We all know that what we choose to put into our bodies is crucial. Whether we are concerned about a specific dietary restriction, or just want to be conscious of our well-being in general, it is now clear that the food we eat is a huge part of the health equation. At no time is this truer than during pregnancy. Pre-natal nutrition is something that all doctors, midwives, and doulas will be sure to discuss with any pregnant mama, and, even though the pressure on good nutrition goes down a little after birth and a lot once you stop breastfeeding, your eating habits remain vital for the health (physical, mental, and emotional) of you, your partner, and your baby.
Many of you are likely very aware of the ins and outs of nutrition—what your body needs and how many servings, from calcium-rich foods and whole grains to lots and lots of fruits and veggies, but we rarely think about the implications of how we eat. Do we eat standing at the fridge or sitting down around the dining room table? Do we grab a few pre-made snacks and pack them for later, or do we take time to think about what our bodies are cravings and pay attention to those cravings when we feel them? Do we eat food as a way to stay fueled or do we really relish flavors and enjoy the process of preparation? For most of us, it is likely a combination of these. With the busy pace of life many of us experience, almost no one has time to spend hours lovingly preparing each meal and enjoying the smell of each bunch of freshly picked herbs. And although it is often a struggle just to make time to eat at all, I would like to invite you to take time to enjoy and savor not just food itself, but also its preparation, and the setting in which you eat it.
You may wonder why, on earth, would now be the right time to try this, when literally everything in your life is about to get more complicated? Although it’s true that having a new baby is a crazy time of change, it’s also a wonderful beginning, not only of your baby’s life, but also of your family in its new form. What a great opportunity to create healthy patterns that will positively impact you and your children. You can take small steps now to make not just what you eat, but how you prepare and enjoy those meals a nourishing experience. This will have huge benefits for you and also for your kids as they grow and learn to eat and cook for themselves.
Here are a few tips and ideas you can do now to set the tone for how you think about food once your baby is here:
Whenever possible, eat as a family
We rush around so much that we often forget the need to check in with one another. Dinner can be a special time for families, when we feed not only our bodies but also our relationships with each other. Start now, whether that means making time to eat with your partner or, if you’re on your own, carving out time to spend with yourself when you eat. Putting cell phones away and talking to each other, or maybe writing in a journal if you’re alone, can be wonderful experiences. Make it a habit now and it will be easier to maintain as your kids grow up.
Learn to love your freezer
Being busy doesn’t mean you have to eat take-out or cereal for dinner. The freezer is your friend! Try making a big batch of wholesome, homemade soup once a week (or make a lot now and have it ready for after you give birth!) and freezing a few portions, You can easily defrost one serving, toss together a salad, and have a satisfying meal in almost no time. The freezer is also a great place to keep homemade pesto and tomato sauce, stews, lasagnas, enchiladas, and other comfort foods.
Tap into your community
Your friends and family want to take care of you, especially after you give birth, and what better way to do so than cook you delicious food? Encourage that instinct: set up a meal train now for after you have your baby, or, host a baby shower in which, instead of toys and clothes, everyone brings ingredients and all together you make meals to stock your freezer with!
Perfect quick, easy recipes now
Now is a good time to find easy recipes or cooking techniques and practice them until you can make them without a cookbook. Get comfortable substituting interchangeable ingredients so, when you’re on no sleep, you can still remember how to throw together a simple stir-fry or omelet. The simpler the recipe, and the fewer complicated ingredients, the better.
Don’t get hung up on “fad” foods and eat what you love!
Don’t waste your time feeling guilty that you don’t like chia seeds or find kale to be repulsive (it’s ok!). Although many foods that have received tremendous attention in the health community do deserve the accolades, none of that matters if you have to force yourself to eat it! Do try to have an open mind and give these foods a couple tries, perhaps in different preparations, before putting them on the black list. If I had never thought to roast brussel sprouts, but had only the memory of the lifeless boiled mini-cabbages that my college roommate use to make (the smell alone brings shivers!), I never would have discovered how delicious they are. But, if you never learn to love something, don’t force yourself to eat it. Find what you love and what your body craves and you’ll enjoy the cooking and eating of those foods so much more!
It doesn’t have to be perfect
Your home kitchen is not a five star restaurant so don’t worry if something doesn’t look Pinterest-worthy, or even taste exactly how you expected. Cook with fresh, high quality ingredients and let yourself enjoy the process without the need for perfection.
These are just a few ideas but the main point here is to start to see cooking and eating as something enjoyable, and not only a chore. Although at times it will still feel like drudgery and sometimes take-out will be a godsend, creating positive experiences around your meals will serve you and your family well. Eat good food and remember that not just what you eat but how you enjoy it will be what nourish you and your family—bodies and souls.
Tali Biale has worked as a farmer, chef, and cooking teacher. She is also a pre-natal yoga teacher and runs Kitchen Doula, a meal delivery service for families in their first weeks with a new baby. She believes cooking for someone is a true expression of love and caring.
Find out more at: www.kitchendoula.com