24 Jan Stress-free(ish) Holiday Season
Balanced blood sugar is the driving force behind optimal energy levels, mood and mental clarity. For new moms with a million “new” things to tend to (paired with a few hours of interrupted sleep) keeping your blood sugar balanced is probably the LAST thing on your mind. Instead, you may find yourself skipping meals and relying on quick fuel (think: processed food) because you’re too busy to cook or too overwhelmed to sit down for a proper meal. And when you’re skipping – or at least skimping – on food, your brain goes into survival mode. You may begin to feel heightened anxiety, question your abilities as a mother (you can do this!), and you’re more likely to reach for the carbs, sugar or just about anything in sight.
Glucose is the body’s main source of energy, and it comes from food. The presence of glucose in the blood stimulates your pancreas to produce the hormone insulin, which enables your body to use glucose for energy. Low blood sugar can happen when you skip a meal or go too long without eating. It causes your body to release the hormone epinephrine, which is responsible for some of those survival warning signs: hunger and shakiness. Low blood sugar levels also start to affect your central nervous system – you may feel anxious, irritable or develop a headache after going too long without eating.
Sound familiar? Avoiding the blood sugar crash is important all the time, but especially in those early weeks after giving birth. You’re more likely during this time to not eat properly or to not make nutritious, balanced foods a priority. If you’re breastfeeding the risk is even higher as breastfeeding uses extra calories and glucose. So how to avoid the bottom of the blood sugar barrel? Here are our top 3 tips:
1. Eat a quality breakfast
The best way to keep your blood sugar balanced is eating within an hour of waking up. But what if you’re up, like, every 2 hours? See tip #3. Aim for a high-quality protein, like eggs or Greek yogurt, paired with high quality fats (avocado, nut butter). Plain oats for oatmeal is great, too, topped with some nuts and berries. If you’re having coffee, be sure to drink it while you’re eating, not before or instead of breakfast. And keep the added table sugar to a minimum; you may actually be craving the sugar in your coffee and not the caffeine.
2. Plan meals/snacks ahead of time
Having meals and snacks portioned and pre-prepared is optimal to eating healthily postpartum. Take a trip (or two or three) to the grocery store and stock up before the baby arrives. Vegetable or meat patties, soups and chili, casseroles and stews are all freezer-friendly meals that can be cooked, portioned out into Tupperware and frozen. Opt for items that are easy to thaw and can be eaten with one hand if mid-breastfeeding. Put snack packs together, like raw, unsalted nuts, whole grain crackers and roasted chickpeas that you can keep on your nightstand or coffee table, or quickly throw in your bag if rushing out the door to make a doctor’s appointment. But no matter how much you organize meals ahead of time, fresh fruits and vegetables, given their shelf life, are hard to pre-purchase and have on hand. So when friends and family ask how they can help feed you post-baby, consider asking for some in-season fruit or a bowl of fresh salad greens.
3. Graze, graze, graze!
Grazing helps to keep your blood sugar steady. It also helps with weight loss postpartum; when you eat more consistently throughout the day you’re less likely to binge on high carbohydrate / sugar foods. Keep healthy, high quality foods in a variety of places – your purse, backpack, desk drawer, car – even stashed in different easy-access areas around your home. When you begin to feel those initial hunger pains, you’ll be ready. Eat a small portion of something nutritious to tide you over for the next 1-2 hours.