No time? No problem! You can still eat right with these low-cal foods you're so busy taking care of your baby, you probably don't have time to care about what's for dinner (not to mention breakfast and lunch). But you've got to keep up your strength to care for your bambino -- and if you're nursing, you need to eat even more. You know the nutrition drill: plenty of lean protein, veggies, and fruit...yadda yadda, yadda. At this point, you're lucky if you can brush your teeth and comb your hair once a day. The reality is that chopping, marinating, and cooking anything you can't microwave is pretty much out of the question. But there is good news: With today's easy-to-prepare, easy-to-tote snacks and meals, you don't have to. Here's our list of the 14 best convenience foods for new moms.
In the fridge
? You know you need to eat more greens. But if you have any extra time, you're going to use it to shower, not to wash and chop veggies. So Ready Pac does it for you (the vegetable part, not the shower). Their convenience line includes choices like Microwave Spinach or Microwave Leafy Greens Blend (with spinach, shredded carrots and cabbage, chard, and baby romaine lettuce), which come in a bag you can pop in the microwave for a ready-in-three-minutes side dish. Other options include precut carrots and celery you can munch on during the day (or middle of the night), and a soup and stew mix you can throw in the crock pot.
? Who says cheese sticks are just for kids? Cracker Barrel Cheese Sticks come in one-ounce portions, so you don't have to worry about how much you're eating. Each stick is only 120 calories and packs six grams of protein.
? You're too busy feeding the baby to feed yourself. But you can still get a great meal with Perdue Short Cuts Chicken, which comes in 11 varieties, from Original Roasted to Grilled Southwestern Seasoned. They're already fully cooked, so you just need to nuke 'em for one minute and you're golden!
Leslie Pepper is a freelance writer and mother of twins in Merrick, New York.
Healthy noshing anywhere you goIn the diaper bag
? Milk may not seem like any kind of treat, but Horizon Organic Single Serving Milks come in chocolate, strawberry, and orange cream, and taste almost like a milkshake. Really. And since recent research found that calcium can help you shed pounds, you can feel good about drinking them. They don't need refrigeration, though they do taste more like a milkshake when cold.
? Munch a Kellogg's All-Bran Bar on the way to your Mommy and Me class -- it may be the only chance you'll get to eat all morning. With 130 calories and three grams of fat, they make a healthy snack you can eat anywhere, even behind the stroller. The high fiber content can help you feel fuller longer -- an advantage when you're trying to take off those last ten pounds. Try both the Brown Sugar Cinnamon and Honey Oat flavors.
? Be sure to pack a fork in your diaper bag, because StarKist Tuna Creations, marinated tuna in a pouch, makes a great on-the-go meal. Their three new savory choices -- Zesty Lemon Pepper, Hickory Smoked, and Sweet & Spicy -- can be wrapped up in a tortilla, mixed in a salad, or eaten alone as a snack (each two-ounce serving has only 60 calories). Plus, tuna is a great protein choice, with 12 grams per serving. And, because it's chunk light, nursing moms can eat up to 12 ounces a week, according to the FDA's guidelines on mercury and fish. (If you prefer albacore tuna, lower it to six ounces per week.)
In the freezer
? If you're craving a burger but don't want the fat, try Morningstar Farms Better'n Burgers, made with soy instead of meat. With only 100 calories and two grams of fat each, you can pop one in the microwave, then onto a bun with lettuce and tomatoes, and enjoy guilt-free. The veggie patties come in a bunch of flavors, including fajita, spicy black bean, and Philly cheese steak burgers.
? When making dinner seems as big a feat as running a marathon (while pumping breast milk every 200 feet), heat up a Whole Grain Spa Cuisine from Lean Cuisine, an entire meal in one package. Inspired by the USDA's new food guidelines (which recommends eating three or more ounces of whole grains per day), each entrée contains at least two servings of 100-percent whole grain rice or pasta. With meals such as Salmon with Basil and Lemongrass Chicken, you're sure to feel like you're visiting a spa (okay, probably not, but they're still good).
? Getting sick of peanut butter and jelly every night for dinner? Break up the monotony with some new foods, like Dr. Praeger's Salmon Veggie Burgers, possibly even easier to prepare than a PB&J. Heat one up in the toaster oven, and throw it on a bed of greens for a great healthy meal. Since you keep them in the freezer, you'll always have a low-mercury fish choice available.
? No doubt you're thrilled to see your toes again. If you want to see even more of the baby weight come off -- and still satisfy your chocolate cravings -- keep a box of Silhouette Skinny Cow Fat Free Fudge Bars handy (say that ten times fast, especially after a night with a newborn!). You won't believe this huge fudge bar has only 100 calories and no fat -- but it does, we swear.
In the cupboard
? You'd kill for a few extra zzz's in the morning. What if we told you that you could get the nutrition of slow-cooked oatmeal in just minutes in the microwave? With more fiber than most instant oatmeals (five grams per serving) and no sugar, Uncle Sam Instant Oatmeal makes a great breakfast, or even a midday snack. Bonus: It contains flaxseed, which may help lower blood total cholesterol and has antioxidant properties to protect against certain cancers.
? You can't get out to the movies these days, but you can rent one and watch it with a warm bowl of Jolly Time Healthy Pop Butter Flavor. Each five-cup serving has just 100 calories and two grams of fat -- none of it saturated or trans fat. Plus, it's high in fiber (nine grams per serving)!
? Chili is a family favorite, but in the time it takes you to make it from scratch your baby will outgrow her bodysuit. Amy's Organic Canned Chili, a vegetarian variety packed with protein and fiber, is as close to the real thing as you can get -- and certainly a lot easier.
? Plagued with late-night munchies? Keep some Glenny's Soy Crisps in the nursery for those late-night feedings. (That's your feedings, not the baby's.) They're packaged in a 1.3-ounce bag so you don't have to worry about portion control; plus they're low in calories and fat. Two of the 13 yummy flavors -- Barbeque and Cheddar -- have added calcium and folic acid.