If you’ve recently had a baby, nutrition is probably the furthest thing from your mind. Having just given birth to my second baby boy a few months ago, I was more than happy to scarf down whatever I could get my hands on in those early days.
Overjoyed with my sweet newborn.
Recovering from childbirth and caring for two young children didn’t leave much time to worry about what I was eating. But this is actually a very important time to put yourself first and be mindful of the foods you are putting into your body.
The food you eat can impact your milk supply, recovery time, energy levels, and even your baby’s health.
You need to be sure you are eating enough food because milk production requires energy (calories), but you also need to eat the right foods to ensure your baby is getting the proper nutrients through your breastmilk. A carefully planned paleo diet is a great way to give your baby everything she needs.
If you aren’t familiar with a paleo way of eating, I like to think of it as a return to a more simple way of eating. A diet that consists of only real, whole foods like meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy fats like coconut and avocado. Think of what cave men had to eat, and they certainly did not have processed foods like we do today.
These whole foods contain the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your body needs to nourish your baby and support your own health. Unlike fast foods and refined, packaged foods, your body knows just what to do with whole foods and how to digest them properly. Read on to learn how you can healthfully support your health and your baby’s health while following a paleo diet.
Protein, Carbohydrates, and Healthy Fats
You’ll need about an extra 500 calories per day to support milk production, so now is not the time to deprive yourself. Follow your body’s cues and eat when you are hungry. The protein content of your breastmilk is related to the protein you consume, so try to include some form of protein with each meal and snack to support your baby’s growth. This could be any kind of meat or seafood, eggs, or even nuts or almond butter.
You’ll also need a steady supply of carbohydrates because your body is burning through extra energy to make breastmilk. It isn’t true that bread, rice, and pasta are your only sources of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be found in all fruits and vegetables, especially starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
Don’t forget to include healthy fats with each meal, as well! More than half of the calories in your breastmilk come from fats, some of which are made in your body, while others are passed through breastmilk by way of the dietary fat you consume. You want a good mix of saturated and unsaturated fat so include an assortment of foods like fatty fish, red meat, eggs, nuts and seeds (and their oils), avocados, and coconut. Speaking of fats, the omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish and flaxseed are extra important for your baby’s brain, immune, and nervous system development.
Vitamins and Minerals
Certain vitamins and minerals are required in higher amounts for breastfeeding women because they are secreted through your breastmilk. These include calcium and vitamins A, C, and D. If you don’t get enough of these vitamins and minerals in your diet, your body’s own stores can be depleted, so it is important to get enough to support both you and your baby. Most likely, you will continue taking your prenatal vitamins while you are breastfeeding, but there are also many delicious, healthy foods that can help boost the levels of these important vitamins and minerals.
Because dairy isn’t included in a paleo diet, the best way to get calcium is by eating fish canned with the bones, like salmon and sardines. If the thought of canned salmon scares you, try myor substitute canned salmon for tuna in any tuna salad recipe.
Vitamins A and C are easy to get, as long as you are eating a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Bell peppers, oranges, and cruciferous veggies like brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower are good sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin D can be a little more difficult to come by because most of us do not spend enough time outside in the sun, which is one of the best ways to get vitamin D. Cod liver oil in supplement form is a good way to bridge this gap, and the best dietary sources are cold water fatty fish like, again, salmon and tuna. Eggs can also provide you with vitamin D.
The Best Way to Get All These Healthy Foods Into Your Diet
So now you know what you should be eating, but it’s much easier said than done when you are barely sleeping and spending all of your waking hours caring for a young baby. I like to keep lots of fresh fruit and veggies around the house for snacking. Wash and chop them up ahead of time so you can grab-and-go when you get hungry. You can also whip up a batch of my- they make a perfect snack!
Cranberry Cherry Paleo Granola Bars
Time: 35 Minutes
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp honey
- ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries (no sugar added), chopped
- ⅓ cup dried cherries (no sugar added), chopped
- Dash of salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
DirectionsPreheat oven to 350F.Stir together eggs, vanilla and honey in a small bowl until well combined.Stir together shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, cranberries, cherries, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.Pour egg mixture into bowl with dry ingredients. Stir well to combine. Pour into a parchment paper lined 9’’x9’’ pan and press down evenly so it is tightly packed.Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely then cut into 12 bars.
I also like to make large meals that make tons of leftovers. I love healthy food, but I just don’t have the time to be in the kitchen all day, every day. My has a perfect balance of protein, veggies and fats and it makes at least 6 to 8 servings.
For even more healthy recipes, and to learn how a paleo diet can help you meet your nutritional needs before, during, and after pregnancy, check out my book,. It is packed with education, tips and support for following a paleo diet throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. I’ve also included over 100 healthy, paleo recipes and a four-week meal plan to set you on the right path. You can order the paperback and Kindle versions now on or find it at in stores or online.
Tarah is a real food nutritionist, health and fitness fanatic, blogger, and freelance writer in New Albany, IN. She met her husband while training for a 175 mile overnight bike ride, which spurred their love for healthy living. They've been married for six years, have matching bicycle tattoos, and two beautiful sons, Avery and Norrin. Tarah holds an MS in Health and Nutrition Education from Hawthorn University. Aside from healthy living, she loves all things Disney, going on adventures with her family, and binge watching Marvel shows on Netflix.