No time to grocery shop? Ask friends, neighbors and relatives to take turns bringing you healthful food from your list every few days. This way, you’ll take care of your nutritional needs and get a dose of companionship—a godsend in those first few weeks. "Yes, nutrition is important," says Mavis Schorn, C.N.M., M.S., a nurse-midwife at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, Tenn. "But so is having some social interaction, if only for 10 to 15 minutes." (You also can grocery-shop online and have healthful food delivered to your door: visit HomeGrocer.com, Netgrocer.com or Peapod.com.)
3. Eat often, eat enough
Behan recommends three meals, plus two to three snacks per day. Between meals, "graze on fruits and vegetables and lean protein sources," says Doreen Chin Pratt, M.S., R.D., director of outpatient nutrition services at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, R.I.
Here’s why eating frequently is important: If you’re breastfeeding, you need enough calories to fuel milk production. "It’s very important for breastfeeding moms to get enough calories [to make] breast milk, the baby’s sole source of nutrition," says Cheryl Lovelady, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an expert in breastfeeding and weight loss.
Drink lots of water, too. You need energy. Eating often will help keep your energy up at a time when it’s probably pretty low. It will help you lose weight. "You have to eat well—and often—if you want to lose weight, or you’ll be hungry all the time," Behan says. "And there’s a limit to how long you can go hungry." If you’re overly hungry, you’re likely to binge on sugary foods for energy.
4. Pay attention to what your body says
Debra Waterhouse, R.D., M.P.H., a dietitian in Orinda, Calif., and the author of Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell After Pregnancy (Hyperion, 2002), suggests that you ask yourself the following questions when you feel the urge to munch: Am I really hungry? If so, give yourself permission to eat. If not, are you just tired or bored? Rest, call a friend, take a walk, pick up a bestseller—just don’t eat because you can’t think of anything else to do. What am I hungry for? Sometimes it’s better to satisfy a craving instead of trying to distract yourself with other foods, Waterhouse says.
"If you crave ice cream but pick something healthier, you’ll eventually break down and have the ice cream—after you’ve already eaten the yogurt, then the nuts, then the cheese." Is my hunger satisfied? "Most people don’t check in with themselves—they eat what’s on their plate, and that’s that," Waterhouse says. "Pause every five to 10 bites and see if you’re satisfied and if your stomach is full but not overly so."
5. Be aware of portion sizes
Americans have become accustomed to supersized portions of everything from salad to soda. "Portion sizes have gotten out of control," nutritionist Lovelady says, "and people feel cheated if they go out and get a [formerly] normal-size meal." Behan agrees. "It’s not the occasional piece of chocolate that’s going to keep you from losing weight," she says. "It’s sitting down with the whole box and devouring it."