You guys. Nursing hunger is REAL. As a breastfeeding mom, all I can think about is what I'm going to eat next, while simultaneously thinking about how I can fit back into my pre-pregnancy shorts. The solution, of course, is to focus on filling up on nutritious foods, healthy and easy snacks, and lots and lots of water.
I find that when my focus is on nourishing my body and my baby rather than depriving myself of foods I love, I am much more successful at quickly losing the baby weight and feeling like myself again.
If you're looking for some real-life examples of what a nursing mom eats on a budget, you're in the right place. I'm not going to tell you to eat salmon with weird glazes or intricate kale salads with 7 types of raw vegetables. That is not an eating plan that I would stick to.
Related: Meal Prep for Busy Families
I will be sharing the foods I consistently prepare or grab as a nursing mom who has lost the baby weight 3 times now. Remember, I am not a dietitian or a doctor, so always make sure to consult with someone who is knowledgeable if you want to make sure you're eating enough to keep up your milk supply.
I will say that after struggling to produce enough milk for babies #1 and #2, I am now still exclusively breastfeeding my third who is 8 months, and he is well above average in height and weight. He's a healthy little guy with the thigh rolls to prove it!
Healthy Meal Plan for Nursing Moms
I start each day with a large glass of lemon water before I put anything else in my body. Next, I make myself a superfood shake blended with a scoop of greens and a scoop of nut butter. I take my Omega 3s with my shake because they go down much easier with a thick shake than water. Adding in the greens and Omegas helped me break through a weight loss plateau.
After I have taken all of that, I finally get to sit down with a cup of coffee. When I'm maintaining my weight, I use creamer (I use the Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss). If I'm still trying to release inches and pounds, I stick with half & half.
Other satisfying and simple options for breakfast are protein waffles, oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder or peanut butter, or scrambled eggs with vegetables.
I usually start to feel hungry again around 9:30 or 10 a.m. (I wake up at 5:15 and usually have my breakfast prior to 6 a.m.). At this point, I have a piece of fruit, usually a banana, and a small bowl of oatmeal. Watch out for the sugary pre-packaged oatmeal. Stick with a can of old-fashioned oats, and add some flavor with protein powder, nut butter, cinnamon, or a drizzle of maple syrup. (I'm definitely the last one to tell you to count calories, but just be conscious of how many calories are actually in your serving of nut butter or maple syrup. Don't go overboard and you should be fine).
I also LOVE these lactation cookies from Café Baby. So yummy, and so easy to grab on the go!
Most weeks I bake 2 chicken breasts with Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning at the beginning of the week and use that for wraps or salads. Baked chicken on a bed of romaine and spinach with your favorite veggies is a great way to fill up on nutritious food at lunch. If I want something a little heartier, I'll throw the chicken, spinach, and veggies in a whole wheat tortilla. I usually have a sliced apple on the side.
Another fun option, especially if you have kids, is to do a picnic full of snack-type foods. Prepare a plate (or tray if you're sharing with your kids) with sliced apples, cheese, crackers, berries, and raw veggies. I sometimes will blend up a smoothie for all of us to share if we don't have a ton of fresh produce on hand.
Around 3 p.m. each day I start acting like a squirrel foraging for food. I don't know what it is about this time of day, but even if I've been making good decisions the rest of the day, this is when I start craving junk food.
For this reason, I've decided to drink a second superfood shake in the afternoons, since it helps fight cravings. I don't add anything to this one - it's just blended with water and ice. They are delicious and filling, not to mention a much better choice than the kids' leftover candy from Christmas.
Related: Tropical Green Smoothie
Of course, dinner is going to vary from night to night. We tend to stick to really simple basics for dinner - whole wheat pasta with hidden veggie sauce, tacos, burrito bowls, chicken noodle soup, Mexican chicken, or white chicken chili. One of my favorites lately has been a quinoa and chicken bake:
Quinoa & Chicken Bake
I'll be honest - I don't follow an exact recipe for this one. It tends to look a little different each time I make it. That's the beauty of it - it's highly customizable! Here's an idea of the recipe I use:
Make some shredded crockpot chicken ahead of time. I like to put a cup of salsa on mine for some added flavor.
Make 2-3 cups of quinoa on the stovetop
Put the quinoa and chicken in a baking dish
Add a can of tomatoes (with or without green chilis, depending on your family’s preference), black beans, and 1 bell pepper chopped.
Add some spices. I usually pick some cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and chili powder.
Add some sort of sauce on top. I like salsa - maybe 1 cup?
Top with cheese if you want.
Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes
Remember, this is so customizable! You could use enchilada sauce, buffalo wing sauce, or barbecue sauce to change up the flavor. Add different vegetables depending on the season or the flavor you're going for.
Healthy Snack Ideas
When we leave the house to go to the park, run errands, or go to a doctor appointment, it feels like 2/3 of my purse or diaper bag is filled with food. Even at home, I tend to be a snacker, so here are some of my favorite healthier snacks:
Annie's Cheddar Bunnies (for the kids, but let's be real - I always eat some)
air-popped popcorn with a sprinkle of sea salt
We have the choice every day as moms who are giving life and energy to our babies to nourish ourselves or to live in a state deprivation. When we focus on the good things going into our bodies, we feel excited about our nutrition and enjoy the process of getting into the best health of our lives. When we focus on what we "shouldn't have," we feel sad and anxious about food, ready to binge on things that don't serve us as soon as we have a weak or tired moment.
If you're wondering about exercise, there's a lot to say on the subject of postpartum workouts. I'm currently doing the MuTu System for the second time to work on healing my diastasis recti. Read my review here: MuTu System Final Review
If you want to learn more about the nutrition system so many moms have used to improve their health, lose the baby weight, and gain natural energy in a safe way, head to my Facebook group, Strong For Her Tasks, for more info! We've got giveaways, deals, new shake flavor releases, and more!
Wishing you wellness of mind, body, and soul!