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Flexible Weight Loss Plan for New Moms

Pre-baby, you sit down a lot. After delivery, you never do -- chasing a crawler (watch out!), grabbing more diapers (arrgh, upstairs...), wiping down the high chair (and floor). But the extra activity might not pay off on the scale. What will? Our mom-tested diet and exercise program, proven to help moms painlessly shed those leftover pounds. The result: same great you; a more toned, trimmer bod.

Your love-every-bite healthy eating plan
mother holding baby

Alexandra Grablewski

Pick your plate. Our delicious recipes (each serves one), created by Stephanie Clark, R.D., and Willow Jarosh, R.D., of New York City, will energize you and help you take off up to 2 pounds a week. Any six days, combine a breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and treat that add up to 1,800 calories. (On Day 7, eat what you want, but stick to 1,800 calories.) Nursing? Eat an extra snack (300 calories) to maintain milk production.

Don't skip meals to try to speed progress. A grumbling tummy may trigger high-calorie cravings, causing you to down more than if you'd eaten at regular times.

Make your grocery list. New-mom truth: A stocked fridge is a stress-easer. We made shopping a snap by repeating the most nutrient-filled foods -- such as quinoa, spinach, and Greek yogurt -- in many recipes. To save more time, choose just three picks from each meal category every week and buy double. Cycle in a new option or two in the next week. It's okay to substitute foods within the same group if you'd prefer broccoli to spinach or chicken to tofu in a recipe.

Eat out when it works. We know that you haven't been ordering off a menu much since Baby came along, but we've listed smart options for when you do. Decide on your order before you go. And know this: Although most fast-food spots now sell healthier items, such as oatmeal and salads, new research shows that calories in desserts and condiments have actually risen.

Breakfast (about 350 calories each)
Blueberry-ricotta stuffed french toast

Alexandra Grablewski

Blueberry-ricotta stuffed french toast: Whisk 1 egg with 1/4 cup low-fat milk, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, and 1/8 tsp. cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Dip each side of two slices of whole-wheat bread into the egg mixture. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and cook both slices of bread over medium heat until firm, about 2 minutes a side. Spread 2 Tbs. part-skim ricotta cheese on one slice of toast, top with 1/2 cup blueberries, and cover with the other slice. To serve, drizzle with 1 Tbs. maple syrup.

PB Smoothie: combine 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup low-fat milk, 1 medium frozen banana, 1 Tbs. creamy natural peanut butter, 1 Tbs. cocoa powder, and 2 tsp. maple syrup or honey in a blender, and blend on high until smooth, about 1 minute.

Apple and walnut quinoa cereal: Microwave on high 3/4 cup cooked quinoa mixed with 2/3 cup low-fat milk, 1/2 a medium apple, chopped, and 1 tsp. maple syrup until hot, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbs. chopped walnuts, and sprinkle with cinnamon to taste.

Coconut-Pear Pancakes: Top 2 cooked Van's 8 Whole Grain Pancakes with a large sliced pear, 2 Tbs. unsweetened shredded coconut, and 1 Tbs. maple syrup.

Egg, hummus, and avocado sammie: Pile 1 Tbs. hummus, 1 cooked egg, 1 cooked egg white, 1 tomato slice, and 1/4 avocado between the halves of a toasted whole-wheat English muffin. Serve with 1/2 of a large orange.

Lunch (about 500 calories each)

Bean-avocado salad: Combine 1/2 cup black beans, 1/2 cup corn, 1/2 cup shelled edamame, 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes, 1/4 avocado, chopped, and 1 Tbs. chopped cilantro (optional). Serve over 1 cup romaine lettuce, and dress with 2 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. lime juice, and 1/8 tsp. cumin; season with black pepper.

Curried egg salad with crisp bread: Mash one hard- boiled egg and one hard- boiled egg white, and combine with 1 Tbs. light mayo, 1/8 tsp. curry powder, 1 Tbs. sunflower seeds, 1 Tbs. raisins, 1/4 cup shredded carrot, and 1/4 cup chopped celery. Serve with four whole-grain crisp breads (like Wasa) and 1 cup grapes.

Butternut squash and tofu bisque: In a skillet, saute 1/3 cup extra-firm tofu, cubed, in 1 tsp. olive oil until steaming, about 4 minutes. In a saucepan, heat 2 cups Pacific Foods butternut squash soup over medium-high heat. Add tofu and 2 cups raw baby spinach to soup; warm through. Pour into a bowl and top with 1 Tbs. nonfat plain Greek yogurt and 1 Tbs. chopped green onion. Serve with half a toasted 6-inch whole-wheat pita.

Strawberry and tuna salad: Toss 2 cups raw baby spinach with 1/2 cup sliced strawberries, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 2 Tbs. sliced toasted almonds, and 2 Tbs. crumbled goat cheese. Top with 3 oz. drained, canned water-packed tuna that's been mixed with 1 Tbs. light mayo and black pepper to taste. Dress with 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar whisked with 1 tsp. olive oil and 1/2 tsp. honey.

Bean and Veggie Burrito: Heat an Amy's Black Bean Vegetable Burrito according to instructions and top with 2 Tbs. nonfat plain Greek yogurt and 1 Tbs. salsa. Serve with 11/2 cups frozen broccoli heated in the microwave and drizzled with 2 tsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. lemon juice.

Dinner (about 600 calories each)
Greens and chicken sausage

Alexandra Grablewski

Greens and chicken sausage: Saute 1 sliced, precooked 21/2-oz. chicken sausage until hot. Remove from skillet. Saute 1-1/2 cups kale in 2 tsp. olive oil, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup white beans, 1 tsp. chopped garlic, 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbs. warm water, and sausage; warm through. Serve over cooked brown rice; drizzle dish with olive oil.

Simple veggie lasagna: Thinly slice 1/4 of a large eggplant and saute in 1 tsp. olive oil until soft. Remove from skillet. Saute 2 cups baby spinach until wilted. In an oven-safe dish, layer 1/4 cup marinara, 11/4 cups cooked whole- wheat penne, 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, the eggplant and spinach, 1/4 cup marinara, and 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.

Nutty Salmon: In a food processor, pulse 2 Tbs. cashews, 1 Tbs. Parmesan cheese, 2 tsp. fresh basil, and 1 tsp. olive oil until finely ground. Place a 4-oz. salmon filet, skin side down, on a baking sheet covered with foil; rub fish with cashew crust and season with pepper. Slice half a zucchini into 1/2-inch sticks and toss with 1 tsp. olive oil. Place zucchini next to salmon; seal both with foil. Bake at 350°F 10 minutes. Remove top foil; bake uncovered 2 to 3 more minutes, until crust is browned slightly and fish is cooked. Serve with 1 cup cooked quinoa.

Steak-and-potato feast: Season both sides of a 5-oz. beef tenderloin steak with 1 tsp. black pepper and 1/4 tsp. salt. Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat; cook steak about 3 minutes a side (or until meat reaches 145°F internally). Remove steak from skillet; cover with foil. Lower heat to medium and saute 1 Tbs. chopped shallots and 1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms in 1 tsp. olive oil until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add 1/3 cup dry red wine and reduce heat. Cook until liquid reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp. butter. Serve mushroom-wine sauce over steak, adding 1 cup steamed broccoli sprinkled with lemon juice and a medium baked potato topped with 1 Tbs. nonfat plain Greek yogurt.

Stuffed quesadilla: Cook 4 oz. ground skinless turkey breast and 1/3 cup diced mushrooms in 1 tsp. olive oil over medium heat until cooked through. Stir in 1/8 tsp. each cumin, chili powder, and onion powder. Spread turkey mixture on an 8-inch whole-wheat tortilla, sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese, and top with another tortilla. Cook in a skillet over medium heat 2 minutes a side, or until cheese melts. Serve topped with 2 Tbs. nonfat plain Greek yogurt and 2 Tbs. salsa.

Snacks (about 200 calories)
Berry fruit smoothie

Alexandra Grablewski

Tropical nutty trail mix: Combine 1/2 cup spoon- sized shredded wheat with 5 cashews, 1 Tbs. unsweetened dried coconut, and 2 Tbs. chopped dried pineapple.

Cheesy tomato toasts: Top 2 whole-grain crisp breads (like Wasa) each with 11/2 Tbs. reduced-fat cream cheese and 2 slices of tomato.

Hummus-cucumber pita: Spread a 5-inch whole- wheat pita with 3 Tbs. hummus and 1/4 cup cucumber slices.

'Nana and chocolate milk: Mix 1/2 cup low-fat chocolate milk with 1/2 cup nonfat milk. Sip it with a small banana.

Berry fruit smoothie: Blend one 6-oz. container Chobani pomegranate nonfat yogurt with 1/3 cup raspberries and 1/2 cup nonfat milk.

Treats (about 150 calories)

  • 1 oz. Food should Taste Good Original sweet potato chips
  • 2/3 cup Edy's slow churned Double Fudge Brownie ice cream
  • 1 Starbucks Raspberry Truffle cake pop
  • 35 Jelly Belly jelly beans
  • A 6-oz. glass of red or white wine
  • 1 small French baguette slice with 3/4 oz. of brie cheese

woman holding jump rope

Alexandra Grablewski

Regular exercise revs up your metabolism, which encourages weight loss, but it does so much more. Reduce your overall risk of heart disease? Check. Increase your satisfaction with life? Yep. Help you sleep? Sure thing. Is there a day that goes by without researchers proving all of this? We doubt it. Get your doctor's approval to exercise, lace up your sneakers, and go!

Pick four days to do cardio. Go for 30 minutes and earn bonus points for more. Heart-pumping exercise is essential for fighting fat, especially the belly kind, so hit those four days as many weeks as you can.

Firm your body twice a week. When you build muscle, you'll burn more calories all day long, even when you're just vegging with Baby. Sara Haley, creator of the new Sweat Unlimited DVD, designed a simple six-move toning routine.

 

Tone your core twice a week. Our ab routine will not only shrink your middle, it will also shore up your back, preventing injury from heaving your tot out of the crib.

 

Workouts you can squeeze between naps and feedings -- yes, please!

1. HOP ON A TREADMILL

Aim to burn about 300 calories in only 30 minutes with this plan. It helps beat back boredom by alternating between running and walking.

squat

Alexandra Grablewski

  • Minutes 0 to 3 Warm up, 2.5 to 3.5 speed, 0 to 2 incline.
  • Minutes 3 to 5 Break into a speed walk or easy jog, 3.5 to 6.5 speed, 2 to 4 incline.
  • Minutes 5 to 11 Alternate between a one-minute sprint and a one-minute easy run/walk for three sets, 4.5 to 8.5 speed, 2 to 4 incline.
  • Minutes 11 to 16 Keep pushing yourself as you maintain a speed between 2.5 and 6.5, and increase the incline to between 4 and 8. Whew!
  • Minutes 16 to 22 Alternate between a one-minute sprint and a one-minute easy run/walk for three sets, 4.5 to 8.5 speed, 2 to 4 incline.
  • Minutes 22 to 26 Run, jog, or walk at an easy-to-moderate pace, 3.5 to 6.5 speed, 2 to 4 incline.
  • Minutes 26 to 30 Cool down, 2.5 to 3.5 speed, 0 to 2 incline.

2. GET SWEATY IN THE LIVING ROOM

This 20-minute circuit requires zero equipment and relies on surefire gym-class classics.

  • 3 minutes march in place
  • 60 jumping jacks
  • 1 minute march in place
  • 60 jumping jacks
  • 1 minute march in place
  • 20 squat-thrusts
  • 1 minute march in place
  • 20 squat-thrusts
  • 1 minute march in place
  • 20 squat-thrusts
  • 1 minute march in place
  • 20 squat-thrusts
  • 1 minute march in place
  • 60 jumping jacks
  • 1 minute march in place
  • 60 jumping jacks
  • 2 minutes march in place

3. POP IN A DVD

Make your get-lean goals happen with these top picks.

Finish fast!

  • Physique 57 Express 30 Minute Full Body Workout, $25; Physique57.com
  • Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30, $15; JillianMichaels.com

Tone your butt!

  • Tonique Mat Workout, $19; Amazon.com
  • Barre3 Total Body Lift Workout, $20; Barre3.com

Melt fat!

  • Billy Blanks TaeBo Classic, $15; Amazon.com
  • Sara Haley Sweat Unlimited, $25, SaraHaley.com

Flatten that belly!

  • Bob Harper Totally Ripped Core, $20, MyTrainerBob.com
  • Exhale: Core Fusion Pure Abs & Arms, $18; AcaciaLifestyle.com

4. TURN A STROLLER INTO A WORKOUT

Throw on sneakers and hit the pavement for 30 minutes after breakfast, before Baby's nap, or during the fussy hour.

Originally published in the March 2013 issue of American Baby magazine.

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