When I was breastfeeding my daughters, I was ALWAYS hungry. As I would dish out my third huge helping at dinner, my husband would laugh and do an impression of Chris Farley in the SNL skit, “Lay off me, I’m starving!” But really, I was. I just couldn’t get enough food to feel satisfied.
There’s a solid reason why I was so hungry: breastfeeding burns a ton of calories. Up to 500 calories per day, to be exact. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will (or should) lose a ton of weight simply by breastfeeding. So how can a breastfeeding mom responsibly lose her baby weight without affecting her milk supply? Read on to find out.
First Things First: Calorie Recommendations for Breastfeeding Women
Think of your lactating body as a coffeepot: The more water and coffee beans you put in, the more coffee you get out. Similarly, the more water and healthy food you put in your body, the more breast milk you get out. Since breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories per day, it’s recommended that you take in an additional 300-500 calories per day beyond what you typically would have consumed prior to your pregnancy. This usually equates to 1-2 snacks per day, or another helping or two at dinner. If you don’t get enough calories, you could experience a drop in your milk supply.
If you’re trying to lose weight, this can seem like bad news. How are you supposed to lose weight if you have to eat more?? The answer is fairly simple: eat healthier foods. No one said you have to eat more Doritos and ice cream (though I did have my fair share of both while I was breastfeeding).
Below are my favorite healthy snacks, organized into two lists: lazy mom and motivated mom (depending on how you’re feeling that day).
Lazy Mom’s List of 5 Healthy Snacks to “Grab ‘n Go” While Breastfeeding
Let’s face it – sometimes the thought of keeping up on buying fresh produce and having to peel an apple is more than you can handle. When you’re in survival mode and need your food choices to be as easy as possible, these healthy snacks will be a no-brainer.
1. Nuts: Nuts are so delicious, and the fact that they’re also healthy is such a great bonus. Plus, they’re very filling, not messy, and easy to take with you or pack in your diaper bag. My favorites are roasted almonds and pistachios (although if you get shelled pistachios, they can be a bit messy to eat). The only downside is that nuts are a bit expensive, so it’s best to buy them in bulk.
2. Popcorn: The popcorn you get at movie theaters may not be the healthiest, but air popped popcorn with little or no salt and butter is actually a pretty healthy snack. Skinny Pop popcorn is one of my favorites, and the individual serving-sized bags are super convenient.
3. Larabar fruit and nut bars: I love these commercials, especially their tagline: “Food made from food.” Amen! There’s nothing more convenient than throwing a fruit and nut bar in your purse or diaper bag (or setting some on the table next to where you nurse!) in case you need an easy midday snack.
4. Yogurt parfait with granola and berries: Yogurt with fruit and granola was my go-to breakfast all throughout my pregnancy and the beginning of breastfeeding, up until I had to give up all dairy due to my daughters’ milk protein intolerance. I love the kind you can buy pre-packaged at the grocery store since it’s just so easy and convenient. If you like Greek yogurt, even better – though I could never really get used to the sour taste myself.
5. Dark chocolate-covered anything: Dark chocolate is surprisingly healthy for you, in small-ish doses. Nowadays, there are a lot of dark chocolate-covered snacks that are healthy and oh-so-delicious. My favorites are dark chocolate-covered almonds, raspberries, and raisins. These are perfect when you need a guilt-free sweet treat.
Motivated Mom’s List of 5 Healthy Snacks that Require Some Kitchen Prep
And now for the times when you’re feeling more motivated and don’t mind doing a little kitchen prep to get your snack ready. These are super healthy snacks that just need a little bit more frequent grocery shopping and kitchen prep.
1. Peanut butter with fruits or veggies: I love peanut butter. It’s so delicious and filling, and it’s really quite good for you, especially if you buy natural peanut butter. My favorite is Skippy Natural Peanut Butter (with the brown lid), as you don’t have to stir it, and it tastes the same as regular peanut butter. The possibilities are endless when it comes to fruits and vegetables you can pair with peanut butter for a fairly easy and delicious snack. Apples, pears, bananas, celery sticks, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers…
2. Smoothies: If you can plan ahead a little bit, a smoothie can be a tasty and super nutritious snack. I like to use frozen fruit and veggies so I don’t have to buy fresh produce all the time. I also usually add half of an avocado and an entire banana, as I find the banana is the key ingredient to make the smoothie sweet enough for my tastes. I’ll sometimes throw in a few walnuts or raw almonds, and then I’ll add both water and milk for the liquid.
3. Oatmeal with cinnamon: This is another breakfast favorite of mine, although sometimes I would eat this as a midday snack when I wanted something sweet and filling. Oatmeal is very healthy for you, but it’s not sweet enough for me on its own. The cinnamon solves that, and cinnamon is also very good for you and helps with weight loss.
4. Veggies and guacamole: Guacamole is filled with healthy ingredients and fats – avocados, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, lime. If you don’t have the time or talent to make it from scratch, you can usually find some in the prepared foods section of your grocery store. Pair it with bell peppers, celery sticks, cucumbers, carrots, or any other vegetable that sounds yummy to you.
5. Veggies and hummus: Similar to guac, hummus is also filled with lots of healthy stuff. Chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and extra virgin olive oil are super nutritious. Packaged hummus is fairly easy to find at the grocery store, and again, pair it with your favorite veggie and enjoy a tasty and guilt-free snack.
Working Out While Breastfeeding
Now that we’ve got some healthy snacks to choose from, let’s talk about exercising. In order to lose your baby weight, you’ll need to get moving. Once you get the ok from your doctor around six weeks post-labor, you can start your workouts. Just because you’re allowed to workout, though, doesn’t mean you have the time or energy to do it. Here are some of my favorite and fast workouts to do at home when you’re trying to lose your baby weight:
10-15 Minute At-Home Workouts for Losing Your Baby Weight
--Run/jog/walk with baby: If you’re just six weeks postpartum, a nice way to ease into working out is to go for a walk or a light jog while pushing your baby in a stroller (or jogging stroller). Not only is this a great workout, but it’s also good for both you and baby to get some fresh air and vitamin D. Start with just 10 minutes a day, a few days a week, and work your way up.
--Push-ups, crunches, squats: There’s no need to get fancy with your workouts right now. A simple (on your brain, not on your body) routine is to do a short circuit of push-ups, crunches, and squats every day. I can’t remember anything unless I set a reminder on my phone, so I actually have a recurring reminder to do this every morning. It only takes 10 minutes, but I always break a small sweat. Start with a circuit of 5 push-ups, 20 crunches, and 10 squats, and do the circuit three times. Add to your reps as you become stronger and need more of a challenge, but try to maintain the 10-minute rule so it doesn’t seem daunting.
--Ab vacuums: Ab vacuums are basically just sucking in your stomach to be as small as you can get it and holding it there for 10 seconds. It seems silly, but these actually do help with your waistline, and the best part is you can do them anytime and anywhere. I like to do them in the shower, while I’m doing my hair or makeup, and watching TV. There’s really no limit on how much you can do them, but aim for 2-3 times a day, holding the 10-second ab vacuums 10 times each.
--Walking lunges: If you have to walk across the living room to get to the bathroom, you might as well tone your legs while doing it. Walking lunges – where you take a big step forward and sink into a lunge, without letting your front knee go past your toes or your back knee touch the ground – are incredibly toning, not only for your legs and butt, but also for your abs. Prepare to feel sore. Aim for 20 (10 on each leg) per day.
--One-month challenge: After I had my second daughter, I felt like I needed something to jump start my weight loss. My usual routine just wasn’t cutting it. I found a workout program that had a “one-month challenge” to work out every single day for 30 days in a row. At first, I disregarded it as something I couldn’t commit to, especially with a 4-month old baby and 2-year old toddler. Even though it was only 15 minutes a day, I’ve never been someone who works out every single day and didn’t think I could do it. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to challenge myself. So I bit the bullet and signed up, and I was so glad I did. Once I committed, it was fairly easy for me to find 15 minutes a day to do something healthy for myself. I usually worked out in the morning before the day got away from me and before I could think about it too much and come up with excuses for why I should skip that day. Because they were YouTube videos that I would play off my phone or iPad, I would set up right in the living room and would do them while my kids played and watched me (or joined in!). Knowing it was only going to last 30 days also helped, as I knew this daily schedule wouldn’t last forever. I was super proud of myself for sticking it out, even on days when I got little to no sleep the night before, and at the end of the 30 days, I had lost 3 pounds. It might not sound like much, but I was thrilled! Plus, it kickstarted the rest of my weight loss.
The X factor for both losing weight and producing enough breast milk is…(drumroll, please)…WATER. But, you already knew that, right? Drink water, and lots of it, and then some more, and it will help you to lose weight while also helping to ensure your milk supply remains strong.
The formula for losing your baby weight while breastfeeding isn’t much different than the formula for losing weight at any other time in your life: eat healthy and get moving. The big difference is that you can’t cut calories, but instead need to replace unhealthy foods with healthy foods. Take small steps and go easy on yourself, but also try to make a little bit of progress every single day towards your weight loss goal.
About Katie Stansberry
Katie Stansberry is a work-from-home mom of two sweet girls and the creator of Breastfeeding Bliss. After struggling at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, she wanted to create a happy place where breastfeeding moms could find practical tips, positive inspiration, and the newest and best breastfeeding products. On her "Back to Bliss" breastfeeding blog, she shares her personal stories and tips for making breastfeeding an easier and more enjoyable experience.