Part I: Best Diet for Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is no joke. It’s hard work! There are many things to consider, an obvious aspect being your diet. The following are a few dietary tips that have been helpful and, especially, not overwhelming to follow. In part II, I will talk about specific foods/herbs that help produce more milk.

1) Make sure YOU are following a healthy, balanced diet for YOU.

Rest assured, your baby will probably be getting the best of what you are eating regardless of your momentary dietary lapses, but if you are not eating enough nutritious calories or eating junk food all the time, your body may pull on your reserves and eventually become depleted.

2) Listen to hunger cues.

Most women who are breastfeeding need about 300-500 more calories daily than moms who are feeding formula.. Counting calories is not the solution. Instead, listen to your hunger cues and eat balanced, whole-food meals rather than nutritionally void foods. If you feel you are eating too much, reduce portion size and have smaller, more frequent meals.

3) Drink enough liquids - especially (you guessed it) water!

A good rule of thumb is to drink about half your weight in pounds in ounces. Meaning, if you weigh 155 pounds, drink 77.7 ounces per day, which translates to almost 10 cups per day (1 cup = 8 ounces).

4) A word on caffeine.

A daily cup or two of coffee is fine, but too much caffeine can interfere with your baby’s sleep or make him/her fussy, cranky, or irritated – making for an unhappy and exhausted mom. Caffeine is harder for babies to break down and therefore lingers in their system for longer. Caffeine is also found in sodas, chocolate, teas, energy drinks, and over-the-counter medicines. Keep caffeine intake to 300mg or less.

5) Limit alcohol.

One drink a day is probably okay for breastfeeding, but no more than that.

6) Rest & relax.

As much as feasible, considering you need to breastfeed every 2-3 hours! Rest and relaxation supports breast milk production.

7) Nurse frequently.

Breastfeeding is definitely a case of “the less you use it, the more you lose it.” Nursing frequently will aid the production of milk through stimulation of the adequate hormones. So, get to it!

8) Do not avoid foods altogether if you don’t need to.

Avoiding certain food groups can cause nutritional imbalances i.e. avoiding dairy leads to calcium deficiency. If you are thinking of limiting your diet in this way, speak to a dietitian or health professional. In the meantime, a few things to keep in mind:  

  • All babies are different. Even though there are generalities on what babies can tolerate, not all babies react the same way. Therefore, observation is key. If you notice that a food causes discomfort, it’s important to 1) avoid and 2) find an adequate nutritional replacement. Some foods to keep an eye out:

- Chocolate (caffeine, remember?); Spices (garlic, curry, chili pepper); Citrus fruits and their juices, like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit; Gas-producing veggies (onion, cabbage, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, Brussels sprouts) or legumes (beans, lentils); Foods that can cause a laxative effect like prunes, figs, pineapple, raspberries, blackberries; Peppermint tea; Parsley; Alcohol

  • Check your family history for allergies and/or top allergens. The “Big 8” food allergies are a good place to start. Look at peanut, tree nuts, milk (especially cow), egg (egg whites), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Again, observation is key.
  • Stay clear of added contaminants. Pesticides, insecticides, mercury, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals are not good for you or the baby. Make sure to: 

- Choose produce from the Clean 15 list and/or purchase organic local, and/or seasonal produce when choosing from the Dirty Dozen list, which has the highest amount of pesticide residue.

- Eat from glass not plastic containers.

- Choose fish low in mercury and stay within 12 ounces of quality fish a week.  The Monterrey Bay Aquariums Consumer Guide is an awesome tool to help you pick the best fish choice.

- Choose lean meats and/or remove the skin since chemicals are stored in the fat.

Stay tuned for part II!

(Pictured: Theo at 2 weeks old.)

Wham! Bam! Strawberry Pop!

Strawberries are the most cultivated berry in the country, and lucky for us in the Northeast, they are the first fruit to ripen in spring and early summer. These delicious heart-shaped fruits are naturally sweet and simply jam-packed with healthy nutrients such as fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin C and phytochemicals. Here are a few of their benefits:

  • Fiber helps us feel fuller, longer (increasing satiety)
  • Folate lowers our homocysteine blood levels and therefore aids in heart health
  • Vitamin C helps support a healthy immune system
  • Potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure
  • Phytochemicals, specifically flavonoids, give strawberries their bright color and contain cancer-fighting properties

Nutrition Facts

One cup of strawberries has only 45 calories, absolutely no fat, zero sodium, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of natural sugars and 1 gram of protein. Strawberries also give any dish a punch of color and are generally considered people pleasers, satisfying even the pickiest of eaters—you know who you are!

How To Buy Strawberries

I don’t usually push for shopping organic, but in this case, I definitely recommend choosing local or organic strawberries if possibleStrawberries are #2 on the Dirty Dozen List for 2014, which means they are on the top tier of produce that has the highest amount of pesticides. Their skin is so thin that pesticides can easily slip in and are hard to clean out; research has even shown that conventionally grown strawberries are lower in cancer-fighting phytochemicals! Nothing beats fresh, local berries, but frozen works just as well in a pinch.

Outside the Box Strawberry Recipes

  • Sweet and savory meets the strawberry. Give strawberry, balsamic vinegar and basil ice pops a shot! Balsamic Vinegar, a naturally acidic food, provides a great tartness that pairs beautifully against the natural sweetness of strawberries. See recipe below!
  • Can’t go wrong with chocolate-covered strawberries. Make sure they’re made with dark chocolate—70% cocoa, of course! An easy alternative, sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder on fresh strawberries.
  • Grill them! Summer is the season for grilling, and this is a delicious and healthy addition to any menu. Place strawberries on wooden skewers, add a dash of powdered sugar and grill no more than 3 minutes on each side.
  • Pump up your salad by adding strawberries to your favorite leafy greenssuch as spinach, arugula or any bitter greens.
  • Make a guilt-free sundae. Use strawberries as your base and add a small scoop (no more than ½ cup) of ice cream.
  • Top it off with strawberries. Layer on top of whole-grain cereal, oatmeal or low-fat yogurt for breakfast or a sweet snack.
  • Bring the fiesta with a fruit-based salsa made of strawberries, pineapple, lime and cilantro. Add the salsa to grilled chicken or fish!
  • Make a strawberry smoothie. Yum!

Strawberry, Balsamic Vinegar & Basil Popsicles

Makes 10 popsicles (A little more than 3 cups = 25 ounces). Each popsicle is 45 calories. 

  • 2 cups of strawberries- tightly packed, thawed if frozen 
  • ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • ½ lime
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Water as needed

Mix strawberries, sugar, vinegar and lime in a blender. Add enough water to total 3 ¼ cups. Blend really well. Add basil and pulse blender, enough so that you can still see little pieces of basil. Add to pop maker and freeze. Trust me, they are delicious! 

What is your favorite recipe showcasing the strawberry? Share with me at Bushwick Nutrition! 

Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD, CDN 

Recipe Adapted from People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn’s Coolest Pop Shop 

Edited by Tamara Cabrero & NYHRC Team 

Initially posted on NYHRC Tumblr 

Is Organic Really Better?

It’s no secret that organic food is trending. There’s a reason it’s a $25 billion industry! But the question everyone wants to know is: Is it really that much better for you than conventional food? The answer is, it depends on how you look at it.

A recent Stanford University report, which reviewed 237 different studies examining all types of food, from fruits to grains to meats, concluded that there isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods.Yup, you heard right. According to the Stanford report, organic food only showed higher levels of phosphorus, which can also be found in processed food, beans and meat—in other words, it’s not a common deficiency. And a few studies also linked organic milk to higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, though this finding was inconclusive. One report looked at variations of soil type and weather conditions for organic foods and found higher levels of vitamin C (6%) and higher levels of secondary metabolites (12%, a.k.a. phytochemicals). These metabolites increase a plant’s ability to survive in its environment and have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease in diets with high fruit and vegetable intake. Potentially. 

There is also the matter of pesticide exposure, not to mention synthetic hormones and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This is where organic food shines! Organic food has 31% lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional food, even though it still may have traces of these substances (<5% is acceptable). While the FDA considers trace levels to be within safe limits, what is still unclear is how the cumulative load of organophosphorous pesticides effects special populations, such as children, pregnant/ breastfeeding women and the elderly. Another advantage is that organic dairy farmers are prohibited from using antibiotics and synthetic hormones (growth hormones). Compare this to conventionally raised chicken and pork, which have a 33% higher risk of antibiotic-resistant bacterial contamination—from up to three or more antibiotics!

Beyond Nutrition

  • Organic farming is gentler on the environment.It uses about half the amount of energy as conventional farming, produces lower levels of greenhouse gases (up to 40% less!) and supports soil that, in turn, yields better crops. Therefore, it’s better for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil we farm.
  • Food safety.The use of chemicals in food manufacturing is a common concern, especially if you are pregnant/breastfeeding, elderly, or have children. 
  • Organic is non-GMO (genetically modified organism). As part of the certification process, organic food cannot be modified. This is why organic fruits and veggies can grow into funky shapes. 
  • Animal welfare.Organically raised animals are allowed to graze on pasture and roam freely. The added space reduces their risk of getting sick. They are also not injected with synthetic growth hormones. Overall, the animals are not as miserable as they are in conventional farms.
  • Taste.Have you ever tried an organic versus a conventionally grown apple? There is no comparison. The organic is bursting with flavor!

 Something to Think About: Big Organic
“Organic” is a business. The USDA Organic Certification ensures a certain standard of practice, but this is an expense that many local, environmentally conscious farms cannot afford. Bottom line: Just because it’s organic, doesn’t mean it’s healthy (e.g. organic junk food!). Many local farms follow the same standard of practice, but may not carry the organic seal.

Going organic can have a steep price tag. Here are some tips to make the transition more bearable:

  • First thing’s first: Eat your fruits and vegetables.Ideally, buy them fresh, organic and/or local (from a trusted farmer). But what matters most is including fruits and vegetables in your diet, regardless of how they are grown. Only 6-8% of people are getting their recommended servings, so intake, regardless of type, is essential. For a more reliable way of choosing produce on a budget, look at the Environmental Working Group Dirty Dozen list. This shows which foods are best to buy organic based on their pesticide levels. The list includes apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, peaches and potatoes, among others.
  • Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. The overabundance and decreased traveling will reduce your cost.
  • Do not buy organic junk food. If being healthier is one of the reasons you are buying organic food, eating junk food—regardless of the label—defeats the purpose!
  • Choose organic meats, dairy and eggs whenever possible.Another option is buying from local farmer’s markets and community-supported agricultural programs. Most of these are grown/raised in organic fashion, even though the farm may not have the certification. Farmers generally don’t mind being asked about their farming practices. Ask away!
  • Other ways to reduce pesticide residues when organic is not an option:Practice food safety (start with washing your hands!) and wash food thoroughly. Before slicing produce, cut away any bruised areas. Pesticides usually concentrate in animal fat, so trim fat from red meat/pork and do not eat the skin of chicken/fish.

Do you buy organic?

Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD 

Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr 

Edited by TCabrarr

Picture from Katie Hargrave on Flickr. 


Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, Stanford study finds. Stanford School of Medicine. 

Organic Really Matters. Environmental Nutrition, January 2013. 

The Organic Foods Debate — Are They Healthier Than Conventional? Today’s Dietitian, July 2013.