New mums, avoid these diet traps

It is easy to eat unhealthily when you are a new mum - you are exhausted, always in a hurry and constantly hungry.

YOU THINK Eating for two is all right because I am nursing.

EAT BETTER It is true that lactating mums need to eat more - as much as 500 calories more a day - because you are producing food for your little one, said Ms Sarah Sinaram, a senior dietitian at Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre.

But be aware of the quality of calories that you are consuming.

"Make sure they are healthy calories, not empty ones," said Ms Susie Rucker, a nutritional therapist at Body With Soul health-care centre.

Nutritious options include lean meat and fish, whole grains, seeds, fruit, vegetables and good fats such as olive oil, coconut oil and avocado.

YOU THINK I do not have time for breakfast.

EAT BETTER Eating too much too late in the day is not good for your digestion, said Ms Rucker. It can also interfere with your sleep and concentration.

And if you do not have the opportunity to burn off the calories, this habit can lead to weight gain.

Even though your mornings may be hectic, it is important to set aside time to eat. At the least, have a late breakfast and eat a small serving of food every three or four hours.

YOU THINK I should diet to lose pregnancy weight.

EAT BETTER The energy and nutrient needs of a nursing mother are higher, so you should not cut back on your meals, said Ms Sinaram.

"The good news is, because of the increased energy requirements during breastfeeding, most new mothers will experience some weight loss during this period," she added.

Focus on providing good nutrition to your child and yourself instead.

You can start to work on losing more postnatal weight once you have weaned your baby off breast milk.

YOU THINK I do not have time to make dinner.

EAT BETTER Prepare and freeze healthy meals, such as soups and casseroles, in advance, said Ms Rucker.

You can also stock up on frozen veggies so you can prepare stir-fry dishes in a jiffy.

If you have to resort to takeaway meals, note that some cuisines are healthier than others.

Whatever you eat will, in turn, be consumed by your breastfeeding baby, said Ms Rucker.

YOU THINK I am drinking enough water.

EAT BETTER Drink 2.5 litres of fluid a day, but avoid caffeinated drinks and soft drinks as these can dehydrate you.

Homemade soup also provides hydration with extra nutrition, but keep it simple with plenty of vegetables, lean meat or fish and a broth that is low in fat and sodium.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), red-date tea is thought to benefit new mothers, said physician Lim Sor San, a TCM adviser from Mummamia Confinement.

It replenishes the blood and has a calming effect on the body.

When combined with black dates and ginger, it is said to nourish the digestive system and, in turn, reduce constipation, a common problem for new mothers. While red-date tea is recommended in TCM for post-natal recovery, Ms Lim also advises drinking other warm beverages, such as lemongrass or ginger tea.

YOU THINK The more Chinese herbs, the better.

EAT BETTER The right herbs taken in appropriate amounts can help speed up a new mother's recovery after birth and boost milk production, explained Ms Lim.

That is why ingredients, such as red dates, wolfberries, dried longan, Chinese angelica (danggui) and codonopsis root (dangshen), are commonly used in confinement dishes.

But you should not take more than 15g of each in a day, as a rule of thumb. When consumed in large amounts without a certified TCM physician's prescription, it can lead to overdosing and complications.

Not all herbs are recommended immediately after childbirth. Speak to a TCM professional first.

YOU THINK This food item is high in fat, so it is better to avoid it.

EAT BETTER Not all high-fat food is bad. Avocados, for instance, contain monounsaturated fat, which is healthy, said Ms Sinaram. Plus, the green fruit has plenty of folic acid, vitamins C, B6 and K, and potassium, which are important for breastfeeding mums.

"If you eat only a certain type of food, you will be missing out on the nutrients that other food groups provide," pointed out Ms Sinaram.

Moderate your consumption of unhealthy food, such as deep-fried items. "And limit your oily fish consumption to no more than twice a week because of the high mercury content," she added.

YOU THINK I feel hungry again. Time for a snack.

EAT BETTER Control your blood sugar to keep those hunger pangs at bay, so you do not feel tempted to snack constantly throughout the day, said Ms Rucker.

Start the day with a protein-rich breakfast dish, such as eggs. Then, have a nutritious lunch that includes plenty of fibre and water to keep you satisfied till dinner. Also drink lots of water to curb those hunger cravings.

If you feel like having a snack, keep it small but make sure it is filling and nutrient-dense.

A combination of carbohydrates and protein always hits the spot. Ms Rucker suggests chicken kebabs, seaweed or a handful of mixed nuts with dark chocolate.

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