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Healthy eating for new parents

Healthy Eating for New Parents | UPMC Health Plan

Eating healthy is challenging. But when you have a new baby it’s impossible! Or is it?

Having a baby changes everything. That tiny, helpless human takes over your life in ways you never imagined it would. You have become adept at doing all of your housework silently — except for vacuuming, which you’ve found you can accomplish when Baby is fussy. It puts her right to sleep! You go to bed now at 8 p.m., because that’s when Baby goes down — and you want to sleep as much as possible before she’s up again. Your idea of a good time has changed; the best part of your day is lying on the floor beside a play gym with hanging noisemakers, and the greatest conversation you’ve ever had is, “Maaaaaaaagaaaaaaa!” Eating? Well, you might get to shovel down a bowl of cereal standing in the kitchen when Baby is asleep for three minutes, right?

Those are my experiences, anyway. And while I wouldn’t trade them for the world, healthy eating can’t take a backseat — now, especially. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. For me, the key is making sure that when I do have a minute for a meal, there is something healthy ready to go. Here are some tips that I have found helpful:

  • Cook in bulk. When I cook, I now make lots of leftovers: rice, veggies, pasta, chicken breasts, etc. That way, we have healthy meals for several nights without having to cook every night.
  • Stock your kitchen with healthy food. This might seem rather basic, but if your kitchen is full of pre-packaged processed “junk,” that’s what you’re going to eat. If you don’t buy it, you likely won’t eat it.
  • Prep meals before Baby comes. I used some of my pre-baby energy to prep some slow cooker meals to freeze. That way, once the baby did come, it was simple to pull out a meal, throw it in the slow cooker, and have a delicious, healthy meal for dinner. Casseroles and soups lend themselves well to freezing also.
  • Build a library of quick, easy meals. Meals that take less than 30 minutes are ideal. Sometimes my whole meal is only three ingredients: grilled chicken, brown rice, and steamed broccoli. You don’t have to be a culinary master!
  • Buy frozen vegetables. The truth is, I may have the best of intentions to make those fresh green beans, but by the time I get to them, they’re no good anymore. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh, and you won’t have to worry about them going bad before you get to cook them.
  • Use your slow cooker. Even if you weren’t able to prep slow cooker meals for the freezer, it’s still a great way to have a meal all cooked for you when dinner rolls around — whether you are going back to work or not! Stick to recipes that don’t use cream soups or other high-calorie sauces.
  • Just say, “Yes.”  Family and friends may offer to bring you meals or pick up some groceries. Accept the offer.
  • Ask for help. Ask your partner to help you with meal preparation if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Your sanity is important, too!
  • Make snacks count. Snack on high quality foods, like fruit, nuts, veggies and hummus, or whole grain toast with all-fruit jelly or peanut butter. When meal times can be so variable, it’s important to not reach the “I’ll-eat-anything-including-a-bottle-of-ketchup” stage.
  • Keep water by you at all times. It was so easy for me to forget to drink. Keeping a water bottle with you at all times can help you remember to stay hydrated.
  • Recognize your limitations and forgive yourself! Even if this isn’t your first baby, every baby has unique challenges. If you fall off the healthy eating wagon, don’t beat yourself up! It happens to all of us! Don’t let the snowball continue, though. Get back on the wagon the next time you can.

What are your tips for eating healthy when a new baby comes into your life?