“Congratulations on your new arrival” is a phrase that is often spoken to new parents upon giving birth to a child. However, many new mothers cannot help but wonder whether the phrase also applies to the new arrival of the weight gain they experienced during pregnancy.

This is a time in which you should be bathing in the enjoyment and discovery of fulfilling experiences a baby brings. However, you probably cannot avoid the thoughts of “how and when will I get my pre-pregnancy body back?!”

Keep reading to explore a healthy approach to getting fit after pregnancy with general guidelines for a post-pregnancy diet.

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Also check out Best foods to eat while pregnant

Calories

First and foremost, it is important to calculate your calorie intake to determine whether you are within the appropriate calorie range for your height and weight. It is best to calculate this based using pre-pregnancy height and weight.

One very important piece of information you should consider is that while you were pregnant you should have only been consuming an extra 350 – 450 calories per day.

To put this into perspective, these extra calories could have easily been achieved with one food item, such as a decadent ice cream sandwich or a loaded cheeseburger. However, now that you are not pregnant anymore, these extra calories should be cut out immediately.

Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding

It takes about 500 calories to produce approximately 3 cups of breast milk per day. If you plan to breastfeed your baby and were within a normal weight range pre-pregnancy, then you get to consume an extra 500 calories per day.

If you plan to breastfeed, but were overweight prior to pregnancy, then you should not consume extra calories. Instead your breast milk production will rely on your fat stores.

If you are not breastfeeding then unfortunately you do not have an extra calorie reserve to look forward to on a daily basis. Instead you will need to be cognizant about cutting out the extra pregnancy calories soon after the baby is born.

Balance your macronutrients

It is of the utmost importance to eat well-balanced meals. This entails making sure each meal includes a healthy balance of the macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fat. Following the USDA’s MyPlate can help you achieve this balance.

Load up half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate with whole grains and the remaining quarter with protein. Fat is usually present in the form of butter or healthy oils, such as olive oil.

The post-pregnancy diet that will get you back into shape

Dairy is also a major component, as an 8-ounce portion should be built into your daily routine. Make sure your carbohydrates are complex, such as in the form of whole grains.

Frequent meals

Keeping your body satiated throughout the day is a good way to avoid over consuming. If you skip meals and allow your hunger index to progressively rise, when you finally sit down to eat, you will likely consume more than you should in one sitting. This is detrimental to your health in a several ways.

First, by skipping meals, you are slowing down your metabolism and making it less efficient at converting food into energy, but instead allowing it to go toward a fat storing pathway.

Second, you will likely leave yourself feeling bloated and sickly. Finally, you may also experience feelings of guilt for eating so much and these guilty feelings can turn into depressive thoughts. In order to keep your mind and body healthy, aim to eat six meals per day. Your three main meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner with small snacks in between.

Portion control by food group

It is also important to mind your portion control as well. Your snacks should be small, and your main meal portions should be reasonable, so don’t over do it. The following lists portion recommendations, these are on an either/or basis.

Grains/Starch servings per day:
– ½ cup cooked cereal, grain, or starchy vegetable.
– 1/3 cup cooked rice or pasta.
– 1-ounce bread product.
– ¾ to 1-ounce snack foods.

Fruits servings per day:
– ½ cup canned or fresh fruit, or unsweetened fruit juice.
– 1 small (4-ounce) fresh fruit, such as an apple or banana.
– 2 tablespoons of dried fruit.

Dairy:
– 1 cup of milk or 6-ounce yogurt.

Non-starchy Vegetable:
– ½ cup cooked vegetable or vegetable juice.
– 1-cup raw vegetable, such as leafy greens.

Meat:
– 3-ounces of meat, poultry or fish.
– Try to incorporate fish at least two times per week.

Fat:
– 1-teaspoon olive oil or butter.
– 1 tablespoon of salad dressing.

Alcohol:
– 1 drink per day for women (in comparison to 2 drinks per day for men).
– One drink is classified as 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of distilled liquors, 5 ounces of wine or 3.5 ounces of desert wine.

Nutrition facts and ingredient labels

These are important tools that are present on the packaging of your food products. It is important to take the time to get into the habit of reading every nutrition facts and ingredient label of all your packaged and processed food items as you embark on this journey.

Make sure your whole grain products list the first ingredient as whole grain, otherwise it is not a whole grain product. Ingredients are listed in order from greatest to least in content.

Also keep an eye out for added sugars in the form of cane syrup, molasses, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and any other sugar synonyms.

It is important to limit your sugar intake by choosing food items in which the sugar content is in the single digits. Excess sugar has no place to go in the body but to fat.

Exercise

Physical activity is important for several reasons. It will help keep you sane and burn calories. The general recommendation is at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.

If you are specifically looking to lose a certain amount of pounds, then you should consider making physical activity a habit at least 5 days per week. Exercise can be light to moderate; it doesn’t have to be intense. A 30-minute walk, for example, can be effective in helping you achieve your goal.

While a specific meal plan is not provided, simply applying the above recommendations to your daily exercise and meal routines will be effective in helping you lose those extra pregnancy pounds.

Keep in mind that progress is gradual and requires a time commitment in order to remain healthy. Losing too much in too short a time is not healthy for anyone, especially a mother with a new baby.

Healthy weight loss ranges from 1 – 2 pounds per week. Any more than this and you are likely losing water and/or muscle, which also has detrimental health effects. So be patient!

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