15 Easy and Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

15 Easy and Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

When I was breastfeeding my kids, I was hungry All. The. Time.

Hungry as in: I’d eat my lunch while my daughter nursed—yes, on a plate with a fork.

Breastfeeding torches some serious calories (more on that later) so having easy and healthy snacks at the ready was also important for helping to satisfy my near-constant hunger.

In addition to a healthy diet, keeping a stash of quick, easy and healthy snacks you can grab whether you’re at home, work or on the go will stave off hunger, fuel your milk supply and give you plenty of energy despite all those sleepless nights.

How many calories does breastfeeding burn?


According to KellyMom.com, the amount of calories exclusively breastfeeding moms need depend on their weight, nutritional status and activity level.

On average, women should aim for an extra 300 to 500 calories above what they were consuming to maintain their pre-pregnancy weight. That would work out to 1 to 2 healthy snacks a day, but my advice is to eat for hunger and don’t worry too much about counting calories.

Learn more in this quick video.

Wondering what to eat? Here are 15 healthy snacks for breastfeeding to try.

1. Hard boiled eggs

Eggs are some of the best healthy snacks for breastfeeding because they’re loaded with protein—one large egg has nearly 7 grams. Protein satisfies hunger and gives you plenty of energy.

Hard boiled eggs are also quick and easy to make so you can boil a dozen and have enough for the week.

Pair an egg with some cut up raw veggies or whole grain crackers for a healthy and delicious snack.

 

2. Greek yogurt and fruit

High in protein, a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12, and rich in gut-friendly, immune-boosting probiotics, yogurt can be a healthy snack for breastfeeding.

When choosing a yogurt however, read labels and stick with brands that are low in sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

With 17 grams of protein per serving, plain Greek yogurt is a great option. Add raspberries which are high in fiber, a dash of cinnamon and pure vanilla extract.

 

3. Kale chips

Green leafy vegetables are healthy because they’re loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Kale, in particular, is a superfood for breastfeeding moms. A good source of fiber protein, folate, iron, it’s also high in vitamins A, C, K, B6, calcium and potassium.

Toss a cup of washed kale with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in the over for 10 to 15 minutes a 350 degrees.

 

4. Popcorn

Unlike refined carbohydrates, whole grain carbohydrates like those in popcorn have fiber to stave off hunger and keep your blood sugar steady.

Popcorn takes only a few minutes to make and you can stash it in your pantry anytime hunger strikes.

 

5. Apples and nut butter

Pair an apple with your favorite nut butter for the perfect combination of fiber and protein to satisfy your hunger—and your tastebuds—in between meals.

 

6. Avocado toast

Avocado is a superfood, especially for breastfeeding moms.

With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate and potassium, avocado is an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—the healthy fats that can help reduce bad cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease later on in life.

A half cup has more than 2 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Spread some avocado on whole grain toast for a healthy, delicious and satisfying snack.

 

7. Edamame

Edamame (soybeans) are quick and easy and one of the best healthy snacks for breastfeeding.

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame are also high in calcium.

You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen, but look for those that are already shelled to save time. 

 

8. Cheese, crackers and fruit

Pair cheddar or ricotta on whole grain crackers and top with sliced strawberries for a sweet and savory snack.

 

9. Chia seed pudding

An excellent source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, chia seeds are an energy-boosting superfood for breastfeeding.

Chia seed pudding takes only a few minutes to whip up in your blender and you can store a batch in your refrigerator or in individual mason jars for grab and go snacks. Top with fruit for even more fiber and a hint of sweetness.

 

10. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They’re a good source of magnesium, the “calming mineral,” and zinc known for immune boosting and wound healing properties.

They also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for sleep and mood—a good thing if you’re at risk for postpartum depression.

Three tablespoons of pumpkin seeds also offer a good combination of protein (9 grams) and fiber (2 grams).

Add pumpkin seeds to yogurt, on top of salad or eat them solo.

11. Green smoothie

One of the best ways to get several vegetables in at one time, especially when you’re short on time is to blend up a green smoothie.

To keep the sugar content low, stick with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit. You can then add in chia seeds, protein powder or a nut butter, for example.

12. Homemade trail mix

Store-bought trail mix can be a quick and easy option, but read labels carefully since most are packed with salty nuts, a lot of high-sugar dried fruit, “yogurt” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Making your own trail mix only takes a few minutes and you get to control the ingredients. Combine almonds, sunflower seeds and raisins for a healthy and delicious breastfeeding snack.

13. Hummus and carrots

Another favorite snack combination of mine is raw baby carrots with hummus.

Carrots are a good source of vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, iron, potassium and fiber: 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams

Pair carrots with hummus, which has nearly 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup, and you have a great snack.

14. No-bake energy bites

No-bake energy bites may take a few minutes to make, but they’re well worth it and you can make a large batch and freeze them.

Combine ingredients like rolled oats, bananas, dates, nut butter, raisins and seeds. Need a recipe? Here are 7.

15. Celery and tuna

Celery is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium. It’s also high in fiber: a 1/2 cup has nearly 2 grams.

Add some tuna (or canned salmon) and you have a fiber and protein-packed snack.

Tomatoes and mozzarella

Tomatoes are a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, choline and fiber: one cup has more than 2 grams. Add some protein with sliced mozzarella cheese and you’ve got an easy and healthy snack.

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Have you ever seen those women on social media who are 9 months pregnant running marathons, lifting huge, heavy barbells at CrossFit or managing impossible Yoga poses without breaking a sweat?

I have but no, I wasn’t one of them.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was teaching Spinning classes and had completed my first endurance race—a 1/2 marathon—about 3 months earlier.

Since my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage however, my doctor suggested I cut back on exercise until the 3 month mark.

Once I was in the clear, I returned to the gym but not to a bike. 

Instead, I exercised several days of the week and did low-impact workouts like walking, strength training, stretching and prenatal Yoga.

More power to those women who can keep up with their intense workouts during pregnancy but let’s get real: particularly during those early months of pregnancy when you’re dealing with morning sickness, mood swings and exhaustion, the couch is much more appealing than the treadmill.

Still, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women with normal, healthy pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most—or all days—of the week.

Why? Because there are so many amazing benefits during pregnancy and way beyond those 40 weeks. Here are 9.

1. Lower risk of pregnancy complications

Exercise during pregnancy strengthens the heart and blood vessels and may reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes by 25 percent, a 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found. 

Studies also show women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to gain excess weight, give birth to babies who weigh more than 9 pounds (also known as macrosomia), and less likely to have a caesarean section.

2. Cures pregnancy constipation

Between 11 and 38 percent of women deal with constipation during pregnancy.

Blame it on your hormones, prenatal vitamin, and changes in your diet but constipation can also be a result of being sedentary—another great reason to get moving.

Looking for more ways to prevent and cure constipation? Watch my video.

3. Eases aches and pains

Staying active during pregnancy can help ease low back pain, pelvic pain, leg cramps and round ligament pain which are common during pregnancy.

4. May prevent postpartum depression

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 9 women nationwide and in some states, as many as 1 in 5 have the condition.

Yet studies show exercise during pregnancy may prevent postpartum depression.

In fact, a September 2017 meta-analysis in the journal Birth found women who participated in various types of exercise like stretching and breathing, walking, aerobics, Pilates and yoga during pregnancy had lower scores on depression symptom tests than women who didn’t exercise.

5. Fights fatigue

Most pregnant women feel sluggish, particularly during the early weeks of pregnancy and then again as they near their due dates.

Although the last thing you might feel like doing is going to the gym, getting in a workout—even if it’s walking, swimming or a prenatal Yoga class—can give you a boost of energy.

6. Improves sleep

When you’re dealing with heartburn, aches and pains, your growing belly and frequent trips to the bathroom, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by.

Yet regular exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily and help you cope with stress that might be keeping you awake. One caveat: don’t exercise too close to bedtime since it can have the reverse effect.

7. Faster recovery from childbirth

Exercise during pregnancy can help build up your strength, muscle tone and endurance which may make labor shorter and less painful.

In fact, a May 2018 study in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found women who exercised throughout their pregnancies had shorter labors and were less likely to get an epidural.

Research also shows women who exercise during pregnancy recover faster after giving birth.

8. Supports postpartum health

Staying active during pregnancy can help establish a healthy habit that you’re likely to stick with after giving birth and as a result, prevent certain conditions.

Exercise in the weeks after delivery may lower your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots. It can also help keep your energy levels up despite the sleepless nights and 24/7 care your newborn needs.

9. Helps you lose the baby weight

Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy and help you shed the post-baby lbs. Certain exercises can also help prevent or recover from conditions like diastasis recti, a separation of the rectus abdominis muscles.

If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery you can likely start to exercise a few days after you’ve given birth or when you feel ready, according to ACOG. If you had a c-section or complications or you’re simply unsure, you should always check with your doctor first.

Did you exercise during pregnancy? In what ways did it help you? Let me know in the comments!

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

When I was pregnant with my first child, I gained more than 40 pounds—something I attribute to eating whatever and whenever I wanted.

A bagel and cream cheese was my go-to breakfast and chocolate was an everyday indulgence.

I mistakenly thought—as many women do—that I should be eating for two.

When there was a family gathering or party, I wouldn’t think twice about taking an extra treat because, I figured I was pregnant and I deserved it.

As my belly grew, the number on the scale got higher and I moved into the final weeks of pregnancy however, people would ask me, are you sure you’re not having twins?

Not exactly what a pregnant mom wants to hear.

When you look at the research, it turns out that my weight gain, albeit unhealthy, was on par with other women. According to a June 2017 meta-analysis in JAMA, 47 percent of women gain more than the Institute of Medicine guidelines.

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy is linked to a host of pregnancy complications, problems during labor and delivery and postpartum health conditions.

Unfortunately, studies also show that after pregnancy, the pounds linger.

According to a January 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, 75 percent of new moms weigh more a year after giving birth than they did before they became pregnant. In fact, 47 percent were 10 pounds overweight while 24 percent were 20 pounds overweight.

Of course, losing the weight reduces your risk for obesity, chronic health conditions, and things like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during subsequent pregnancies.

By the time I became pregnant with my second child, I knew a lot more about pregnancy nutrition and by making healthy choices and not overeating, my weight gain was within normal range.

Although the weight was slower to come off the second time around, by eating healthy, exercising and a few other tricks, I lost the baby weight with both pregnancies. Here’s how I did it.

Breastfeed

The day I left the hospital with my first child, the nurse told me, if you breastfeed, the weight will come off in no time.

I had already made the decision to breastfeed because of all the amazing benefits, so I figured if that was the case, even better.

It turns out, that nurse was right.

I found that when I was breastfeeding I was ravenous all the time and I definitely ate when I was but by 6 months, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

It’s definitely not a hard and fast rule, but exclusive breastfeeding can torch some serious calories—up to 500 calories a day or the equivalent of running 6 miles!

According to a December 2014 study in the journal Preventative Medicine, women who exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months, lost 3 pounds (by the year mark) compared to women who didn’t breastfeed or breastfeed exclusively.

Yet other studies have shown that breastfeeding may not lead to weight loss, since the hormone prolactin increases appetite and may lead women to consume too many calories.

Obviously, the decision to breastfeed shouldn’t be because of weight loss, but it could be an awesome extra benefit.

Eat whole foods

When you have a new baby at home, having time to cook, much less eat a meal can seem impossible.

A granola bar or a bag of crackers can help when you’re on the go, but if you’re relying on processed snacks all day, you’re not giving your body the nutrition it needs to lose the baby weight in a healthy way.

To lose the baby weight, I focused on eating whole foods which are not only packed with nutrition but also stave off hunger. Eating a salad every day for lunch proved a great way for me to stay on track.

I also made it a point to get plenty of protein, green leafy vegetables and healthy fats from foods like avocado, nuts and seeds.

Exercise

After you have a baby, going to the gym is one healthy habit that can easily be put on the back burner.

Between back-to-back feedings, diaper changes, laundry and fighting through fatigue, working out is the last thing on your mind.

And if you have postpartum depression like I did, getting out of the house can be a struggle.

Yet after you get the green light from your provider to start exercising again, usually around 6 weeks postpartum, it’s one of the best things you can do not only to lose the baby weight but also for your health and your mood.

In the first few weeks of bringing my daughter home, I’d put her in the stroller and take walks in the neighborhood. When I was cleared to work out again, I started walking on the treadmill, then running and lifting weights.

If the gym isn’t your thing, there are so many ways to get in a workout.

Try the free or subscription-based workout apps or head to the park with your baby. At the very least, getting out prevents isolation and can help you meet other like-minded moms.

Don’t diet

To shed the baby weight, I never thought that what I was doing was a diet.

I didn’t count calories or put restrictions on what I was eating, although I did follow the WW (previously Weight Watchers) plan—more for the accountability than anything.

I knew that diets don’t work—it has to be a lifestyle—so I focused on giving my body what it needed—whole, nutritious foods. I ate when I was hungry, kept my portion sizes in check and always left room for treats.

Eat snacks

When you’re trying to lose weight, many experts say to stick to 3 square meals a day—no snacking allowed.

Since I was breastfeeding however, snacks helped to satisfy my hunger, especially between lunch and dinner and prevented overeating at meals. Also, since I have anxiety, low blood sugar is never a good thing, especially when caring for a baby and running around.

Experts recommend exclusively breastfeeding moms need an extra 300-500 calories, which can be built into your diet with snacks.

Drink water

Any time you’re trying to lose weight, experts will advise you to drink plenty of water. According to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, women should aim for 2.7 liters, while lactating women should get more—

3.1 liters a day.

Thirst can often look like hunger so drinking up before reaching for something to eat can help you decide whether you’re hungry or not.

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, overweight women who drank an additional 500 ml of water 30 minutes before meals lost weight and fat and lowered their body mass indexes (BMI).

Since water takes up space in the stomach, it promotes fullness and can stave off hunger. It also helps to metabolize carbohydrates and stored fat in the body and can keep your energy levels up so you’re less likely to reach for something to eat.

One trick that helped me to drink enough was to re-fill a re-usable water bottle and carry it with me everywhere I went.

4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate or vitamin B9, is well known as a vitamin that pregnant moms take to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Since the first 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy are when the neural tube is formed and when defects occur, and up to 45 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, taking folic acid before you get pregnant is vital.

The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) guidelines recommend that women of childbearing age get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day. During pregnancy, women should increase the amount to 600 mcg; breastfeeding moms need 500 mcg.

Although most women get enough folate, some women, such as those with the MTHFR gene variant, may not be able to utilize folate properly and may need to take the bioactive form.

Interestingly, research suggests folate and folic acid can actually be beneficial for all moms, whether they’re planning to become pregnant or not. Here’s what we know.

1. Folic Acid May Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is often seen as a man’s disease but nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, accounting for approximately 1 in 4 female deaths each year.

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction, getting enough folate may actually ward off heart disease.

According to an August 2016 meta-analysis in the Journal of The American Heart Association, folic acid supplementation is associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke and a 4 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Folic Acid Acid May Reduce Cancer Risk

Some studies suggest that adequate levels of folate may prevent certain cancers. According to a large 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who had total folate intake of 900 mcg a day or more had a 30 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who only consumed 200 mcg a day.

Since some studies suggest that high levels of folate and folic acid may actually increase cancer risk however, more research is needed to determine whether or not taking higher doses is actually beneficial. 

3. Folic Acid May Prevent Depression and Postpartum Depression

Some studies have shown an association between low folate and depression.

Researchers have also looked at the link between folate and depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression.

According to a November 2017 study in the journal Nutrients, women who took folic acid for more than 6 months during pregnancy had a lower risk of postpartum depression than those who took it for less than 6 months.

Some studies also suggest folic acid, in combination with anti-depressants, may improve symptoms, but it’s unclear whether it’s effective or not.

4. Folic Acid May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s unclear whether folic acid supplementation may prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease but some studies suggest it may have some benefit.

While observational studies have found an association between low levels of folate and poor brain function and a higher risk of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, folic acid supplements have not been shown to improve cognitive function or prevent these diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For people who have already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s however, folic acid may help, according to a June 2016 study in the journal Mediators of Inflammation.

What Moms Should Know About Folate and Folic Acid

Since folate is a water soluble vitamin, it’s not stored in the body so you need to get it in your diet, ideally through food.

Foods high in folate include dark green leafy vegetables, some types of fruit, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and grains. Some foods like breads, cereals, pastas, rice and other grains are also fortified with folic acid.

Although most women get enough folate, symptoms of a folate deficiency include fatigue, irritability, weakness, poor concentration, headache, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and pale skin, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It’s important to note that although the folate thats’s naturally found in foods isn’t harmful, high doses of folic acid and fortified foods may be. There are also certain medications that can interact with folic acid supplements so when in doubt, always talk to your doctor.

5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Moms

5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Moms

After you purchase gifts for your kids and everyone else on your list, bake all the Christmas cookies and attend the obligatory office parties and school events, there’s no doubt that holiday stress will get the best of you.

This year, instead of checking off all the boxes and running around until you’re completely exhausted, why not take a few minutes to put yourself and your health first?

Whether your goal is to eat healthy, get in shape or sleep better, these healthy holiday gifts will set you up for success in the New Year.

1. Headspace

We’re all stressed but that doesn’t mean you have to let it overwhelm you.

Studies show meditation is an effective way to reduce stress, improve sleep and boost focus.

In fact, a September 2018 study in The Journal Of Cognitive Enhancement found that a regular meditation practice over a lifetime has the potential to keep the brain sharp and ward off mental decline.

If you’re new to the practice, a guided meditation app like Headspace can help.

Andy Puddicombe, the voice of the app, is easy and soothing to listen to—not awkward like some other guided meditations I’ve tried. With 1-, 3- or 10- minute options, the app also makes it easy to fit meditation into your schedule no matter how busy you are. Multiple subscription plans, free-$399.99. Headspace.com.

2. Love Sweat Fitness

 

If you’re looking to shed a few pounds or just get in shape, Love Sweat Fitness’ quick, daily at-home workouts and meal plans can support you on your journey.

Founded by Katie Dunlop, a NASM-certified personal trainer, the program inspires women to “sweat anywhere” and “live guiltless.” $49.99-$129.99. my.lovesweatfitness.com

3. Prepara iPrep Adjustable Tablet and Phone Stand

Whether you consider yourself a bona fide chef or more of a beginner, the Prepara iPrep Adjustable Tablet and Phone Stand will make it easy to make healthy dinners for your family.

The stand allows you to access all of your favorite recipes on your iPad or smart phone while you cook without having to touch the screen. With a non-slip rubber base, four different viewing angles and a space to store the stylus, it’s one of the best healthy holiday gifts for moms. $29.95. BarnesandNoble.com.

4. HoMedics Deep Sleep II Therapy Machine

Once your babies sleep through the night, you do too, right? Not so much.

If your mind races at night, you have a hard time winding down or have a snoring partner, a good night’s rest can be hard to come by.

That’s where the HoMedics Deep Sleep II Therapy Machine comes in. With 12 different soothing sounds, 4 variations of white noise, water relaxation or nature sounds, and 30-, 60- or 90-minute auto-shutoff features, machine will help you get the sleep you deserve. $79.99. Homedics.com

5. Thistle Farms ReEnergize Set

I was so excited to discover Thistle Farms, a bath, body and home brand whose motto is “love heals.” All of their products are handcrafted by women who are survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction, giving them the opportunity to heal and have bright futures.

Their ReEnergize Set, which includes body wash, bath soak, shave gel and lip balm, are infused with tea tree and eucalyptus mint essential oils and are free of phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde and synthetic fragrances. $45. ThistleFarms.org.