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Nutrition for new mums

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How can you eat properly when getting out of your dressing gown feels like an achievement? Anita Bean, nutritionist and mum of two, answers your questions

Can I diet while breastfeeding?

Wait about two months after birth before trying to lose weight, otherwise you may affect your milk supply and make yourself feel tired. Once you do begin, count on taking 10 months to a year to return to your pre-pregnancy weight. Try these tips:

  • Aim to lose no more than half a kilo (1lb) per week by eating about 1,500 to 1,800 calories daily. 
  • Stick to three regular meals a day, plus two healthy snacks if you need them. 
  • Eat a healthy breakfast, such as porridge, or a high-fibre cereal, eggs on toast, or a big oat and fruit smoothie.
  • Include slow-burning foods such as oat-based cereals, beans, lentils, grainy breads, vegetables and fruit.
  • Cut down on fatty foods. 
  • Step up your fruit and veg intake. 
  • Don't eat in front of the TV – you'll eat more as you won't pay so much attention to what you're eating. 
  • Stay active but don't wear yourself out.

As I'm breastfeeding, what should I be eating to give my baby a good start?

It's important to eat sensibly to keep your energy levels up and safeguard your stores of calcium and iron.

  • You'll need an extra 550mg of calcium daily, which you can get from a 250ml glass of milk and a 150ml pot of yogurt. 
  • Drink at least two litres of fluid a day – that's about eight to 12 glasses of water. 
  • Concentrate on getting plenty of protein – aim for two servings of poultry, lean meat, fish, eggs, beans or lentils every day.

Why do I often feel dizzy and lightheaded?

These are likely to be signs of low blood sugar levels. Keep the shakes at bay by eating little and often (see above for a guide to healthy eating) and never skip breakfast – you'll need both carbohydrates and protein to keep your energy levels up all day. But to rule out iron-deficiency anaemia, a fairly common complaint post-pregnancy, you should also see your GP or practice nurse who will be able to diagnose it with a simple blood test.

Feel-good food

Fish, poultry, meat and dairy foods

Contain the amino acid tyrosine, which ups your body's production of dopamine, helping you feel more alert.

Salmon, sardines and mackerel

Contain omega-3 fatty acids that can help counter anxiety and stave off depression.

Spinach, oranges, wholemeal bread and nuts

Contain folic acid, which helps boost mood and also beat fatigue.

Beans, lentils and wholegrain breakfast cereals

Contain high levels of B vitamins that can help reduce depression and irritability.

Brazil nuts

Unless you have a nut allergy or have been advised against eating nuts by your health adviser, eating brazil nuts can help to reduce the risk of depression as they contain selenium.

Energy-boosting snacks

A pot of fruit yoghurt and an apple

Gives you one quarter of your daily calcium quota.

A 250ml smoothie

Gives you one of your 5-a-day portions, plus vitamins and potassium for balancing fluid levels. Whip up our delicious yoghurt and fruit smoothie in minutes.

Two wholegrain crackers with peanut butter

Again, unless you have a nut allergy or have been advised against eating nuts by your health adviser, peanut butter gives you sustained energy thanks to the combination of protein and carbohydrate.

Fruit salad

A good variety of fresh fruit will boost your vitamin intake.

A cereal bar

Bumps up your daily fibre intake.

It may take up to a year to return to your pre-pregnancy weight

Tempting ideas for healthy eating