When you’re a new parent, it’s no secret that your needs take a backseat to those of your newborn’s. New parents often barely have time to think about themselves, let alone think about meal prepping, cooking, or even going out to pick up groceries or takeout.
Personally, I’m all about setting realistic expectations around life and food and not assuming that I — or other new parents — will have the time or energy to go above and beyond with meals.
That’s why before my son, Bash, was born, we decided to prioritize meal prep and planning well before he arrived. As a nutritionist, I was already aware of how crucial it is to stay nourished as a new mom — both for my own well-being and my baby’s.
Being a new parent is a 24/7 job. So, having peace of mind knowing that I had access to healthy meals — be it from premade dishes in the freezer or because friends and family were helping out — was a game changer in the first few weeks after Bash was home.
While fitting healthy eating into your routine can feel like an impossible task to take on when you’re faced with the demands of being a new parent, don’t fret. There are some simple and manageable things you can do to help keep you on track.
Here are four tips I personally found useful.
Before Bash was born, we made a big batch of my bison chili and a few other batches of our favorite, freezer-friendly dishes. We also stocked our freezer with bone broth and chicken vegetable soup.
That way, when we were home from the hospital, we could just take things out of the freezer when we needed them.
I found soup to be particularly useful, as it really gives you the flexibility to heat and eat, or in my case, drink from a mug, while breastfeeding.
Soup is also versatile since you can pack in all of your favorite veggies for an extra boost of fiber and nutrition. Add leafy greens by throwing in a handful of fresh or frozen spinach into hot soup and let it wilt.
And if you’re feeling really hungry (breastfeeding can leave you ravenous), you can add squash, sweet potatoes, or quinoa to your soup, too.
A lot of times, family and friends will drop by with tons of food. Even though they have the best intentions, people tend to drop off things like cookies, cakes, and casseroles, all of which can be highly processed or filled with sugar.
To ensure you’re able to eat healthy while not insulting those around you who are trying to help, I suggest signing up for a meal train. These crowdsourcing websites can help your loved ones organize meal drop-offs to your home.
Meanwhile, you can rest easy knowing you’re getting the food you like. Many of these services let you select the meals and foods you prefer.
You can also leave notes for your friends and family telling them your family’s preferences, and you can note any food allergies as well.
When you can, stock your kitchen with plenty of food staples that won’t go bad so it’s one less thing you have to think about later. You can also keep your fridge stocked with items like eggs, healthy dips, and pre-chopped veggies so you or your partner can make semi-homemade meals in a pinch.
For example, keep a store-bought rotisserie chicken (opt for organic when possible) in your fridge. One of these can typically be kept in the fridge for three to four days. This can help ensure you’re getting protein, and it goes well with a bit of hummus and cucumber if you’re short on time.
Before Bash was born, I also stocked my freezer with everything I needed to make smoothies, like frozen berries and spinach.
I also bought boxes of unsweetened almond milk that didn’t need to be refrigerated, containers of protein powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut oil, and almond butter in bulk. This way I could always have at least one nutritious meal a day.
It can really make a huge difference to your day when you can at least get that one healthy meal. Doing so can help keep your energy levels up, and it usually leads to better food choices throughout the day, too.
And if you know you’ve got a particularly busy day ahead, you can always make your smoothie the night before and store it in the fridge until morning.
I want new parents to know it’s all about keeping things simple and easy when it comes to food. Focus on the basics: Eat whole, unprocessed foods and meals that include plenty of veggies, healthy fats, fiber, and protein.
As a new parent, you have so many things going on that what you eat doesn’t always feel like a priority. But eating well will help you not only feel better during this new chapter in your life, it’ll also help you better understand how you want your baby to eat in the future.
Kelly LeVeque is a celebrity nutritionist, wellness expert, and best-selling author based in Los Angeles. Before starting her consulting business, Be Well By Kelly, she worked in the medical field for Fortune 500 companies like J&J, Stryker, and Hologic, eventually moving into personalized medicine, offering tumor gene mapping and molecular subtyping to oncologists. She received her bachelor’s from UCLA and completed her postgrad clinical education at UCLA and UC Berkeley. Kelly’s client list includes Jessica Alba, Chelsea Handler, Kate Walsh, and Emmy Rossum. Guided by a practical and optimistic approach, Kelly helps people improve their health, achieve their goals, and develop sustainable habits to live a healthy and balanced life. Follow her on Instagram.