• Xanthi Maragkoudaki, PhD, RNutr

My top tips for mums

Becoming a mum was the best thing that ever happened to me. When I tell my daughter that she completes me I totally mean it. However, being a mum is not an easy job; time is always short, you are always insecure whether you are doing a good job and you are being judged all the time. Nowadays, mums are particularly stressed regarding nutrition. They are stressed about their children's nutrition and about their own bodies. They are bombarded by ideals and information which are often nothing but accurate. On top of all these they have very little time and need to cook under a budget. So no wonder they get stressed. Before having my daughter I still wanted to focus on children nutrition only due to importance of early years nutrition however when I had her I realised family nutrition is even more important as those mums need help too. It is British Nutrition Foundation Healthy eating week and I thought I could take the opportunity to share with you my top tips for mums. However, even if i is late I truly hope you find it helpful.

Give breastfeeding a chance. In the first weeks try as much as you can to breastfeed. Don't listen to anyone who tells you your milk is not enough and don't worry about your supply as long as you breastfeed on demand. Join a breastfeeding group, consult a lactation consultant/specialist if needed. If you carry on, I know you will never regret it. Some of your happiest memories of those early days will involve breastfeeding.

Don't decide by yourself whether or not your child is intolerant or allergic. I will keep saying that, if you suspect intolerance or allergy consult a health professional. Excluding food groups from your child's or your diet without a reason can be harmful to either of you. For example a gluten free diet to a baby can actually lead to gluten intolerance later in life.

Spend time outdoors. Walk, walk, walk. Plan to walk with other mums. Take your newborn baby and walk, the fresh air and the change of scenery will benefit both of you. Go to the park with your toddler, kid and have picnics. Kids really need to move more nowadays so it’s fundamental that you get them used to it. Also, experiment with picnic meals don’t have just cheese and ham try some mackerel pate with avocado next time. Freeze some watermelon before and put in skewers instead of a sorbet. Before you know it you have provided your child with protein, essential fatty acids, starch, fibre and vitamin D. Avoid saying no to foods. Restricting a child and saying no all the time can only have adverse effects.Do not put in your house what you don’t want your child to have. The food you are saying no to is immediately placed on a pedestal and becomes exciting. Instead don’t let children see what you don’t want them to try. Out of sight out of mind. When they get a bit older you can actually teach them about the benefits of good nutrition and explain to them that too many corn snacks or sugar can harm their teeth. Always focus on health and not on weight ideals.

Focus on variety. Eat the rainbow. When we provide our children with different foods then there are more chances of providing them with more nutrients. Different nutrients give fruits and vegetables different colours. Similarly, chicken, meat, pulses, nuts, bread, potatoes all nourish us in different ways. In addition, it is less likely to become fussy eaters and more likely to enjoy varied, balanced diet when they grow up. Add fish to your family’s diet. People still eat less than the the recommended amount of oily fish. The essential fatty acids are detrimental for your little ones' brain development, heart health, vision to name just a few. If you are breastfeeding it is essential that you eat oily fish yourself and you might want to consider some supplements too. If you are vegetarian add seeds, nuts, extra virgin oil and avocado to your meals. For those of you who love research you can check out this review. Also, you might be interested in this study on attention deficiency disorder and this one on supplementation during lactation. Shop smarter. I totally understand that fresh organic food can be quite costly but not everything needs to organic. If you decide to not buy organic wash your fruits well by putting them in a bowl with water and vinegar for about 20 min and then rinse well. If you do chose organic you can use the dirty dozen, clean fifteen list as a rough guide when you are shopping. Also, fruits that are in season tend to be cheaper. Moreover, for your smoothies, cakes home made ice creams or ice lollies you can use frozen fruits to reduce cost. You could also reduce waste by freezing some of your leftover greens (spinach, kale) and then add them to your homemade smoothies (or purees) for some extra nourishing boost!

Finally, just for you mums a tip that is often hard for me to follow too. Honour your own needs too. It is not only your child that deserves a healthy, whole food meal you deserve it too. Also, the more your child sees you engaging into a healthy lifestyle the more likely it will be to follow your example. Find time to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself. Instead of idolising the body ideals that are forced upon us, focus on the strengths of your body and reinforce it by nourishing it. It is true that beauty comes from within; and being a mum who loves herself and finds the time to take care of herself is definitely a great and inspiring look.

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