After nine months of having a "what-the-heck-I'll get-the-fries-and-milkshake" attitude, you might be tempted to micro-size your meals to lose those extra pounds. Not so fast. "Cutting too many calories can also eliminate important nutrients from your diet, which can have a negative effect on your body, especially if you're breastfeeding," explains Elisa Zied, R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips. "The key is to pay attention to the quality of food that you're eating as well as the quantity." For the first six months, nursing moms need about 300-400 extra calories a day. (After six months the number stays at 400.) Whether you're breastfeeding or not, make sure you're receiving the nutrients you need by including these power foods in your diet:
Low-Fat Dairy Milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy foods are important sources of calcium, which is crucial for baby's strong bones and teeth, as well as your own, plus vitamin D, potassium, protein and B vitamins. Choose low-fat or fat-free options to save calories and fat (especially saturated fat). Lactose intolerant? Look for fortified orange juice, cereals, fish, beans and soy to get your calcium and vitamin fix.
Eggs Not just a great source of fill-you-up protein (typically 6-8 grams per serving), eggs are also loaded with important vitamins and minerals, like lutein and vitamin A for healthy vision, selenium for immune function and B vitamins for cell growth and metabolism.
Wild Salmon Rich in good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids, this cold-water dweller is a good source of energy, and it's high in protein, vitamin D, potassium and calcium. Research shows that a diet rich in salmon and other fatty fishes like sardines and herring can help reduce heart disease and improve brain function.
Blueberries Sweet and low-calorie, blueberries are a powerful source of antioxidants that help protect against diseases like cancer and improve brain, heart and vision function. One study rated blueberries tops when it came to antioxidant activity. Blackberries and strawberries have a similar effect.
Lean Meats "Many women don't have enough iron in their diets, especially in the weeks after pregnancy," says Zied. Low iron levels can lead to energy-sapping anemia. You need this vital mineral to help with red blood cell and muscle function. Chicken, turkey and lean beef (stick with lean cuts with loin or round in the name) are all good sources of iron, as well as protein. Not a meat eater? Fortified cereals, enriched rice, beans and even many tomato products (like sauce or paste) have significant iron levels.
Whole-Grain Cereals These fortified foods are a fantastic source of folate, fiber and iron, not to mention complex carbohydrates to give you an energy boost after an early wake-up call. One bowl typically supplies at least 10 vitamins and minerals. Stir in some berries and low-fat milk for a power-packed way to start your day.
Sweet Potatoes An excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, beta carotene and other disease-fighting antioxidants. Roast them in the oven, and they'll even satisfy a sweet tooth.
Bananas The perfect grab-and-go snack; throw one into your diaper bag for an easy energy boost. High levels of potassium help regulate blood pressure and keep muscles moving. They're also a good source of fiber and vitamins B6 and C.
Beans Canned or dried, kidney, black, garbanzo or navy-they're all great low-fat sources of protein, iron and fiber. Add them to a salad, soup or pasta as an inexpensive way to help fill you up without a lot of extra calories.
Water Last but definitely not least, new moms need to stay hydrated, especially when nursing. Try drinking a glass every time you breastfeed to keep fluid levels high.