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Lose the Baby Weight

Woman with baby and apple

We know how hard it can be to focus on eating well and exercising when you've got your hands full at home -- and how tempting that pint of ice cream is at 10 p.m. Being disciplined seems so daunting as you're adjusting to the demands of motherhood (or juggling two mac 'n' cheese-loving little kids). With our healthy meal plan, specially designed for moms six weeks postpartum and beyond by Elisa Zied, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips, you can lose up to one to two pounds per week without feeling deprived or counting calories. (We've included foods with plenty of iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin D, which are essential for new moms.) You deserve to look and feel better -- so get ready to become a slimmer, stronger, sexier mom!

How the Plan Works: Choose one breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack (three snacks if you're breastfeeding), and treat per day, varying your picks. Unless a meal specifies a drink, choose water or other noncaloric beverage.

Breakfasts
Toast and Yogurt

Toast and Yogurt
1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1 Tbs. sugar-free jam; 1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen) and 2 Tbs. slivered almonds

Egg Pita
1 small toasted pita filled with 1 scrambled egg and 3/4 ounce Swiss cheese (size of 3 dice) cooked in 1 tsp. trans-fat-free soft margarine; 1 cup calcium-fortified orange juice

Oatmeal
1/2 cup dry oatmeal (or 1 packet instant), topped with 7 walnut halves and a sprinkle of cinnamon; 1 small orange (or 2 clementines); 1 cup nonfat milk

Peanut-Butter Toast
1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1 Tbs. peanut butter or other nut butter; 1 cup pineapple chunks (fresh or canned in juice and drained); 1 cup nonfat milk

Cereal
1 cup whole-grain cold cereal (with at least 5 grams fiber and no more than 140 calories) with a small sliced banana, 7 walnut halves, and 1 cup nonfat milk

Big salad

Big Salad
Salad made with 2 cups mixed greens and 1 cup raw vegetables (tomatoes, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, onions), 5 oz. light tuna (canned, packed in water), 1/4 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese, 100 calories worth of bottled salad dressing or 2 tsp. olive oil and 2 tsp. vinegar; 1 small whole-wheat roll

Bagel Melt
1/2 whole-wheat bagel, scooped, toasted, and filled with 3 ounces grilled or roasted chicken breast, 1/4 avocado, 2 slices tomato, and 1 thin slice fresh mozzarella; bake or broil to melt cheese

Soup
Canned soup such as minestrone or chicken vegetable, preferably a lower-sodium variety (up to 200 calorie portion); small whole-wheat roll dipped in 1 tsp. olive oil; 1 cup nonfat milk

Hummus Pita
1 small whole-wheat pita (either toasted and open-faced or untoasted and filled) with 1/3 cup hummus, 4 Tbs. crumbled feta cheese, 1 cup cucumber and tomato slices

Egg-Salad Sandwich
Toasted whole-wheat English muffin filled with egg salad (made with 1 whole egg 2 additional egg whites, 2 tsp. regular mayonnaise, and a dash of paprika), 1 or 2 leaves romaine lettuce, and 1 or 2 slices tomato; 1 cup nonfat milk

Penne pasta and chicken

Penne
1 cup cooked whole-wheat penne mixed with 3 oz. grilled chicken breast, 1/2 cup tomato sauce (made with canned no-sodium-added diced tomatoes heated in 1 tsp. olive oil), 1 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese cut into cubes, and 2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese

Quesadilla
Cheese and bean quesadilla made with two 6" whole-wheat tortillas brushed with 1/2 tsp. olive oil, 1/2 cup canned black beans, and 1/4 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese; 1 cup broccoli broiled or sautéed with 1 tsp. olive oil and a little garlic powder

Tilapia
6 oz. broiled tilapia; 1 cup green beans sautéed in 1 tsp. olive oil; 1 cup cooked wild rice

Flank Steak
3 oz. broiled flank steak; 1 cup cooked brown rice; 1 tightly packed cup spinach, lightly sautéed in 1 tsp. olive oil and sprinkled with onion powder and garlic powder to taste

Salmon
4 oz. broiled salmon; 1 sweet potato (2" diameter) cut into strips, brushed with 1 tsp. olive oil, and baked with nonstick cooking spray; 1 cup steamed Brussels sprouts with 1 tsp. trans-fat-free soft margarine

Swiss cheese and apple

  • Two slices Swiss cheese and 1 medium apple
  • Trail mix made with: 2 Tbs. dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots), 2 Tbs. slivered almonds, and 2 Tbs. granola or 1/2 cup Cheerios or other whole-grain cereal
  • Five Triscuits and 1/2 cup calcium-fortified orange juice
  • 15 thin 3-ring pretzels (preferably unsalted)
  • One snack-size no-sugar-added applesauce and 1 part-skim mozzarella string cheese
  • 3 cups air-popped popcorn made with 1 tsp. canola oil
  • One large banana
  • 3 Tbs. cashews
  • One low-fat graham cracker (two squares) with 1 cup nonfat milk

Jelly beans in bowl

  • 35 small jellybeans
  • Two to three small chocolate-chip cookies (such as regular Chips Ahoy!)
  • Six Hershey's Kisses
  • 30 plain M&M's or 12 peanut M&M's
  • 20 potato chips
  • 150 calories worth of ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • One piece of almond or chocolate biscotti
  • One glass wine (5 ounces) or light beer (12 ounces)

woman breastfeeding baby

As a milk factory, you need about 25 percent more calories per day than you did before pregnancy. That's why you should eat three snacks a day; if you're losing more than two pounds a week, add another daily snack or increase the portion size of meals. It's important to consume enough protein -- a key building block of body tissues -- and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that supports infant brain and eye health. (To get DHA, eat fish twice a week, choose foods fortified with DHA, or ask your doctor about a supplement.)

You also need choline, a B vitamin vital for brain, muscle, and cell development; good sources include egg yolks, lean beef, poultry, fish, leafy greens, and cauliflower. If you don't eat animal foods and dairy, consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement to avoid a serious deficiency. It's also important to get enough fluids -- from water and other beverages as well as fruits, vegetables, soups, and cooked grains like oatmeal. Try to drink one cup before each meal or snack and while you're nursing. Doctors advise limiting alcohol or waiting a couple of hours after having a drink before breastfeeding.

 

Originally published in the February 2010 issue of Parents magazine.