When a new baby arrives on the scene, job one is making sure he’s well fed. It’s all new moms and dads can think about, really, particularly in those early weeks when tallying up feeds and wet diapers becomes a household obsession.
But here’s the thing: In order to have the energy to change diapers, drag yourself out of bed in the middle of the night and keep it together when baby just won’t stop crying, you need to eat, too. That need is even more pressing if you’re breastfeeding your child, an effort that burns through about 500 calories a day.
So how do you ensure you’re eating decently when you’ve got less time than ever to cook? Follow these tips for getting good grub even when your hands are full of newborn.
Ask for meals in lieu of stuff. People are going to want to buy things for your baby, perhaps more than you need. Encourage them to give you a meal or two for your freezer instead of another pair of booties.
“This is a great idea for your baby shower, especially if this isn’t your first baby and you don’t need any more gear,” says Jennifer House, a Calgary-based registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in pre- and post-natal nutrition.
Set yourself up for success. Anne Bergman, owner of The Kitchen Director, a Toronto-based consulting service that specializes in helping people learn to prepare meals more confidently, recommends that expectant parents make three essential food-prep purchases: “a stand- up freezer, if space allows; a large slow cooker; and a headset for your phone.” The latter will keep your hands free while stirring a pot (or feeding baby).
Make extra and freeze. It takes just a few extra minutes of prep time to double a recipe, says House. While you’re juggling a brand-new babe, you may not be sitting down together, so use silicone muffin pans to freeze your portions in single servings, says Bergman. “Once frozen, the dish is in hockey-puck format, and is very easy to ‘peel’ out of the silicone. Keep your hockey pucks in zip-top bags.”
Plan a cooking date night. Hit up meal-assembly services, such as Supper- Works in Ontario, What’s For Dinner in Victoria or Dashing Dishes in Calgary, to prepare a bunch of freezer meals at once, without hours of chopping.
Ann- Marie Burton of Burlington, Ont., visited SupperWorks before her third baby arrived. “As a busy mom it was a relief to know that I had simple and healthy dinners ready in our freezer. It was much easier to go to SupperWorks than to prep in advance at home,” says Burton, the founder of momstown.ca, a popular national network of online and in-person mother’s groups.
Order groceries. “Plan for some groceries to be delivered, either through a service or willing friends and family, the first month after baby arrives,” suggests Bergman. No matter how many casseroles you’ve got in the freezer, you’ll still need fresh produce, milk and other perishables.
Gather foods you can eat with one hand. Think trail mix, fruit, peeled hard-boiled eggs, whole-grain crackers, portioned cheese and yogurt, whole grain muffins or oatmeal cookies, says House. You can eat these while feeding or holding the baby.
Include protein in every meal. These foods will keep you full for longer, a boon when you’re rocking a cranky baby for hours on end. Try eggs, beans, meat, fish, nuts, yogurt and milk.
Keep it simple. There’s nothing wrong with having a dinner of scrambled eggs and cheese on whole-grain toast with some raw veggies on the side, says House. For breakfast, make a smoothie you can drink with babe in arms.
Bergman recommends easy soups you can put together using low-sodium, store-bought broth and whatever you have on hand. And don’t forget to look in the pantry, she says. You can put together a healthful dish using beans, pasta, jarred sauces and frozen vegetables.
Put helpers to work in the kitchen. Visitors like to make themselves useful, says Bergman, so don’t be shy about directing them to the kitchen. Your baby’s admirers can wash and slice fruit, peel vegetables for that night’s dinner or simply unload and reload the dishwasher, she says.
Fall back on take-out. While it’s healthier and cheaper to eat food prepared at home, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself by ordering in once in a while. In fact, planning a weekly or biweekly takeout night gives you an evening with no cooking or dishes to look forward to.
This story is part of our New Baby Guide. Check it out for more info on bringing home, planning for and surviving having a new baby.