The Healthy Way to Shed Baby Weight

Avoid these 7 new-mom food traps for quick and effective weight loss.

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Tips for Healthy Weight Loss

Now that you've had your baby, you can pack up the maternity clothes, right? Not just yet. For many new moms, it takes a full year to drop the baby weight. "No one likes to hear this, but losing up to 4 pounds a month is actually right on track for healthy weight loss," says Eileen Behan, R.D., author of Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding.

By avoiding the seven most common new-mom food traps you can lose the baby weight while fortifying your body for motherhood. And check out our high-intensity workout; it's designed to help you burn calories and build muscle so you can get your pre-baby body back ASAP.

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Your cupboards are bare.

Issue: Bare Cupboards New-mom solution: "For weight-loss success, you need to be able to open your cupboards, fridge or freezer and find wholesome things you like to eat," says Behan. But getting to the supermarket may be overly ambitious in those first few weeks with a newborn.

Luckily, friends and family will likely offer to help, so keep a running shopping list on the fridge. When someone says, "What can I do?" hand it over. Be sure to keep these items at the top of the list: eggs, low-sodium canned beans, quinoa, nuts, oatmeal, precooked brown rice, frozen fruits and vegetables, and frozen salmon. All deliver maximum nutrition for minimum effort. If you decide to tackle the shopping yourself, lower your dinner expectations,and check out our tips for Stress-Free Food Shopping with Baby.

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Your diet is beige.

Issue: Too Many Beige Foods New-mom solution: Soon enough you'll be imploring your toddler to eat a rainbow every day (think red strawberries, green beans and yellow squash), but that's often tough to accomplish as a new mom. "Beige" foods like crackers, potato chips and granola bars are easy to grab but often lead to overindulgence.

"I call them 'dry foods,' " says Behan. "They don't have water or fiber, so they're not filling." To eat fewer calories and model good behavior, get in the habit of choosing colorful fruits and vegetables, which are naturally packed with water and fiber. Frozen fruits and vegetables can help save time in the kitchen. Or, try freeze-dried varieties.

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You don't drink. Water, that is.

Issue: You Don't Hydrate Enough New-mom solution: Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, so if you're not hydrated you may eat more than you should. Koff suggests increasing potassium and reducing sodium in addition to drinking more water. Snack on half of a banana, add some avocado to your lunch, or sip coconut water while nursing—all three are high in potassium.

To ensure you get the water you need, Koff suggests a simple formula: "Take your current weight in pounds, divide it in half, and that's roughly how many ounces you should drink over the course of a day." (For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, drink 70 ounces of water, or roughly nine 8-ounce glasses.) You can also "eat" your water by consuming juicy fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon or cucumber, Behan suggests.

Staying hydrated is especially important if you're nursing. "You must replace the fluid contained in the milk your baby drinks," says Behan. "If you don't, you may have trouble metabolizing and digesting the food you eat and you'll increase your risk for constipation."

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You're so focused on the baby, you ignore your own hunger pangs.

Issue: You Forget to Eat New-mom solution: Waiting to eat until you're ravenous means you'll likely overdo it. "Set an alarm to go off every four hours during the day, so you don't wind up running on empty," says Tammy Lakatos-Shames, R.D., co-author of The Secret to Skinny. Why four hours? You may not be hungry three hours after a full meal, but waiting five is pushing it. If it's not mealtime when the alarm goes off, Lakatos-Shames recommends eating a 200-calorie snack that includes carbohydrates and protein.

"Carbs provide energy to the brain and muscles, while protein helps you feel satisfied." She suggests half of a whole-wheat pita pocket stuffed with 3 ounces of chunk light tuna plus lettuce and tomato, or an apple and celery sticks with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.

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You're not eating enough.

Issue: You Don't Eat Enough New-mom solution: Now is not the time to cut too many calories—or entire food groups—in hopes of speeding up weight loss. "A drastic calorie reduction won't allow for getting enough nutrients," says Lakatos-Shames.

"This can result in fatigue (as if you need more of that!), greater susceptibility to colds and flu, as well as cosmetic effects, like hair loss and dull skin." Most nursing moms need 2,000 to 2,300 calories total per day—and no fewer than 1,800. If you're not breastfeeding, aim for 1,200 to 1,500 high-quality calories a day.

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You avoid foods because you're nursing.

Issue: You Avoid Certain Foods Due to Breastfeeding New-mom solution: It's an old wives' tale that you shouldn't eat cruciferous vegetables or spicy foods because they might upset your baby's digestion. Deprive yourself of these foods and you lose two helpful weight-loss tools. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, fill you up for very few calories, while spices add loads of flavor with no calories at all.

Plus, nursing moms especially need extra calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and folic acid. By cutting out specific foods, you may miss out on some of those nutrients. If it seems like last night's B6-rich cauliflower didn't sit well with baby, Behan says it's most likely coincidence. Wait a week and try again.

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You're too pooped to plan and prepare healthy (and delicious) dinners.

Issue: Fatigue Ruins Your Ability to Plan Meals New-mom solution: Save time (and nap more) by posting these simple, nutritious meal ideas on the fridge for weeknight inspiration. Each recipe serves two.

Egg and spinach scramble: Scramble 4 eggs with 1 cup of thawed frozen spinach and 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese. Serve with 2 slices of whole-wheat toast.

Pasta salad: Cook 4 ounces of whole-wheat pasta and add 1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables for the last few minutes. Rinse under cold water, drain and toss with olive oil, vinegar and grated Parmesan cheese.

Bean and vegetable burrito: Fill 2 whole-wheat tortillas with 1/2 cup of canned beans, 1 cup of shredded vegetables and 1/4 cup of low-fat cheese. Microwave 1 to 2 minutes, until heated through. Serve with salsa.

Spicy legumes and greens: In a large nonstick skillet, heat a minced clove of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes in olive oil. Add 2 cups of frozen kale, 1 can of chickpeas (rinsed and drained) and a splash of chicken or vegetable broth. Simmer, then serve over couscous or brown rice.

Tuna salad: Mix 1 can of tuna (chunk light is lower in mercury) with 1 can of white beans (rinsed and drained), finely chopped red onion, olive oil and lemon juice. Serve with grape tomatoes on top of bagged salad greens.

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