SO it's January, the baby weight still hasn't shifted ( Christmas didn't help) and you've started thinking about that dreaded word: dieting. But with a dizzying array of weight-loss options out there, not to mention a new baby on the scene, where do you even begin?
According to Sarah Browne, a qualified dietitian and chef based in Co Roscommon ( www. sarahbrownenutrition. ie), it can be helpful to do away with the notion of 'diet' altogether. " Diet suggests something short term whereas what you're really trying to do is change your way of eating for life."
Browne also adds that if you're breastfeeding it is not advisable to try to actively lose weight.
"You may naturally lose some weight because breastfeeding burns about 300–400 calories a day, but your main priority must be that you are meeting your nutritional requirements and the quality of your diet is excellent, especially in terms of protein and minerals like calcium and iron. The problem with strenuous dieting is that you could compromise this and therefore put your health at risk."
However, if you are not breastfeeding, she says that it is safe to try and lose weight when you feel both mentally and physically ready.
For Browne, the key to success is being realistic.
" You need to take into account all your other commitments and set realistic targets that are achievable, otherwise you risk becoming disheartened and giving up. A weight loss of one to two pounds per week is safe and healthy for new mums."
She says the mental groundwork before you begin to lose weight is equally as important as anything you do physically.
" Think about why you want to lose weight, and write those reasons down. It's amazing how seeing it on a page can act as a really strong motivator in the long term. It's also important that you seek support from the people around you, maybe ask a friend to go walking with you once a week or get support from your partner in terms of childcare or household chores."
She also recommends thinking in advance about the kinds of barriers the could affect your weight loss.
"If there's a particular time of day when you tend to overeat, think about how you can deal with that. In this way you're being realistic, and you're anticipating the negative before it happens."
Browne also adds that weight loss is made up of little steps rather than giant leaps.
"Even losing 10pc of your body weight will have a huge effect on your health, and will reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of obesity-related cancers. So say you're 14 stone and you drop 10pc of your weight to become 12 stone nine pounds, that is a great start. And once you get to this point you might be motivated to achieve the next step."
Although Browne acknowledges this way of losing weight isn't instant or "sexy", she says a slow, steady weight loss will help the weight stay off for the long term.
The practicalities of losing weight
So once your mind is in the right place, the next thing is the practical side. Where do you start?
"For a busy mum, planning meals and making a shopping list is vital," says Browne. "Use the freezer to store wholegrain bread, fish and vegetables and keep healthy tinned goods (ie fish, pulses, tomatoes) in the press to make sure there's always something in the house between grocery trips.
"A regular meal pattern is also vital for weight loss, as it stops you from snacking on unhealthy alternatives."
In terms of specific foods, Browne says the key to weight loss is plenty of wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, with two portions of protein a day ( lean meat, eggs, beans or nuts), which can be increased to three portions while breastfeeding.
Browne also recommends plenty of fluids, at least eight glasses per day (mainly water, juice and milk).
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
So what should your three meals of the day comprise?
"Porridge is the ultimate wholegrain and universally acknowledged as the best breakfast you can eat, " says Browne. (See recipe overleaf ).
"In fact wholegrains in general – brown pasta, rice, bread, oats – are great for weight loss and gut health.
That’s because they are digested slowly, making you feel fuller for longer.”
Other recommended options for breakfast are yoghurt with fruit and a slice of toast, or a boiled egg with two slices of wholegrain toast and a small glass of orange juice.
For lunch, Browne says healthy homemade soup is a winner, particularly since it can be cooked in bulk. For an extra carb boost, serve with some brown bread and a low-fat spread.
“Other good options are cous cous, which you can now get in wholegrain form, as well as healthy sand¬wiches made with wholemeal bread and served with salad and lean meat However, skip the mayonnaise and opt for relish instead.”
In terms of dinner, Browne says that we really need to be conscious of our portion sizes if we are to lose weight.
“As a guide your plate should comprise 1/2 veg or sal¬ad, 1/4 meat or alternative protein, and 1/4 starchy food (potato/rice/pasta – preferably wholegrain variety).
“However, you need to be aware that in the past 30 years, our dinnerwear has got bigger by 20–30pc, so we’re unconsciously eating more. One immediate thing you can do is use a smaller dinner plate. Another tip is to weigh your food out for the first while until you can recognise the portion sizes you should be eating.”
Red meat is advisable for women even if they are try¬ing to lose weight because it is a great source of iron. “Once or twice a week is perfect,” Browne says. “You should also eat oily fish such as salmon or mackerel twice a week because it is such an excellent source of omega-3 – vital for a whole host of functions.”
What about treats?
But do you really have to swear off alcohol and choco¬late if you’re trying to lose weight?
“No you can still incorporate treats and snacks,” says Browne. “It varies from person to person but one or two snacks of about 100 calories each daily is fine. The best type of snack is fruit. But you can still have your glass of wine (not recommended while breastfeeding), or a little bit of chocolate a few times a week as well. I recommend 30g of dark chocolate, or even a hot choco¬late drink made with low-fat milk.”
Browne also says its very important to reward yourself when you achieve those aims you set out to achieve.
“This isn’t about how much weight you lose on the scales in any given week, it’s about rewarding yourself for achieving the health goals you set yourself. The reward shouldn’t be food related, instead it should be something like a trip to the cinema or a facial or what¬ever you think of as a treat.”
If you would like to attend one of Sarah Browne’s workshops on healthy eating in Roscommon, she will be presenting ‘Healthy diets for Mum & weaning tips for Baby’ on Wednesday 23 March from 11am–1pm. Bookings can by made by calling 087 9439446 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mother & Babies