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It goes without saying: A healthy, well-fed mom produces better milk. Follow these simple tips from Eileen Behan, R.D., author of Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding (Villard), to nourish yourself while nourishing your little one.
• Eat like your baby. Stave off hunger pangs by eating a small meal or snack every two to three hours throughout the day. Don't let yourself get ravenous, or you'll be more likely to overindulge or reach for unhealthy foods.
• Think green. To ensure that you and your baby get important vitamins and nutrients, include a vegetable or fruit--or both--with each meal or snack. Some tasty ideas: baby spinach and melted cheese in a whole-wheat wrap, apple slices with peanut butter, celery sticks dipped in hummus.
• Don't skip the salsa. Unless your baby seems sensitive to them, you don't need to shun foods that are spicy (salsa and chile rellenos), acidic (tomatoes and citrus) or gassy (broccoli and beans). In fact, exposing your baby to a variety of flavors now may make her more agreeable later, when you're introducing solid foods.
• Go fish. Swimming with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fish can--and should--be part of a healthy diet when you're nursing. But steer clear of types that are high in mercury, including shark, swordfish, marlin, king mackerel and tilefish. Limit canned albacore tuna to one 6-ounce serving, and light canned tuna and other lower-mercury fish such as wild salmon and cod, to two 6-ounce servings per week. If you,re not eating any fish, ask your doctor whether you should take a fish oil supplement, which contains beneficial omega 3s but is free of the contaminants often found in fish. (A 2004 test conducted by Consumerlab.com showed that none of the 42 fish oil supplements tested were contaminated with mercury.)
• Stay hydrated. Breast milk is about 87 percent water, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids; if you don't, your supply could suffer. Plain water and herbal teas are your best choices. Practice moderation with caffeinated beverages (no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine—about two to three cups of coffee—a day) and alcohol (stick to one beer or glass of wine, max—and wait two to three hours before breastfeeding).
• Keep tabs on treats. Go ahead and enjoy the occasional scoop of ice cream—you deserve it! Just don't go overboard, or you'll fill up on empty calories and possibly sabotage your efforts to get back to your pre-baby weight.