10 Ways to Bring More Presence into your Daily Food Foray
When a new baby comes along, it can be easy to get off track with how and what you consume. Getting consistent meals in between feedings, soothing and getting much needed rest can feel like an impossible task. Often the process is majorly elongated due to interruptions – food that once was hot is now cold and unappetizing…’Hmmmmm, maybe next time’ we muse……
Well, there are ways to prioritise and ease the process. After all, it’s so important to eat well as a new mama, especially if you are breastfeeding. You need all your strength to show up consistently 24/7 without major burnout and excess fatigue.
Here are my top tips and strategies!
Eat before you are ravenous
This is a great tip for everyone – just like not going to the store whilst hungry! Start preparing your food before you actually feel hungry. This gives you lots of time to get distracted and deal with your little ones’ needs as you go. You are more inclined to prepare a full healthy meal when you aren’t starving. When you start food prep too late, you may be more likely to go for a quick convenient option that might not be optimally balanced.
Get on a schedule
This is a useful strategy to combine with my first tip. If you have a set meal time you then have a set time to start preparing: maybe 1-2 hours before. Setting a schedule for meals means over time you are priming your stomach to know when it will be receiving food. This aids good digestion as the stomach prepares digestive enzymes in anticipation for meal time. Obviously it’s hard to be completely exact with a new baby. Things happen! But, within a two hour window is achievable. A schedule also helps all family members. Kids generally do well with a routine that they can trust and flow within.
Eat an early dinner
Try to eat you last meal of the day early. This might seem challenging in the evening flow of getting everyone else fed and ready for bed. But it’s best not to eat a huge meal at this time anyway. And you get better sleep and help optimize digestion when you eat a minimum of two hours before going to bed. Keep it simple, light and quick (such as a simple soup). Save the more lengthy-to-prepare, large meal for the middle of the day which is when you have more energy to prepare something. It’s also when the digestive fire is at its strongest. Additionally, this is a great way to encourage family dinners with everyone eating together.
Invite your baby to meals
Even before your baby is eating solids you can invite them to the dinner table. Introduce a favourite toy that they get to play with at this time, in the high chair perhaps. This also shows, from a young age, the importance of sacred mealtimes and eating as a family unit.
Feed your baby what you are eating
Once your baby is eating solids, keep it really simple by feeding them an element of what you are eating. You might start with mashing it up with a fork and transition to giving them pieces from your own plate to pick up and chew, otherwise known as baby-led weaning. We found this way of initiating our son’s food journey to be really easy and natural, no blender required! Cooking just one meal means you avoid ending up without a meal for yourself after preparing one for your children. Your baby’s taste buds have been primed by what you have been eating whilst pregnant and whilst breastfeeding — you may be surprised by the range of foods they find enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be just bananas and sweet potato!
Wear your baby
This was literally a life saver when my baby was really small. He was instantly calm and soothed by being close to my body and seemed to enjoy being involved in the kitchen action. It would often tie in with nap-time as he tended to fall asleep whilst in the carrier. I could then put him down once he was fully out, enabling me to eat my food in comfort and peace. At around 5 months you can start wearing your baby on your back which makes cooking a lot easier! They love watching what you’re up to and, later on, enjoying the food they’ve seen lovingly prepared. It’s all part of building their own good relationship with food.
I love to make fresh food, and in Ayurveda we stress the importance of freshly prepared meals. BUT preparing an extra portion or so of a meal is a great habit to get into. Maybe you just want to cook once a day and eat the same thing for lunch and dinner. Or perhaps, like me, as a new mom, you are eating a lot more than usual and hunger creeps up suddenly after a long feeding session. Be prepared and you can make sure you can quickly feed yourself in a pinch. Of course you can also feed hungry kids or partners with extra portions too!
This is a great skill to cultivate for new parents – and vital if you feel stretched for time and inspiration at the end of a long day. Having a weekly meal plan means you know exactly what to buy at the store, saving you time as well as preventing unused food from going to waste. You can also easily order online when you know what ingredients you need, saving money and avoiding impulse buys. A well-designed meal plan can ensure that you are eating a well-balanced diet of macro and micro nutrients with enough calories to meet breastfeeding needs. There are different apps to create your own plans. Another option is to receive individualised plans delivered weekly by a health coach such as myself!
Don’t eat whilst distracted
Although it might be tempting to check emails or watch a show at the same time as eating, studies show that not paying full attention to your food as your eat is detrimental to good digestion. Not only is digestion partly a visual process (ever had your mouth start to drool at the sight of a particularly appetising morsel?), but it’s important to be present as you eat to notice the ‘I’m full’ signals sent by the stomach. This helps you to avoid overeating.
Bring awareness to your bounty for just a few moments before you eat — creating what I term, the sacred pause. Involving your children fosters awareness and gratitude for the gift of food. This is also another way we can make eating a special moment in the day and not just a chore to check off the to-do list.
It’s not always easy, Mama, but I urge you to prioritize your health and eating. Not only are you modeling good habits for your children, forging a lifetime of healthy, mindful eating…but you will be able to be a lot more present, loving and available if you have a full cup and are giving to your family from your abundant, well-fed overflow.