by Stephanie Greunke
You completed your #JanuaryWhole30, congrats! Maybe Tiger Blood has convinced you to keep rolling along into a Whole60, maybe you’re celebrating your accomplishment by spending an afternoon with Ben & Jerry, or maybe you’re somewhere in between these two approaches following a structured reintroduction plan.
No matter what happens on Day 31 and beyond, I want you to come up with a strategy for making this lifestyle sustainable during and after your pregnancy. Being pregnant and/or a new mom is hard work. So many factors complicate your ability to make healthy decisions, including dealing with food cravings and aversions, morning sickness, lack of sleep, and the stress of motherhood.
Here are a few of my top tips for managing pregnancy and new motherhood while staying dedicated to your real food diet.
Don’t Forget to Meal Prep
You know how important this strategy is during a Whole30, but once it’s over, it’s easy to fall back into old habits. As long as you have a well-stocked kitchen and a bit of creativity, dinner emergencies don’t have to be a frequent occurrence. Don’t leave your meal planning calendar blank once Day 30 passes. Continue with the strategy that worked for you during the program, while not sweating the small stuff. (A bit of sugar in your condiments or chicken-apple sausages was against the rules on your Whole30, but you don’t have to leave it out of your Life After.)
If you’re cooking for your family, keep things simple. You certainly don’t need to be a short-order cook and prepare individual meals for everyone. Have everyone sit down and enjoy the main dish and serve a few sides that work for your family.
This may include 1-2 vegetable dishes so that your picky toddler (or partner) can choose what he or she wants, along with a grain or starchy vegetable. For example, I occasionally serve rice or quinoa on the side for my husband. It doesn’t interfere with my meal and only takes a few minutes to make. I’ll add a baked sweet potato (prepped over the weekend) to my meal and we’re both happy. Make a few protein dishes, hard boil some eggs, bake a few sweet potatoes, roast a tray or two of veggies, and purchase or make your own condiments over the weekend and you’ll set yourself up for success all week.
If you have a newborn or are in the middle of teething/toilet training/tantrums and you need help, check out Premade Paleo, focus on simple crockpot meals, or ask your community for help. You can return the favor when you get back on your feet.
Frozen fruits and veggies, chicken sausages, packaged lettuce, packaged cauliflower rice, and pre-made condiments work! Don’t feel like you need to over-complicate things. If you enjoy making a huge batch of guacamole each week, great. If you don’t, purchase it from your grocery store. You’re not cheating, you’re being efficient and finding a sustainable approach. Some weeks you’ll have the time and energy to go to the farmer’s market and prepare more elaborate meals, but don’t feel like either of those habits are necessary to stay on track.
Check out online marketplace Barefoot Provisions for items like Whole30 Approved mayonnaise. I even created a special Barefoot Provisions kit with expecting mamas in mind, so you can try a variety of Whole30 compliant convenience and pantry items and decide what works best for you.
Pick “What’s Worth It.”
Once you remove the black-and-white rules of the Whole30 program, it’s up to you to make decisions like whether or not you should eat that rainbow sprinkled, chocolate-glazed doughnut in the break room (I’m drooling, too). Things can get tricky. It was probably easier to say “no thank you” while you were committed to the Whole30. After the Whole30 ends, you have to navigate a world full of friends who want you to have “just one bite!” and family members who “don’t get this new diet you’re on.”
Once you can no longer say, “No thank you, I’m doing a Whole30,” how do you know when to accept and when to say refuse? Here’s where you have to start adulting. While it can be incredibly tough to resist endless food temptations that pop up daily (another office birthday?!), follow this simple rule. Ask yourself, is it worth:
- A sugar crash (headache, irritability)
- Waking up your Sugar Dragon
- A stomach ache
- Feeling defeated
- …. you get the picture
Maybe it is. That’s completely your choice. I just want you to make an educated decision. For me, nutrient-poor, highly palatable food is reserved for special events that are truly worth it. An Oreo cookie straight out of the box? Not worth it. I can purchase that any time so it’s not special to me. Lactation cookies made from scratch using quality ingredients delivered to me by another mom after my son was born? Totally worth it.
You can also follow Melissa Hartwig’s “One Bite rule” to take back control over your food choices. She writes, “Here’s the rule in a nutshell: If you think your less healthy treat is going to be so delicious, so incredible, so worth it, and then you take your first bite and discover it’s not … STOP EATING.”
Do you know what makes this trick difficult? Sleep deprivation, skipping meals, and stress. All struggles that are so common for mamas. Do your best to take care of yourself (hire help, nap while the baby is napping, and have healthy snacks on hand) so you can clearly think through your choice and not make an impulsive decision. Don’t stress out over the endless food decisions that are presented to you. Instead, use them as an opportunity to grow and learn what works for your body. I didn’t get to this place overnight. It’s about practice, not perfection.
Know if you’re a Moderator or an Abstainer
In her book Better Than Before, author Gretchen Rubin introduces the concept of moderators and abstainers. Moderators are those who have no problem eating a few bites of a highly desirable food and leaving the rest for later. Abstainers can’t even imagine having one tiny piece of chocolate or a few bites of ice cream. If it’s there, they won’t stop until it’s gone. Not sure where you fall? Check out this quiz. This is a great concept to apply to your Life after Whole30. Now that you’re adding in some of your favorite foods, it’s time for some self reflection.
Let’s use the example of chocolate: If you’re a moderator, you probably have no problem keeping a bar of chocolate in your pantry. If you want a piece, you’ll take a piece and put it back. If you’re an abstainer and you really struggle to put the bar back after a few pieces, it may be worth rethinking your strategy.
- Could you purchase a bar that’s higher in cacao so you’re less tempted to eat more than a few pieces?
- Would a plain bar be less enticing than a sea salt and caramel flavored bar?
- Would individually wrapped chocolates work better for you?
- Maybe you don’t keep chocolate in your house at all and reserve it for special events or share a bar with a few friends after a meal.
There’s no right or wrong approach here. The key is finding what works for you. You know yourself better than anyone else. Use these strategies as you decide how to best approach your Life After Whole30. For more information and support, join the Whole Mamas Pregnancy Program. You’ll be able to dialogue with other moms who have finished their Whole30 and are continuing their real food approach to nutrition. You’ll also have access to free webinars, and the opportunity to interact with perinatal health expert, Stephanie Greunke.
Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice, RockYourHormones.com.