So you’ve put up decorations, you’ve bought gifts for family and friends, you’ve planned for the parties, and you’ve stocked up on the best healthy pregnancy food. Wait, what?
We all know the things at the top of our minds during the holiday season, like preparing our homes and calendars for the festivities of the holiday season and new year right around the corner. With extra on our minds during this time of year, we don’t always focus on making healthy decisions as much as we should. If you’re a new or expecting mama, you’ve got another monumental thing on your mind. With so much else for you to think about, we have gathered a few things you can do to help you make healthy choices as you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy and heading into the postpartum phase.
Make sure you’re eating enough…
If you find yourself feeling hungrier than normal towards the end of your pregnancy or early postpartum, you’re not alone. Between growing your baby during pregnancy and working to produce enough milk while breastfeeding, you may feel hungrier than normal. If this sounds like you, listen to your body! Mayo Clinic suggests that you may need an extra 400 calories per day when you’re breastfeeding to set yourself up to produce enough milk for your baby,1 so don’t feel guilty if you dig in for (a healthy) round two!
…of the right kinds of foods
A little caveat to the previous recommendation: make sure the food you’re eating is the right kind! Fruits and veggies should be high on your list of healthy pregnancy food, as should foods high in protein and whole grains. Mayo Clinic reported that what you eat even changes the taste of your breastmilk, so eating a variety of foods will help your baby experience different tastes early on.1 If you stock your fridge full of these healthy choices, you’ll be more likely to reach for a healthy option when you’re hungry and get those all-important vitamins and nutrients.
Drink enough water
Breastmilk mostly consists of water — at around 80%2 — so it’s important to stay hydrated for your baby as well as for yourself. Make your frequent breastfeeding spots comfortable, including having your favorite nursing bra around, a blanket to get as cozy as you can during nursing sessions, and a bottle of water to remind you to drink your water while baby is filling up, too.
While these are some key steps to staying healthy from a general nutrition standpoint, the holiday season throws an extra wrench in the staying healthy mix — which can be hard enough to do as it is. If you’re nearing the end of pregnancy or through to the postpartum phase, here are a few extra tips on how to make healthy choices for yourself and baby during an often-indulgent time of the year.
Have a plan for holiday parties
By early December, you likely already have several family, friend, or work events planned. If you know you’re going to a holiday party on the weekend — especially one that may have unhealthy temptations — stay on track with healthy options throughout the week. This way, you’re likely to be less strict on yourself when it comes to the holiday get-together goodies.
Start your days with a healthy meal
Don’t skip meals to “save calories” for parties or events where you know you could be tempted with sugar or unhealthy foods. Start your day with a healthy breakfast full of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats to help you stay fuller longer and avoid overindulging later.
Eat before the party
Before heading to a holiday party, snack on some of the healthy, nutritious foods we already know you stocked up on at home. Going to an event when you’re hungry can actually cause you to overeat more that you would have otherwise, so this will help you from overindulging on less healthy options. But do allow yourself to save some room so you can still try small portions of those holiday indulgences.
Bring a healthy dish
If you’re attending a gathering where you’re bringing a dish, make something healthy — that you know you’ll like! That way, you know there will be at least one healthy option you can choose from when you fill your plate. If you’re bringing a dessert, make one with low sugar or a healthy sugar substitute like honey or monk fruit.
Divert sugar cravings
We’ve all been there — the sugar craving you feel that tempts you to reach for sweets. With extra treats all around throughout the holidays, staying away from those sugar cravings can seem even harder than normal. Opt for a snack of fruit instead, which will still allow you to get that sugar you’re craving but in a natural, healthy way. Or if you want chocolate, choose dark chocolate, which contains polyphenols and antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory effects.3
Choose foods that are best for you and baby
Whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, always remember that what you put in your body is important to not only your health, but also your baby’s. Choose healthy pregnancy food so you’re filling your body with the nutrients both you and baby will need to stay healthy.
Along with these recommendations on choosing healthy foods, here are a few more dos and don’ts to help you navigate healthy choices through the holiday season.
DON’T feel the need to completely avoid seasonal treats. When you’re planning for the holiday season, make realistic goals for yourself. If you have a sweet tooth, let yourself enjoy some in moderation.
DO keep up with exercise. It’s easy to push it off or forget exercising during the holidays when you’re so busy — even more so if you live in a cold location and it gets harder and harder to get yourself outside in decreasing temperatures. But remember that exercise is an important part of an overall healthy self and benefits your body and mind.
DON’T eat just to eat just because there’s food around. Recognize the signs of hunger and take a moment to discern if you’re actually hungry or if your brain is telling you to eat because of boredom or another emotion.
DO remember to give yourself a little grace. Whether you fall short of any health goals or indulge a little more than you planned, remember that we all stumble and you can immediately start over again with those health goals.
DON’T feel guilty about enjoying a few treats.
DO feel comfortable saying no to anything, whether it’s related to food, parties you may or may not want to attend, or anything else surrounding the holiday festivities.
All in all, remember to enjoy the holidays, especially the year of firsts you’ll be experiencing with your new little one. The holidays are full of time with family and friends and the focus should be on you, the ones you love, and making happy memories together.
- Mayo Clinic. Breastfeeding nutrition: Tips for moms. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breastfeeding-nutrition/art-20046912
- Northwestern Medicine. What to Eat While Feeding Your Child Breast Milk. https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/nutrition/breastfeeding-nutrition
- 19 Foods That Can Fight Sugar Cravings. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-that-fight-sugar-cravings