Q. My daughter has turned three months. During my pregnancy I had put on a little over 20 kilos. I would now like to get back into shape but I'm still feeding my baby. What would be the ideal diet for me to follow?
First, congratulations on the birth of your little one! It is really the time to enjoy motherhood but it's also advisable to get back to your ideal weight to avoid the cumulative weight gain that brings along complications later in life. Ideally, a weight gain of about 10-12 kilos during pregnancy is considered healthy.
Often women put on a lot more than required. This usually happens because of a belief that a pregnant woman needs to 'eat for two'-not true! Another age-old belief (again, untrue) that young mothers find hard to deviate from (because of the pressure from seniors at home) is the advice to consume calorie-laden delicacies like ladoos, panjeeri and halwas, with high-fat ingredients that are supposed to enhance the production of milk.
Traditional practices like these may have been beneficial in the context of physically active and energy-demanding lifestyles of our grandmothers' time. However, in the current scenario they don't seem to have a significant place beyond celebration of tradition. They are certainly not needed, if the diet is well-planned with adequate proteins and essential nutrients including iron, calcium, Vitamins A, C and micronutrients such as zinc.
Strict dieting is not a good idea during this phase, especially if you are feeding. A gradual weight loss of about half to one kilo a week is safe, as it does not interfere with lactation. Following a well-planned, balanced diet along with regular physical activity should help you reach an ideal body weight.
Watch your carbs.
Avoid simple sugars in sweets, sweetened beverages, fruit juices and mocktails, use jaggery or honey instead. Minimise your intake of refined carbs and choose wholegrains like brown rice, wholewheat oats, millets, ragi, barley, etc. Get most of your carbs from fresh and dry fruits and fibre from wheat bran, oat bran and psyllium husk.
Include good fats.
An adequate amount of good fats in your diet is a must for good lactation and to get a sense of fullness. Choose low-fat dairy and get in enough nuts and seeds. Add pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, melon or flaxseeds to your meals and snacks. Limit visible fat in your cooking.
Have enough protein.
Proteins are essential to meet the increased needs of lactation and for a feeling of satiety. A variety of protein sources such as low-fat dairy, legumes, eggs, lean meat, fish, nuts and seeds should be included.
Get in anti-oxidants.
A good intake of fruits, vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables ensures good lactation and helps the body recover faster. Make sure that at least half your plate comprises vegetables and fruits. Nuts, seeds and wholegrains are also good sources of natural anti-oxidants.
Ensure plenty of fluids.
Keep your body well-hydrated with water and healthy juices. The traditional spice mix-fennel, cumin and carom seeds-soaked in water is recommended forbetter digestion during the first few weeks and helps maintain adequate fluid intake. Subsequently, low-sugar or sugar-free beverages like vegetable juices, coconut, lime or cocum water, thandai, jamun juice work well too. They detoxify, cleanse and boost anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and also impove immunity.
Introduce variety on your plate.
Make sure you are getting adequate servings from all the food groups (cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, lean meats and some good foods such as nuts and seeds). Avoid highly spiced and strongly flavoured foods, as they may impart flavour to the milk that may be repulsive to the baby. Limit caffeine intake and avoid alcohol and smoking.
MY TOP TIP
Practise portion control and balance. And do not skip the good fats as they are important for lactation.
Ishi Khosla is a clinical nutritionist and director, Whole Foods, Delhi.