Nutritionist Claire Turnbull has recently published a new book – Feel Good for Life and we thought she might have some valuable thoughts to share with parents, because who doesn’t want to feel good!?  She’s also recently had a baby so she knows lots about what it’s like to juggle life!

You’ve recently become a mum – you know how hungry those early days and weeks are when breastfeeding a small person!  It can be so hard to keep thinking of healthy snacks when your body wants fuel all day (and night!). What are your top three tips for new mums and their nutrition?

I totally understand how challenging it can be to eat well for new mums, everything in your life feels like it has been turned upside down much of the time and the days and weeks all seem to blur together. One thing I do know though is that if you can eat well during this time, or as well as you practically can – it really does make you feel better which is not to be sniffed at, feeling good is always the goal. So, here are 3 tips for you:

1) In the early days, it can work well to have 4-5 small or ‘mini’ meals a day which you can have at any time, in whatever order based on how things are going. If you are up in the night feeding several times, you might find you need to have a light snack then too like a banana, yoghurt or glass of milk.

Quick and easy meal ideas

  • Wholegrain cereal with milk
  • Low fat yoghurt with muesli and fresh fruit
  • A homemade smoothie (see box for my ideas…)
  • Eggs or beans on toast
  • Wholegrain crackers with cottage cheese/tuna/salmon/avocado and tomato
  • Soup – ideally with pulses and lots of veggies
  • An omelette with veggies like spinach, mushroom, tomato
  • 2 minute microwave rice with a can of salmon/tuna or a grilled chicken breast and a tomato and handful of baby spinach
  • Fresh filled pasta with frozen veggies

2) Prepare for the day ahead – Before you go to bed in the evening (even if you are waking up in the night) collect together things you can eat the next day and put them into a box in the fridge. Having things all ready to go, all in the same area just makes it easier for the next day. It is kind of like making a packed lunch and snacks for work but just leaving them in your own fridge.

3) Get yourself a water bottle – It can be so easy to forget to drink, aim to fill you water bottle 2-3 times a day or put a jug in the fridge and aim to get through it. Always have it next to you when you are sitting down to feed.

Coming originally from Britain and now residing permanently in NZ, what do you see as some of the particular nutritional deficiencies and food hazards in the typical kiwi diet?

Well, like the UK – most Kiwis have far too much sugar, too much saturated fat and salt. As our lives become busier, the problem is we are becoming increasingly reliant on processed food. We also eating out more and portions are increasing. Also, snacking has become the norm and sugary drinks are available everywhere we turn.

As having too much sugar, fat and salt, there are some thing we don’t have enough of. Most people don’t get enough iodine or selenium, this is all to do with the type of soil we have here, which is low in these nutrients meaning it doesn’t get passed into our food. To ensure you get enough iodine, be sure to opt for iodised salt, enjoy seaweed (like nori, the sheets on the outside of sushi) and plenty of seafood. Selenium – easy as, adults just need 2-3 brazil nuts a day to get what they need.

What sort of role does nutrition play in coping with the lack of sleep that can accompany parenthood, especially in those early years?

In a word – it is VITAL. One of the things that can happen is that as a mum (or dad!) you can come to rely on sugar and caffeine to help ‘keep you going’ and then when it comes to trying to unwind, it can be oh so easy to opt for something alcoholic. While the odd coffee or glass of vino is no major problem, if you come to rely on these they can really interfere with the quality of your sleep! While they won’t necessarily stop you from falling asleep, when you are asleep, they can prevent you going into deep restful sleep, which is a disaster!!! It means that you are likely to wake up feeling like you just aren’t ready to get up and face the day – sound familiar?

Opt for herbal teas as often as possible and keep alcohol servings small – especially if you are already really tired.

On top of that, the quality of food that you eat, affects how you feel and how much energy you have. As always, it is about upping the veggies, having less processed food and making sure you are having regular protein rich foods throughout the day.

How have you managed to keep exercise as a priority with the more restricted personal time that comes with adding to your family?

I am not going to lie, it can be very challenging, especially if you have multiple kids or you are working!

At the start, I was doing pram walks every day and that was all the exercise I was doing (apart from the old pelvic floor stuff!!), now my pram walks are a couple of times a week – combined with a trip to the fish shop, veggies store or supermarket.

Outside the walks, I schedule times into my diary at the start of the week to either go for a run, yoga or the gym and I either make sure my husband or in laws can take the reins. Sometimes, swapping times with friends can be good – you look after their baby for an hour so you can do something, then they do the same for you.

Exercise keeps me sane, having struggled with depression in the past, I am highly aware that for me, exercise isn’t optional, it’s a survival strategy and it has to happen. Some weeks aren’t as good as others, but each week I make a plan to do as much as I can. One of the biggest things you have to get over I think, is actually accepting the help people offer you, if someone wants to help you, let them! Leaving your baby for 30 minutes in the safe hands of someone else, will be good for them, and for you! Sometimes, it is about letting go.

Here at Kiwi Families, we work to promote the idea that helping your family to eat well doesn’t have to break the budget or consume all your free time.  Your book has some great healthy ideas for bulking out dishes in an inexpensive way, can you share some of those with us?

My book is packed with ideas! Some are:

  • Using more pulses
  • Enjoying meat free meals each week
  • Cooking in bulk and freezing so you don’t end up having to buy takeaways
  • Remember, frozen veggies are just as good as fresh (and sometimes better) and are mostly cheaper.
  • Planning is key, we waste a lot of food here in NZ

We also have a focus on providing healthy snacks and party food for kids.  What are some great ways for parents to cut down the sugar?

This is something I feel passionate about, it makes me want to cry when I go to a kids party and all that is are lollies, cakes, chippies and sugary drinks!

Depending on the age of your kids you can try:

  • Sushi
  • Fruit kebab sticks
  • Wraps chopped into pinwheels
  • A cake made with an adapted recipe so it is lower in saturated fat and sugar
  • Frozen banana pops (topped with a little chocolate if you like)
  • Plain popcorn
  • Green and red grapes and cubes of cheese on sticks
  • Mini homemade pizzas (on wholemeal pita) with healthy toppings

Feel Good for Life is full of information that makes it easier for parents, and people in general, to increase their health and vitality.  Are there any other aspects of your new book that you think would particularly benefit parents?

My book is full of practical, realistic advice to help you and your family live a healthy happy, balanced life. I think the best thing about the book for parents is that it is super easy to read, can be read in bite sized chunks and has lots of suggestions to help you make healthy happen.

Not only is it packed with nutrition info, but it also has exercise tips, will help you feel good about yourself and your body and also, has heaps of awesome recipes which are easy to make – everyday real food for people who live in the real world!

Can we share one of your recipes with our readers?

Claire TurnbullAbsolutely! Here’s a recipe for my Monkey Shake (serves 1).

1 banana, peeled and chopped (ideally frozen)

11⁄2 cups low-fat milk

1 tbsp peanut or almond butter

1 tsp cocoa powder (optional)

In a blender or food processor, blend the chopped banana, milk and peanut or almond butter thoroughly. Sprinkle over the cocoa powder, if using, and enjoy.

Adapt it

  • If you are dairy free, use the milk alternative of your choice.
  • You can add 1 tablespoon of oats or LSA if you want a thicker, nuttier shake.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder before blending, for a chocolate monkey shake.

Top tip

  • For a rich, chocolatey taste, use raw Dutch cocoa – you can buy it at some supermarkets, health stores and specialty food stores.

Nutrition information per serve

kJ = 1470 kcals = 350 Carbs = 43g Protein = 18g Fat = 12g Fibre = 3g

Reproduced with permission from Feel Good for Life by Claire Turnbull. Published by Penguin Group NZ. RRP $30.00. Copyright text © Claire Turnbull, 2015. Copyright photography © Emma Bass, 2015. Available nationwide.

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Sally is the Community Manager here at Kiwi Families. She fills her time with her handsome, busy boys and her handsome, busy husband; trying out new recipes and researching and writing about family life in Aotearoa.

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