Nutrition and Movement for Moms
This is a guest post from Betrina, who is a RDN, CHWC, CPT, & PCES and owner of Bea Well Nutrition where she specializes in Women’s Health, Mindful Eating and Eating Disorders. She is a mom of 4 who loves to run and be active with her kids.
I recently watched an Instagram reel where a mom was trying to pour water into “her” cup (an analogy for filling her needs). But she was utterly failing because her cup had holes in it! So her water leaked into everyone else’s cup, and her cup was always empty.
The caption read: “We are trying, but like, it’s hard!” Sound familiar?! It’s true – it’s not easy for parents to fill their own cup first or “self-care first so you can care for others.”
If you are physically active most days, you put at least part of this principle into practice. Congrats! And are hopefully fueling with nutrition correctly too. Otherwise, poor nutrition can put you at risk for injuries and burnout.
Or, if you are inactive and want to prioritize nutrition and activity, this blog is for you too! You will learn how activity and nutrition are essential as a mom and how to prioritize them.
I’ll also share a few stories of moms (including my own) and how they have accomplished this. So sit back or relax in a bath (I know you probably need it) and enjoy the learning and stories below!
I love the title of Jen’s practice, “First Step Nutrition.” Why? She is helping families take the first steps in being healthy, and that is with nutrition. Nutrition fuels our cells, provides energy and reduces injuries (especially if we work out).
We risk being exhausted, sick, and injured if we ignore nutrition. Some studies show that 42% of Americans are low in vitamin D, and up to 50% of Americans are deficient in magnesium (which makes the vitamin D we are getting ineffective!).
Those two key nutrients: vitamin D and magnesium, impact our mood, energy, bones, muscles, heart, and immune system. As moms, we need the power to chase those toddlers or be in an excellent mood to interact with our teens (my current stage). We also need to get enough macronutrients (fat, carb, and protein) to power our bodies.
The best delivery vehicle for these nutrients is of course, food! But what foods and how much will meet our needs? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans or Canada’s Food Guide are a good, basic place to start with nutrition.
If you prefer individualized recommendations, are pregnant, or consider yourself an athlete with higher needs, reach out to your healthcare provider (preferably a dietitian!).
Dietary Supplements Next
There are many mixed opinions on supplements. “You should supplement… You should not supplement.. ” Food first is always a preference.
However, if you are of child-bearing years, you should take a quality woman’s multi works. Why? Fifty percent of pregnancies in America and 85% worldwide are unplanned. And on top of that, only 1 in 10 people is getting the recommended amount of fruits and veggies.
Next, check your vitamin D, iron, and B12 levels (critical in exercise/mood) to see if you need more. I’ve heard many stories of active moms unsure why they are so tired or have muscle pains (P.S. check your thyroid, too). This may be due to nutrient deficiencies.
How to prioritize food and exercise
I’ve shared good reasons why nutritious foods are important in our daily lives. But how do we prioritize them? Implementing is the tricky part. Here are some tips to help:
Find your why
Knowing that diet quality and physical activity are essential for your health. may not be enough motivation to prioritize them.
Your “why” could be energy and mood for parenting your kids. Or to be active with your grandkids. If you’re pregnant, your maternal nutrition can be motivation to grow a healthy baby. Or to prevent injury so you can continue doing what you love (sport, work, etc.).
We can know it’s important to take care of ourselves, but we need a strong sense of why. So find it, and write it down!
Create an environment to prioritize nutrition and movement for moms
- Plan: Schedule activities or register for events like a fun run. Get organized in the kitchen with meal planning.
- Prepare: Remove barriers to working out, like setting out workout clothes for a morning run in the evening. Or keep them in the car, so that’s never an excuse to avoid the gym. Food-wise, meal planning and prep are key!
- Celebrate: Make goals and rewards to help you enjoy the movement and improve your nutrition.
- Community: Join cooking or workout classes, workshops, and clubs. Or ask friends/family to move or meal prep with you.
Eat enough food
Even if you’re busy, don’t forget to eat meals and snacks! Set an alarm if you tend to forget.
Plan and prepare snacks. Have them ready to go and easy to access in your car, purse or work desk.
Practice mindful and intuitive eating principles by honouring your body and hunger cues. Work with a dietitian if you have had years of ignoring them or a history of eating disorders. Or check out my self-paced course that will help guide you through developing healthy eating patterns, tips to eat without following crazy meal plans that I created with another dietitian.
If you have little ones, practice and notice you tend to feed them first. Eat with them! There are so many benefits to family meals. A lot of moms feed their kids but not themselves. This can cause injuries, weight gain/loss (usually gain), increased emotional eating, and harm our relationship with food and exercise. So eat!
Energizing food ideas
To create healthy hormones, boost immune systems, and create strong bones/muscles, give these foods a try:
- Nuts & Seeds: Brazilian (thyroid health), almonds, and cashews. Chia, flax, and sunflower seeds
- Colorful fruits/veggies: Avocado, bell peppers, berries, grapes, sweet potatoes, oranges, apples, beets, eggplants, and plums.
- Get your greens! Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and spinach
- Complex carbs: Sprouted bread, soybeans, whole grain rice, and pasta
- Seafood: 3x a week for omega-3 fatty acids.
- Iron-rich foods: Cooked spinach, red meats (try to limit), and cooking on a cast iron pan alongside vitamin c rich foods.
Add in a quality dietary supplement. They are not all made equal. I’ve seen this make a world of difference with women. Especially active and pregnant women.
Jen reviews one option here: Usana Supplement review. Or for quality and affordability, I like the Shaklee Vita-Lea Women or complete Vitalizer Women, including fish oil and probiotics (these are affiliate links).
How much water do we need? It’s controversial! This is what I usually suggest to my clients:
During physical activity: 16-24 oz per hour of exercise. Listen to what your body is telling you. If it is thirsty, drink. On average, our bodies will need between 16-24 oz per hour. If you are working out for 45 min. or more, you need to replace electrolytes. This is a must, especially during pregnancy.
Women runners are 3x more likely to be hyponatremia (low sodium) after a marathon than men. Our hormones can play a part in our ability to be hydrated and keep the electrolytes in our bodies balanced.
Pregnant/Postpartum: 80-90 oz of water daily; then add below if you are working out. If experiencing dehydration in pregnancy, especially during first trimester morning sickness, then add electrolytes.
Nonpregnant women: 64 oz or 1/2 your body weight in oz.
Testimonies of Active Moms
Experience from a mom of 3 kids and a dietitian:
“During my first pregnancy, I ran through my 2nd trimester, completing a 100k (very early on), a 50-mile race, and a few 50k races. The majority of my ultra-running was completed in the first trimester. I had to stop around 28-30 weeks due to pain.
My second pregnancy was very similar, although I didn’t complete many ultra-distance races beyond a 50k because I was pregnant during the height of the pandemic. I could run a little longer with my second, but the distances were limited to 1-3 miles through the third trimester. And I could run up until delivery during this last pregnancy, averaging around 20-25 miles per week near the end. I had figured out what had worked for me, though, too.
Running during all my pregnancies helped me get back to running much quicker postpartum. My deliveries and healing from labor and delivery were smooth, which has played a part in the recovery process.
I have always been active during my entire life, and more specifically, I have been running endurance events and strength training for 20+ years, so this was not something I had just started as I became a mom. Still, I am grateful I have had this base going in and out of all my pregnancies. It has helped me be a better mom because I can care for myself and be more present with my kids.”
A mom of 3 kids and personal trainer:
“My name is Stephanie Foreman, and I am the mother of three, two naturally born and one adopted. I exercised throughout both pregnancies but primarily throughout my second pregnancy. I was active weekly, if not daily then multiple times a week, averaging three miles a run.
One of my favorite exercise stories was when I was 38 weeks pregnant, and my family rode in a 12-mile bike fundraiser, where I raced a teen girl the final half mile to the finish line. At 10:30 that night, my water broke. My labor progressed quickly and as far as labor and delivery go, there was minimal pain.
I felt so well the day after his birth, and I was performing lunges in the hospital room, eager to be released. I was back to running within a week of his delivery.”
Note: this is not a normal delivery & recovery story – please follow your doctor’s recommendations for when it’s safe to begin physical activity after delivery.
A mom of 4 kids and dietitian/personal trainer:
“When I was not active or did not put nutrition into play, I was tired and unhealthy. My only goal in between kids was not to “put on weight as my mom did.” It was not to be stronger, energetic, or healthy.
When my youngest was born, my oldest did ‘girls on the run,’ and I started running short distances too. By that point, the years of unhealthy eating, restricting, and yo-yo dieting, plus genetics, had already damaged my thyroid, and I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
My exercise and view on it changed when I got into running and living more of a healthy lifestyle. It wasn’t for “weight.” It was for health, energy, strength, reduce cancer risk (staying in remission) and a stress reducer. To be there for my kids and grandkids one day, which I did not have modelled for me.
I eat to enjoy myself but also to fuel myself. I ran multiple marathons, 50ks, a 50 miler, and a 24-hour run. And made sure nutrition was a priority. So that I didn’t injure myself while running, to have energy for family and friends, and feel energized. Cross-training, hydration, supplementing, and getting in enough calories were vital for me.
As a mom, I set the example and demonstrate that active living is meaningful. I hope my kids see that, and I have planted some seeds for them. I also feel like I can manage my anxiety and stress healthily and be there more for my kids without constantly worrying or being irritated. And I can keep up with them hiking a mountain and running them around.
Nutrition and exercise is truly a gift to be able to do. I fuel my workouts by eating three meals and two snacks almost daily, using electrolytes and supplements, and working on my goal of eating my veggies/fruit daily. My biggest tip is EAT and take care of your body.”
Knowing that activity is possible while correctly giving yourself nutrition will help you be a healthier and more energetic mom. This post has provided a few tidbits to make nutrition and exercise a priority and even a motivation.
So, fill those holes in your cup and make self-care a priority!