The pop-health industry is quick to prey on new mothers to sell shakes, weight loss supplements, meal replacements, and fat-burning workouts aimed at “getting back your pre-baby body” and fitting into your jeans again. The truth is that giving birth is a profound stress on the body and almost a super-human feat that leaves us nutritionally depleted and in need of replenishment. The postpartum period is a time for shifting our image-conscious perspective away from whittling ourselves down, losing weight, and “bouncing back” to a new and purposeful perspective set on rebuilding ourselves, refilling our vessel with dense nutrition, and growing into a new body with a new and important purpose. In many traditional cultures, women were surrounded after birth with support, given healing teas and broths, and offered the best from her family and community with quality rest and nourishing foods. These days, we feel the pressure to be and do everything—even after birth—and fully caring for ourselves is written off as indulgence.
As I relish the last three to four weeks of my second pregnancy, I am preparing myself in many ways for birthing, recovering, and resting. One way I’m able to nourish myself well during pregnancy and prepare for postpartum recovery is to make nutrient-dense meals ahead of time to store in the freezer. This way family, friends, and I can easily prepare warming delicious foods that will nourish and comfort me in the weeks following my birth. (If you’re past the point of preparing, I’ve also included some recommendations for pre-made options you can purchase.)
In traditional Eastern cultures, friends and family would engage in a time called “warming the mother,” which included offering postpartum mothers slow-cooked, soft, easily-digestible and warm foods following birth. Today we know the wisdom behind this, as these warm and gentle foods offer essential nutrients for healing, but also give the digestive system a break.
After birth, the body has several important tasks to attend to, like building a milk supply for lactation, repairing tissue, balancing hormones, and recovering from the physical stress of birth. Foods that are gentle on the digestive system allow your body to expend more energy on these other important task without wasting added energy for digestion.
Digestion is also one of your body’s main sources for detoxification, so as your body repairs, recycles water, and flushes out pregnancy hormones, smooth and easy digestion will make for an easier transition (and much less uncomfortable postpartum bowel movements!). Every batch is a little different since you can use up kitchen scraps or add in your favorite herbs.
1. Collect leftover chicken, beef, or lamb bones in a large stock pot, Instant pot, or Crock pot. (Bonus: roasting the bones first adds flavor!) You can either add in kitchen scraps OR fresh chopped veggies. I usually use onion, garlic, celery, turmeric, and a bay leaf. You can also add in egg shells for added calcium and minerals, about-to-wilt greens for extra vitamins, as well as stems and tops of other whole fresh vegetables—these all still contain viable nutrients and bone broth is a great way to reduce their waste.
2. Cover ingredients with fresh filtered water. Add 1 capful of apple cider vinegar (this helps to leach nutrients from the bones) and a few pinches of salt.
3. Cooking times will vary depending on the vessel you use. In a stock pot on the stove: simmer 8-24 hours. In a slow-cooker: Low for 6-10 hours. In an Instant Pot: Manual for 2 hours.
4. Strain the broth through a mesh colander (try to avoid very fine straining materials like cheesecloth as this can also separate out the nutritious fats, which you want distributed through the broth.) You can use the entire bath immediately for soup or sipping, or continue on to the next step for storage.
Let the broth cool completely to room temperature before storing. There are several ways to freeze your broth. For sipping, I like to freeze mine in mason jars. That way I can put a jar or two out to thaw then heat them in a hot water bath on the stove and drink them right out of the jar. To store in glass, pour room temperature broth into the container leaving plenty of space at the top of the jar for the broth to expand while freezing. Put the jars in the refrigerator for several hours before transferring to the freezer to prevent cracking. Another method is to freeze cubes or “pucks” of broth in ice cube trays or muffin tins, then store the cubes in freezer bags. These cubes can then be easily added to slow-cooker meals, or heated up for individual small servings. For sipping, I like to add a little bit of butter or ghee and a pinch of my favorite herb blend while it’s heating.
Also check out: Osso Good Bone Broth @ www.ossogoodbones.com and Kettle and Fire Bone Broth @ www.kettleandfire.com
LIVER + LENTIL MEATLOAF with HONEY BALSAMIC GLAZE
This recipe touts a couple of post-partum recovery heavy-hitters like liver, lentils, and fennel seeds. Quality grass-fed beef liver is a highly nutritious source of bio-available iron. Iron deficiency after childbirth is quite common, but including iron-rich foods in the diet can help to prevent postpartum anemia, shorten postpartum bleeding, fight fatigue, increase breast milk production and quality, and improve symptoms of postpartum depression.
Liver is also rich in vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, and trace minerals. (If you’re wary of liver, don’t worry! You’ll never even know it’s in here.) One cup of prepared lentils packs 18g of protein and 90% of your daily value of folate, both of which are essential for supporting recovering and breastfeeding mothers.
To best prepare lentils and yield their full nutritional potential, soak and sprout them first*. Lastly, fennel seeds can help to stimulate the let-down reflex in nursing mothers, and is even used in traditional home remedies for calming colicky babies. It is also calming to the digestive system, which can greatly assist a new mother in her rest and recovery. This recipe yields three loaves, so you can enjoy one for dinner and freeze two for later.
2 lbs grass fed ground beef
1 lb grass fed liver, cooked and chopped
3 cups lentils, soaked and sprouted
1/2 onion, grated
1/2 cup fennel seeds, ground
1 cup almond flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of salt and pepper
4 Tbs tomato paste (use unsweetened organic ketchup as a substitute)
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs raw honey
2 Tbs coconut aminos (use a quality soy sauce as a substitute)
Preheat the oven to 350. In a food processor or grinder, grind fennel seeds into a rough powder. Mix into a bowl with almond flour, salt, and pepper, and set aside.
2. Using a blender or a food processor, pulse liver and eggs together until smooth (some small pieces may still be intact) OR finely chop liver and mix with eggs. In a large bowl, combine liver, eggs, and ground beef evenly. Add lentils, garlic, and onions and continue to combine.
3. Add the almond flour and fennel mixture to the meat mixture and combine evenly. Add additional almond flour if necessary to reach desired texture. Press into baking pans.
4. Mix glaze ingredients, then coat the top of each loaf generously and evenly. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until a fork can be removed cleanly from the center.
5. After baking, allow the meatloaves to cool to room temperature or slightly warmer, then drain any excess liquid from the baking pans. You can either remove each loaf from the pan and wrap tightly in foil, or wrap and store the baking pan itself in the freezer. It is best to refrigerate them overnight before transferring to the freezer. To reheat, fully thaw the meatloaves and then bake covered at 300 for 20 minutes or until hot all the way through. Add some extra glaze during reheating to restore moisture if necessary, and serve with a side of mashed sweet potatoes or your favorite veggie medley.
Directions for soaking and sprouting lentils: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/sprouting/how-to-sprout-lentils/
DARK CHOCOLATE LACTATION ENERGY BITES
These tasty bites are a treat and a nutrient-bomb in one! There is no specific requirement for certain foods in order to have a healthy supply of breast milk, but there are some foods that can assist the body in the process, like iron-rich oatmeal and brewer’s yeast, a galactagogue with plentiful B vitamins. Even if you (and family members) are not breastfeeding, these are tasty little bites of energy for late nights, early mornings, and mid-meal snacks, and are especially delicious with a mug of hot tea.
This is an easy recipe to modify and add to with your favorite chopped nuts or dried fruit, or a powdered version of your favorite herbs and medicinal mushrooms like ashwagandha or reishi.
2 cups organic rolled oats*
1 cup organic unsweetened dry shredded coconut
1 cup ground flax seeds
1 cup chia seeds
1 cup nut butter
1/2 cup organic cacao powder
1/2 cup cacao nibs
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brewers yeast
4 scoops collagen
2 tbs vanilla
2 tbs ghee
2 tbs coconut oil
*If you don’t tolerate oats well, you can substitute large coconut flakes or pumpkin seeds to achieve a similar consistency.
1. Mix oats, coconut, flax, chia, nut butter, honey, brewers yeast, collagen, and vanilla evenly in a large bowl.
2. In a saucepan, gently heat ghee and coconut oil until liquid, then add cacao powder and whisk until smooth. Add to oats mixture and combine evenly. Then mix in cacao nibs.
3. Chill ingredients in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then form into bite-sized balls and set onto a lined cookie sheet. Chill or freeze for 1 hour then transfer them to a storage container to freeze (using parchment paper between layers will keep them from sticking together). To enjoy, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
I stored mine in separate smaller containers with about a week’s worth so I can thaw a batch for the week and leave the rest in the freezer for later.
Also check out: Milkful Mamas @ www.milkful.com