I’ll be honest. Before I had my baby, during my nursing shifts my dinners mostly consisted of snacks. I also tended to graze throughout the day rather than stick to timed, full meals.
I tried to stick to the 80/20 rule (80% healthy and 20% a little more “flexible), but I didn’t kick myself if my dinner was a block of cheddar and crackers in bed. Little did I knowthat by breaking up my main meals into snacks eaten when convenient, I was preparing for my busy postpartum season ahead.
Just Too Busy
Limited sleep, a tongue tie revision, and trips to a lactation consultant (all while recovering from a c-section surgery!) meant that sitting down to a formal meal wasn’t an option. My stomach was ready for the broken-up meal timing, but one thing had to change: my snack nutrition.
Now that I was dealing with little exercise and even less sleep, eating healthy was even more critical. Before I gave birth, I researched nutritious snack preparation but found that realized quickly that the the time commitment for healthy snack prep wasn’t realistic. So I built a bench of reliable, healthy, and nutritious snacks that helped get me through that first busy postpartum few months and still keep me running today.
Two things to remember before I discuss my top ten nutritious snacks for a busy postpartum:
Calories are Key
Your body is recovering. Pregnancy, birth, stress, no sleep – all combine to really wear you down. But now is not the time to be counting calories or trying to restrict the amount you eat. Especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Ground Rules – But Reasonable
To set my menu, I followed a few key principles that served me well. Ultimately, though, these rules were very flexible because taking care of my baby and myself was more important than sticking to rigid dietary rules.
For example, you’ll see in my top ten that a few of the snacks have seed oils or are a bit more processed than I’d prefer. I definitely didn’t beat myself up over this because my mantra was that I wasn’t striving for perfection if it meant I actually GOT to eat.
Single Serving Selection
As a general rule, I usually try to avoid single-use, packaged, and processed snacks. This was less about nutrition ideology but aligns with my environmental ethos and thrifty nature. Individually bagged fruits or nuts are much more expensive than buying in bulk and uses less plastic waste.
Really, though, if it meant I got to eat while nap-trapped, I went ahead and bought the pre-cut fruits, individual servings of nut butter, or protein bars.
It’s super important that you pair your carb sources with protein or fat instead of eating them alone. This will balance your blood sugar levels and prevent spikes or crashes. Both can impact your mood and sense of well-being. With hormones surging and changing daily, you don’t need blood sugar swings making things harder! It can even affect your sleep.
Top Ten Nutritious Snacks in my Postpartum
I organized this list by ideal carb-to-protein ratios and macronutrient breakdowns that I felt best served me. Your needs might be different, but here’s what helped me:
Go Macro and Aloha Protein Bars
These style snacks might be single-serving, but they have some of the best-blended ratios of carbs/protein/fat around. They’re almost a balanced meal on their own and saved me many times as I drove to appointments or was nap-trapped on the couch. They are actually really tasty bars, too, unlike some I’ve tried.
Beef jerky, Chomps sticks, and Epic Bars
Even though balancing macronutrients is critical, protein is the most important thing to help your muscles and body heal from pregnancy and childbirth. If you can’t get a good macro breakdown blend, the next best thing is to get beef jerky or other meat snacks to keep your protein count high.
For some reason, my body craved fruit towards the end of pregnancy and for the first few months after. My body knows best, so I listened. It’s important to eat whole fruit instead of juices because even though fruit is primarily simple carbohydrates, the fiber in whole fruit helps blunt the blood sugar spikes and crashes. I ate bananas, apples, oranges, but my favorite was cantaloupe. I didn’t understand why, at first, until I researched and found that the fruit is full of inositol, which can help rebalance your metabolism and mood. Research even shows that inositol can be helpful in PCOS, so I feel cantaloupe should be a staple no matter your season.
Bone broth has both protein and collagen. Collagen helps renew and regenerate connective tissues and tendons. Bone broth is great to help your body recover from growing your little one for all of those months.
Nut butter packets
I ate nut butter packets right before bed, with a banana, to help manage my blood sugar overnight. These nut butter packets were also great for middle-of-the-night feedings. I could open them (almost) one-handed and in the dark while half asleep.
Kodiak-brand pancake and oatmeal cups
I’m a New England girl, so maple syrup is part of my DNA. I need my pancakes and oatmeal to deliver that precious resource into my bloodstream but making either from scratch was too time consuming. Kodiak makes protein-infused pancake mixes and oatmeal cups, and both hit the spot in the morning and helped get that syrupy goodness into my belly.
Fat is particularly important to ingest in the immediate postpartum period to help manage your hormone balance. You will also stay full longer if you eat high-fat foods. Greek yogurt is high in protein and full of good fat. You can mix syrup, fruit, or other toppings to change the flavor. For a single serving option check out Siggi's brand. It's high in protein and doesn’t have a ton of added sugar.
Dried fruit was great for midnight feedings. It helped my blood sugar from crashing while feeding all through the night.
Milk (from a cow)
I’m lucky to live in a state where raw milk is legal and easy to find, so I drank a ton of local cow’s milk to get protein and fat in droves. Plus, it’s delicious. My body craved it. Some research shows that raw and unpasteurized milk makes the protein more easily digestible but be sure to do your research before finding a farmer. You can search your area for raw milk here if interested.
Just like milk, cottage cheese has a great macro blend of protein and fat. Unlike milk, you can mix in toppings to change the flavor (like syrup!).
Honourable mention: Electrolyte and mineral replacements
Your body underwent a ton of stress during birth and likely still is. Dehydration is one of the number one factors that contribute to postpartum hospital admission, so getting enough water is critical. Just as necessary is making sure your electrolytes are properly managed, so replacements like LMNT powder or Liquid IV (higher in added sugar) will help rebalance your minerals and drink more water since it’s tasty. In a pinch, even some lemon juice and sea salt are great for staving off dehydration.
Beyond a healthy diet, another great way to make sure you are giving your body all the nutrients it needs to thrive is by taking a high-quality multivitamin. Mama Recovery provides 24 research-backed vitamins, minerals and herbs that help your body and mind recover during the first year of postpartum.