When a person chooses to breastfeed their baby, they often know that they will need basic equipment like a nursing bra and nipple cream. But one thing that may take breastfeeding people by surprise is how incredibly hungry they feel once they start their journey.
Lactation requires approximately 500 more calories and at least 65 grams of protein per day. So, if you are eating like you were pre-pregnancy, it is likely that you are getting pretty ravenous mid-day.
Snacks can play a huge part in a lactating person’s journey. Because let’s be be honest—some people can’t sit down for three square meals a day and snacks become the norm during the chaotic first few months of parenthood.
As a registered dietitian working with lactating parents, I tell my clients that when choosing breastfeeding-friendly snacks, they should stick to some general criteria:
- It should be nutrient-dense to help support healthy nutrient levels in your breastmilk and to support mom’s healing and overall nutritional status.
- It should contain some protein, fiber, and/or healthy fat to help make your snack more satiating
- It should ideally take little effort to make and easily be enjoyed with one hand
- It should taste good!
Among the sea of snack options, I have my go-to combos that I recommend to clients most frequently. And while the occasional ice cream or salt and vinegar chips can certainly fit into a healthy lifestyle, there are some satisfying and lactation-supporting options that should make up the bulk of your food choices.
Here are my top 3 “dietitian approved” snacks that I recommend most breastfeeding parents keep on-hand when they are on their lactation journey.
1. Chicken Salad & Whole Grain Crackers
Snacks that contain high quality protein and whole grains check so many boxes when it comes to lactation nutrition. And enjoying some simple chicken salad on whole grain crackers certainly fits the bill.
Simply shred cooked chicken (using leftover chicken from a meal will do) and mix it with a little salt, pepper, and a combo of plain Greek yogurt and mayo for a nutrient-dense and simple snack. Scoop the salad up with some whole grain crackers for a mid-day nosh.
Chicken is one of the best foods to enjoy when lactating for a slew of reasons. Yes, it is a fantastic source of high-quality protein, clocking in at 31 grams per each 3.5 ounce serving of dark meat. But chicken is also a source of key micronutrients that are important to focus on during lactation, including vitamin B12 and choline. One 3.5 ounce serving of roasted dark meat chicken contains 11% of the recommended daily need for lactating people. Vitamin B12 is important for supporting baby’s neurologic development, and not getting enough is linked to developmental regression. Since breastmilk’s levels of vitamin B12 are dependent on the lactating person’s intake, including foods like chicken is important during this stage.
Chicken also contains choline, a nutrient that is important for a baby’s brain development. A lactating person’s intake influences breastmilk levels. A 3.5 ounce roasted skinless chicken breast is a good source of choline, providing about 15% of daily needs for lactating people.
2. Hard Boiled Egg & Fruit
Do yourself a favor and hard-boil a batch of eggs once a week. Once they cool, store them in the shell in your fridge for up to a week. You will be jumping for joy when you have a nutritious grab-and-go snack option when your hunger pangs hit and you need a snack ASAP. And since one large sized egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein, enjoying one mid-day is an easy-breezy way to get in this important macro, plus a host of micronutrients, too. And don’t skip the yolk. The colorful part of the egg is where you will find plenty of breastfeeding-friendly nutrients like choline and iodine, both of which support brain development. In fact, two large eggs provide more than half of a lactating person’s choline needs for the day.
Pair your egg with a piece of fresh fruit for a simple snack that packs a punch in the nutrition department and requires zero mess in the kitchen—something all new parents can appreciate.
3. Cranberry Smoothie
Smoothies are the ultimate snack when you have no time to eat—which is basically every day when you have a newborn in tow. Smoothies are hydrating, packed with antioxidants, and are simple to sip on when you are juggling all of the things.
Using cranberry juice in your postpartum smoothie is one way to add some satisfying taste to your drink while supporting urinary tract health.
Cranberries also contain vitamin C, a nutrient that people need in continuous supply, as the body does not store it.
To make a cranberry smoothie: blend 1/2 cup 100% cranberry juice, 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt, and a handful of ice in a blender and blend until smooth. Cheers!