apples can also be used as a versatile cooking ingredient (beyond pie!). Give your stamina some staying power at lunch today with this surprisingly savory ham, apple, and brie panini.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN