Are you looking for easy postpartum meals? You’re in the right place. This article shares the collective wisdom of registered dietitians who are also parents.
We discuss a wide range of techniques from detailed meal preparation to easy ideas for 5-minute meals. All with the intent of helping you spend more time with your new baby and resting when possible.
If you want to hear more about my pregnancy journey check out my blog post on Digestive Issues During Pregnancy.
As with all things baby and parenting related, take advice that works for you and leave the rest.
Are you interested in learning more about plant-forward meal prep? Download my free Plant-Forward Meal Prep Made Easy guide.
Table of Contents
Why is it important to have easy postpartum meals?
The postpartum time, especially the fourth trimester (0-3 months postpartum) is a time of great change. This is true whether you gave birth or adopted.
Having nutritious and delicious meals ready to go when you are postpartum sounds like it is an absolute life-saver.
The benefits include:
- More time with your baby and family.
- Less time spent doing draining activities like preparing meals.
- Keeping yourself and your family nourished.
- Preserving energy for other activities (or sleep).
- Reduces decision fatigue in an already sleep-deprived, foggy-brained period.
- Enjoying foods that support healing, recovery and breastfeeding.
Helpful timeline for planning easy postpartum meals
It is helpful to spread out your postpartum meal planning and preparation so you are not doing it all at once (here I am at 35 weeks just starting!).
If you are waiting for your child through the adoption process, you can modify this timeline to meet your needs.
Dietitian, culinary expert and mom to two young children, Jessi Holden of the Kitchen Invitation shares a super-smart timeline for planning easy postpartum meals.
Second trimester meal planning
Before you start shopping or cooking, make a postpartum meal list. This list should include:
- Meals that you and your family enjoy
- Meals that are easy to prepare
- Meals that someone could make (or buy) for you
- Meals that freeze well
Third trimester meal planning
During the third trimester, Jessi recommends making a list of high protein, easy to eat snack foods.
“These could be prepackaged that you begin to stock up on or things you could make like energy bites that freeze well,” Holden says.
This recipe for Pumpkin Protein Balls freezes up to three months and is easy to eat one-handed before or after nursing, especially in the middle of the night.
One-two months before due date
Head back to that list you made during the second trimester and begin doing some meal prep. This does not have to be an all-consuming task.
Start by making one extra meal each week (however many portions you need) and freezing it. You can even use the recipes you are already making for that week and simply make a double batch.
Two-three weeks before your due date
Inventory your fridge, freezer and pantry (anywhere you keep food) to make sure you have appealing meals and snacks ready to go. It’s also important that you have pantry staples stocked in the event that you or a caregiver have time to prepare a meal.
Have a list of go-to meals and snacks for easy postpartum meal ideas
Dietitian-parents were quick to remind me how foggy your brain can be in that postpartum period. When someone asks you what they can cook for you, or what they can pick up at the store for you, you want to avoid going blank.
Christine Milmine, RDN of Plant Powered You says “one thing that some find intimidating about meal prep is coming up with what to make! Write down healthy “easily prepped” meals on a sheet of paper and stick it to your fridge- so you can refer to it when you are blanking on ideas.”
Use all the appliances for easy postpartum meals
Microwave, Crock Pots, air fryers, panini makers and InstaPots exist for a reason: convenience!
Dietitian and Certified Breastfeeding Counselor Amy Beney of Nutrition Insights says “use alternative cooking devices- crock pots are great and super forgiving for someone taking care of a new baby, panini makers, insta-pots and air fryers can make meal prep simple and tasty for everyone.”
Consider nutrition during the fourth trimester
There is a lot (read: too much) pressure on women to “bounce back” after pregnancy. Unfortunately, it can be hard to untangle helpful nutrition advice from diet culture designed to make you feel inadequate.
Here are some practical non-diet tips to consider as you make your way through the fourth trimester.
Aim for a balance of fat, fiber, carbohydrates and protein
A well balanced meal can look a little for everyone because we all have different needs but in general meals and snacks that contain fat, fiber, carbohydrates and protein in the same meal are likely to keep you energized and satisfied.
Fat is found in dairy, nuts, seeds, avocado, butter, oils, eggs and meat and seafood.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans and lentils. Learn more about fiber in my Essential Guide on Plant Based Fiber.
Protein is found in all foods but in most abundance in meat, dairy, seafood, tofu, tempeh, beans and lentils. Dietitian Emily McGlone Dickens told me “I definitely relied on some ready to go pre-made protein drinks to help boost my protein intake!”
Carbohydrate rich foods include grains, vegetables, fruit and beans. As Jessi Holden says, “we need carbs for energy especially as we’re healing.”
Stay hydrated during your postpartum period
If you are breastfeeding, you will need to stay hydrated to support your milk production. Aim for around 100 ounces of unsweetened liquid, which is typically the amount recommended during pregnancy.
Another key reason to stay hydrated is to support healthy bowel movements. As you know, your digestive system is highly impacted by pregnancy and this extends into the first bowel movements of the fourth trimester.
“When feeding, plan to have a big bottle of water on hand to stay hydrated” says dietitian Lori Wyle Bumbaco
Do what you need to keep your liquid intake high, whether that is mixing it up with non-water unsweetened or lightly sweetened beverages. Or, try using a straw when drinking, says Amy Beney, if that makes it easier for you to stay hydrated.
Keep snacks within reach
Breastfeeding and/or the demands of caring for a newborn can really work up an appetite! Make sure you have easy access to snacks.
My dietitian colleagues collectively told me that the best snacks for postpartum recovery are:
- Balance of fat, fiber, carbohydrates and protein
- Tasty (you deserve to eat food you like!)
- Easy to eat with one hand
- Room temperature or easily stored near bed or wherever you feed your baby to quench late night rumbles
Accept help when offered. Ask for help when you need it.
If you take anything from this article, it should be this. Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to mentioned this!
I think dietitian and mom Jessie Carpenter sums it up really nicely in her experience with not only accepting help from her church but also managing expectations with loved ones.
“Say yes to the meal train. My church put together a meal train for me and my husband (only the 2 of us and baby now!). My husband didn’t want to do it because he would be home for a while and thought he could make meals. Wrong! We were so exhausted and overwhelmed at the beginning, neither of us could possibly think of making a meal, much less a nutritious one. The meal train was wonderful….”
Here’s how to request a meal train or help organize one for a friend.
Jessie goes on to say: “… my mom desperately wanted to come visit after I had my baby girl. I told her we were overwhelmed and her visiting would either have to wait or she would have to do some work while here. She chose work, saying that she was planning on helping even before I said something. She ended up making more meals (ones I requested) to put in the freezer for us to have when we needed them.”
Take advantage of your freezer
Whether you cook your own meals and freeze them, or stock up on frozen prepared meals, it is universally recognized that the freezer is your friend when it comes to easy postpartum meals.
“If able, make freezer meals before labor and delivery. I made some meals well before I had my baby and put them in the freezer because I knew I was not going to be 100% able to meal prep as usual. After the meal train meals, these came in handy,” says Jessie Carpenter.
Give yourself grace during the fourth trimester
Being kind to yourself and respectful of the recovery process was echoed widely.
Amy Beney reminds us: “Be kind to yourself. You are caring for a brand new life that does not know what is going on either. There is such a thing as the 4th trimester. Let’s take advantage of that.”
Remember to temper your expectations about what is possible. Amy Lucas, registered dietitian and trained chef of Chef Crafted Nutrition reminded me that it is normal for it to take at least a couple weeks to even feel like cooking again.
Take it one easy postpartum meal at a time
This tip really resonated with me because as much as I love cooking and eating, I do not love meal planning. I think it is likely helpful to new parents that are largely unaccustomed to meal planning in general.
Registered dietitian Melissa Mitri of Melissa Mitri Nutrition suggests “Plan ahead for just one or two days. If it’s a challenge to find a longer chunk of time, this will make meal prep feel much less overwhelming.”
Another tip is to cook so you will intentionally have leftovers.
Embrace convenience foods
Convenience foods are any food that comes prepared in some way. This ranges from pre-cut vegetables to jarred sauces to fully prepared frozen meals.
As Emily McGlone Dickens says, “Having some pre-made convenience options to eat on the go (all those doctor appointments at the beginning) or to eat when you are breastfeeding and are absolutely starving during the middle of the night feed was really helpful for me.”
Melissa Mitri reminds us to “utilize frozen and reduced sodium canned ingredients to add to sauces, stir-fries and soups. They are often just as nutritious as fresh but are faster to make.”
Examples of nutritious convenience foods to incorporate into your easy postpartum meals
- Pre cut fresh fruits and vegetables
- Bagged salads
- Frozen, canned and packaged fruits and vegetables
- Canned soups and sauces
- Canned beans
- Grilled chicken, salmon, tofu
- Steamable produce and grains
- Microwavable packages of rice and other grains
- Oatmeal cups
- Snack packages with cheese and meat
- Hummus cups
- Peanut butter and apple slices
Aim for easy clean up
You won’t want to nor will you have the time to spend on washing dishes.
Dietitian Anna Speegle recommends using “paper plates, plastic utensils so you don’t have to do as many dishes.”
It’s also a great idea to keep reusable tupperware on hand. As dietitian Rebekah Harter says, “We loved a big pot of stew or curry with rice. Make a bunch and nibble on it when peckish. I found putting some in small pyrex containers really helped when I was starving from breastfeeding but also exhausted.”
Easy postpartum meal ideas from registered dietitians (and parents)
“Smoothie kits can be a great thing to prepare to help you make something delicious and nutritious really quick. For example, freeze some assorted berries, a banana, some hemp hearts or flax meal all in a quart sized bag. You could even freeze some Greek yogurt in the bag too! That way when it comes time to make a smoothie, you dump all the contents into a blender, add a little liquid like milk or orange juice and you are good to go,” says Jessi Holden.
Overnight oats. “There are tons of delicious recipes for anything you are craving from pumpkin oats to chocolate overnight oats. Make 2 or 3 at a time to save time. Also they can be blenderized to a drinkable form,” says Amy Beney.
Registered dietitian Leonila Campos says “for breakfast I do oatmeal with soy milk, chia seeds and mixed berries.”
Stews and casseroles
“I used to make butternut squash chili prior to childbirth and freeze it,” says registered dietitian Tysen Christensen. All of my children were winter babies so warm chili was nice to have. I also made lasagnas ahead of time and froze them.”
Check out my blog post on how to make vegan stew.
“Sandwiches, especially peanut butter and jelly, tuna fish or egg salad are all great choices.” according to Amy Beney.
Check out my blog post on Healthy Sandwich Sides.
Stir fries and noodle dishes
“Tofu veggie stir fry. I used mixed veggie packs with pre cooked brown rice. This meal takes me 5 minutes. I top it with hemp seeds for those omegas, protein and fiber,” says Leonilla Campos.
“I made these 3-ingredient peanut butter oatmeal balls while I was breastfeeding,” says dietitian and mom KeyVion Miller. What I love about them is that you don’t need any special equipment and it really doesn’t have to be perfect little balls either. You can easily just press the mixture down in a loaf pan to make bars if you don’t feel like doing all of that. These were a great go-to snack.”
Registered dietitian Jessica Garay says “starting the day off with a nourishing breakfast is so important. Meal prep for breakfast by making a big batch of pancakes (I love the high-protein mix from Kodiak Cakes) to freeze for later. If you like a more savory breakfast, try a breakfast egg casserole – as a bonus, this is a great way to sneak veggies into your day!”
“Rotisserie chicken is ready-made for an easy protein that can be repurposed for 2-3 meals,” says registered dietitian Lauren Marduesz of Bloom Pediatric and Maternal Nutrition
Final thoughts for easy postpartum meals
The postpartum period, often referred to as the fourth trimester is an exciting and challenging time for new parents.
I truly have no idea what to expect but I feel a little bit more prepared having this meal prep advice from fellow dietitian-parents.
The best advice is to ask for help when you need it and don’t take on more than you can. If you are not a meal planner by nature, don’t stress and it take a little at a time.
If you are pregnant or postpartum and seeking nutrition advice, I’d love to work with you.