Stop Counting Calories Postpartum and Start Enjoying Them!
Fertility and prenatal dietitian Julia Dixon discusses calories and postnatal nutrition
Postpartum is wild. It’s utterly bananas. Here’s a new baby, body, new life. Plus a targeted ad or two for a low calorie postpartum meal plan! Should we really be focussing on counting calories in the postpartum period?
A postnatal body just did, and continues to do, a lot of work. It grew, birthed and is now nurturing a whole human being. And yet, here is society asking when a postnatal body will “lose the baby weight” – shouldn’t society be asking where it should send a medal?!
Body judgement is all over the place, especially in the postnatal space. Research shows eating disorder relapse rates increase in the postpartum period, postnatal depression and anxiety rates increase and nutrient deficiency risk increases as requirements for dietary nutrients can increase. It is a perfect storm of increased physiological and mental health harm risk.
Including not excluding foods not counting calories
So let’s flip the narrative and focus on counting calories postpartum to including, not excluding foods. Let’s not count calories postnatally, let’s instead count colours and plant variety on a plate. Count up daily fruits and veggies, not carbs. Let’s fuel the body to do movement that is safe and enjoyed. Because a postnatal body is recovering, it is changing. Breastfeeding, if chosen, requires a tremendous amount of metabolic energy (about 1,500-2,000kJ daily). You need energy – you don’t need to be hungry. So throw away low calorie meal plans and instead focus on eating a diverse range of:
- fruits and veggies
- whole grains
- lean and plant protein
- nuts and seeds
- mono and polyunsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocado and especially omega-3s like oily fish
- herbs and spices
Research shows time and again diets high in these foods are associated with positive physical and mental health. And while nutrition needs are unique and nuanced based on about a million questions I would ask you in clinic, these foods are rich in fibre, essential vitamins and minerals, proteins and fats (you need all of these post baby!) and promote:
- A healthy relationship with food
- Nutrient stores
- A thriving microbiome
- A positive influence on mental health
- Satiety (feeling full)
So, if you are 3 hours, or 3 years postnatal, your body needs nourishment to recover and energy to be a parent – to work, and enjoy fitness.
Focus on including more of the nourishing foods above which will help you care for your new baby, body and life.
Owner of virtual clinic Julia Dixon Dietitian, Jules is an accredited practising dietitian certified in fertility and prenatal nutrition. She has a background in journalism + marketing and became a dietitian to talk about food 24/7