Breastfeeding diet: what you CAN eat
Sick of people telling you what not to eat while you're pregnant or breastfeeding? We're here to make you feel better with 10 foods you most certainly can eat, and are encouraged to!
breastfeeding foods

1. Beans

And we're not limiting you to just one kind of bean. Black, white, pinto, lentil, kidney, garbanzo or soy. They contain more protein and fibre than most other vegetables, plus you've got to admit, there's a lot more you can do with them in the kitchen!

You can put them in soups, salads, pasta dishes. They add serious texture if mashed and added to a Mexican dish. Because they're low GI and high protein (about 6.4g per 100g in a three beans mix), meals with beans in them will keep you fuller for longer. Plus the high fibre content (509g per 100g) makes them digest slowly, says Sarah Leung, Accredited Practicing Dietician and founder of Healthy Energy.

And all mums love how something as easy as beans on toast can still provide such a healthy lunch – add wholegrain toast and some grated low fat cheese for added nutritional value.

Try these recipes with beans from Kidspot Kitchen:

2. Eggs

One of the most versatile foods around, eggs can make a protein-packed breakfast by scrambling eggs in a couple of minutes, or a quick and easy dinner in the form of an omelette. But other than being a great source of energy for tired mums, check out all these other health benefits of eggs:

  • 11 different vitamins including folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B12 and iron
  • Essential fatty acid omega-3, which is key to infants' growth and development
  • Low in fat (great for mums trying to get in shape)
  • Did we mention they're so easy!

As any new mum who is breastfeeding will know, hunger can hit swiftly and with great force, so having a fridge full of easy, healthy snacks like these hard boiled eggs is the best way to avoid reaching for less healthy but convenient snack options.

Try these recipes with eggs from Kidspot Kitchen:

3. Oats

Oats are a wholegrain and therefore an excellent source of iron; a vitamin that breastfeeding mums can find themselves lacking, resulting in lethargy and generally feeling unwell.

But did you know that oats are also considered a galactagogue – a substance that can improve breast milk production, so breastfeeding mums should be getting plenty of servings of wholegrain ots and cereals every day.

“Wholegrains are a good choice for an energy boost as they provide nutrients like iron, magnesium, fibre, vitamin B and some protein, as well as slow-release carbohydrates, which will keep you fuller for longer,” says Sarah Leung.

Oats are a handy choice that can be served hot as porridge, used as a key ingredient in homemade biscuits or muesli, or added to yoghurt with fruit to add a little crunch.

Try these recipes with oats from Kidspot Kitchen:

4. Kale

One of the latest additions to the superfood group, Kale certainly does have magic powers when it comes to fuelling breastfeeding ladies. One cup of Kale contains:

  • 33 calories
  • Nine percent of the daily recommended intake of calcium
  • 206 percent of vitamin A
  • 134 percent of vitamin C
  • And a whopping 684 percent of vitamin K.
  • Kale is also a good source of copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.

If you don’t love kale, then try substitute for one of the other leafy greens, which Sarah says are all high in dietary fibre, which promotes bowel health.

Try these recipes with leafy greens from Kidspot Kitchen:

5. Salmon

Salmon is a great source of vitamin D. A 120g piece of salmon fillet contains 8.88ug of vitamin D and the recommended daily intake for a female adult is 15ug,” says Sarah. Also rich in omega-3 fatty acids (good for your baby’s brain and eyes), protein and B vitamins, salmon is the perfect food for breastfeeding mums.

If you prefer canned to fresh, try adding to mashed potatoes (throw in some sweet potato for added benefits), low-fat milk, egg and spring onions, and make patties that are easy to freeze and have on hand for a quick snack or to serve with a salad for dinner.

Try these recipes with salmon from Kidspot Kitchen:

6. Water

OK, so this one isn't technically a food, but it's just so good for you, we had to include it! While breastfeeding mums don’t need significantly more water than the average person – aim for two to two-and-a-half litres per day – you are likely to notice that you get thirsty while breastfeeding. And considering dehydration will make you lethargic, can create mental confusion and urinary tract infections at a time you are no doubt already as busy as you’d like to be, drinking enough water makes sense!

7. Yoghurt

One cup of plain, low-fat yoghurt has more calcium than milk, is high in protein, and doesn’t have the added sugar of flavoured yoghurts. Try plain Greek yoghurt if you like a thicker consistency.

People underestimate their calcium needs. "Girls aged 14 to 18 need 1300mg calcium per day, while a woman aged 19 or older needs 1000mg calcium per day – that’s around 3.5 serves of dairy," says Sarah. And calcium is a key nutrient while breastfeeding.

Try these recipes with yoghurt from Kidspot Kitchen:

8. Berries

You've got to love that something so yummy can be so good for you! Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries are packed with vitamin C, potassium, folate and fibre, and make for some great recipes.

Vitamin C is good for more than just boosting your immune system when winter comes. Sarah says that it is vitally important in the growth of bones, teeth and collagen – a protein found in blood vessels, cartilage, tendons and ligaments. It is therefore essential for the development of a breastfeeding infant.

“Humans can’t make vitamin C, so mums and babies are reliant on the food they eat for this vital nutrient. For a breastfeeding woman aged 19 to 50, the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C is 85 mg per day. As a guide, there is 72.5 mg of Vitamin C in a cup of strawberries,” she says.

Add berries to homemade muffins using wholemeal flour, low-fat milk or yoghurt and eggs for a handy snack you can easily mix up and keep on hand in the freezer.

Try these recipes with berries from Kidspot Kitchen:

9. Trail mix

We specifically mention D.I.Y trail mix here because commercial pre-mixes can often be high in hidden fats and sugars. Make sure when you make your own (or buy for that matter) that you're using raw, unsalted nuts and seeds, with a tiny amount of dried fruit.

D.I.Y. trail mix using nuts, seeds and a tiny amount of dried fruit is another great snack to keep on hand and keep your milk flow at optimal levels. Commercial pre-mixes, on the other hand, can be high in fats and sugars.

Good ingredients for a homemade trail mix include unsalted cashews and almonds, dried dates, cranberries and sultanas and pine nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, quinoa and dried coconut chips.

“Nuts are naturally very high in healthy fats,” says Sarah. “Depending on which nut, its nutrition value also varies. For example, almonds are higher in calcium and vitamin E; Brazil nuts are high in selenium; walnuts are high in omega-3; pine nuts are high in magnesium; cashews are high in iron and zinc and hazelnuts are high in folate. Seeds like flaxseeds, chia, pumpkin seeds and pepitas are also high in healthy fats and protein.”

10. Bananas

Easy to pack in your bag and requiring no preparation, bananas are a great choice for the afternoon snack attack.

“Bananas are very nutritious and convenient, but unfortunately and unfairly received some bad press in the last five to 10 years for being high in fat and sugar,” says Sarah. “A medium banana actually contains no more sugar than a medium-sized apple, contains hardly any fats and it is packed with potassium and other nutrients.”

Try these recipes with bananas from Kidspot Kitchen:

This article was written by Melanie Hearse and adapted for Kidpsot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.
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