Those early days with a newborn are a whirlwind of sleep deprivation, endless cuddles, and a constant hunger that seems to come from nowhere. But amidst the chaos, taking care of yourself and your growing bub through nutritious food remains paramount.

This is where a well-stocked and organised kitchen cupboard becomes your secret weapon.

Let’s face it, elaborate meals might be a distant memory for a while. But fear not, we have some great tips to reduce your mental (and physical) load in those early weeks and months.

Here’s how to undertake a cupboard makeover that supports good nutrition without demanding hours in the kitchen.

Planning is Key: Assess Your Needs

Before diving into a pantry revamp, take a moment to assess your current situation and needs.

  • Dietary Requirements: Do you have any allergies or follow a specific diet (vegetarian, vegan etc.)?
  • Cooking Time: How much realistic cooking time do you have with a newborn? Be honest!
  • Baby’s Age: As your baby progresses through weaning, their dietary needs will evolve.

The Larder Makeover Essentials:

Now, let’s get organised! Here are the key components for your new mum-friendly larder:

Shelf-Stable Staples:

  • Grains & pasta: Stock up on pasta, wholegrains, quinoa, and low GI brown and white rice as a quick and nutritious base for many meals.
  • Canned goods: Canned chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans are protein powerhouses, perfect for quick stews and salads. Diced tomatoes, tinned corn, tuna, and salmon are pantry lifesavers for easy meals.
  • Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, cashews, macadamias, walnuts, sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds add protein, healthy fats, and fibre to smoothies, yoghurt, salads, and even baked goods.
  • Dried fruits: Raisins, cranberries, and chopped dates are natural sweeteners and add a chewy texture to oatmeal, trail mix, or yoghurt parfaits.

Essential Pantry Items:

  • Oils & vinegars: Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar are all you need for basic dressings, marinades, and finishing touches.
  • Dried herbs & spices: A well-stocked spice rack adds flavour and variety to even the simplest dishes. Start with basics like garlic powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, and chili flakes.
  • Pasta sauces and extras: Opt for reduced-salt versions of pesto, marinara, or Alfredo sauce to turn cooked pasta into a quick meal. Keep some jar pesto, semi-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and pitted olives (black or Kalamata) to stir through pasta for a quick and delicious meal.
  • Soups & broths: Reduced-salt canned soups or broths are a lifesaver for whipping up quick, nourishing meals or adding flavour to dishes.

The Healthy Snack Station:

  • Fresh fruit: Keep a fruit bowl stocked with easy-to-grab options like apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes.
  • Vegetables: Vegetables like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, capsicum and cucumber slices are perfect for snacking on their own or with hummus. Do a bulk chop a few times a week and keep them in a sealed container in the fridge for a quick grab-and-go.
  • Whole-wheat crackers: Choose reduced-salt crackers for pairing with cheese, hummus, or nut butter.
  • Trail mix: Make your own with rolled oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits for a healthy on-the-go snack. Throw in a handful of choc-buds for that extra yum.

Beyond Basics: Building a Well-Rounded Pantry

The above are just the building blocks. Here’s how to personalise your pantry for even better results:

  • Frozen Favourites: Frozen vegetables are a lifesaver for busy mums (and dads!). They’re pre-washed, chopped, and snap-frozen to retain their nutrients.
  • Breakfast Boosters: Stock up on healthy cereals, whole-wheat bread, nut butter, and yoghurt for quick breakfasts.
  • Homemade Staples: Batch cook and freeze some homemade items like healthy muffin batter, lentil soup, or Bolognese sauce.
  • Treat Yourself: Don’t forget a small stash of healthy treats like dark chocolate or homemade nut bars for those cravings. Remember there are no good or bad foods; however, when you do choose a ‘sometimes’ food take the time to decide what you really want – and savour and enjoy.

Tips for Organisation and Efficiency:

  • Declutter and Deep Clean: Start with a clean slate by removing expired items and anything you no longer use. (“Hello, herbs from the early 2000s!”)
  • Categorise and Label: Group similar items together (grains, canned goods, snacks) and label shelves for easy identification. Utilise clear storage containers to keep things organised.
  • Utilize Vertical Space: Install shelves or utilise shelf risers to maximize storage space.
  • Keep High-Use Items Within Reach: Place frequently used items like snacks, grains, and canned goods at eye level for easy access.
  • Rotate Stock: Implement a “first-in, first-out” system to avoid expired items lurking in the back of the cupboard.

Remember, this is YOUR larder! Tailor it to your family’s preferences, dietary needs, and budget.

NEED MORE HELP?

We offer individual consultations and postnatal cookbooks as we know you all have different learning styles and budgets.

Attending an individual session with a Lifestyle Maternity dietitian will allow you to assess your diet against recommended guidelines and identify changes that can be tailored to your lifestyle and dietary preferences. If you would like further information book an appointment  now.

Our postnatal cookbook has been developed in collaboration with Dietitian Christine Stone (PeNut).This collaboration is for all time-poor, nutrition-conscious, food-loving new mums. When we’ve talked with new mums about what worked for them to feel nourished, health, and strong they’ve told us they’ve needed to adapt routines and habits that used to be their go-to’s for nutrition. This cookbook has been designed to support new mums in meeting these important goals.

 

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

IMAGE DESCRIPTIONS: first – an open food cupboard with fiver shelves full of jars and bottles with a door that’s hung with a spice rack with 6 shelves in it; second – front cover of PeNut + Lifestyle Maternity cookbook collaboration. Tomato based soup with spinach mixed through in a white bowl with a silver spoon resting in the soup. It is on a grey blue background with next to a white tea towel with a red stripe.

In the bustling aisles of supermarkets, ultra-processed foods (UPFs) reign supreme. Their colourful packaging and enticing flavours beckoning shoppers to indulge.

These heavily modified products, often brimming with unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium, have become a staple in many diets, offering convenience and taste at a seemingly low cost.

However, beneath their appealing façade lies a hidden truth: UPFs pose a significant threat to our environment, leaving a trail of destruction from farm to fork.

The environmental impact…

of UPFs begins with their resource-intensive production processes. These foods often require vast amounts of land, water, and energy to cultivate, process, and package. For instance, meat production, a major component of many UPFs, is responsible for deforestation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.  It can take 170 to 310 litres of water to produce 500ml of soft drink.

The transportation…

of UPFs across vast distances further exacerbates their environmental footprint. These products often travel from distant farms and factories to reach supermarket shelves, burning fossil fuels and contributing to air pollution. Additionally, the packaging of UPFs, often made from non-renewable resources like plastic, adds another layer of environmental burden.

The consumption…

of UPFs also contributes to environmental degradation. These foods are often high in sugar and unhealthy fats, which can lead to obesity and other health problems. These conditions, in turn, can strain healthcare systems and increase demand for environmentally unsustainable medical treatments.

The disposal…

of UPFs, particularly packaging waste, poses a significant challenge. Plastic packaging, a common choice for UPFs, is notoriously difficult to break down in landfills, contributing to microplastic pollution in our oceans and waterways.

The environmental consequences of UPFs extend beyond their immediate production and consumption. The agricultural practices associated with UPF production, such as intensive farming and the use of pesticides and fertilizers, can harm biodiversity, degrade soil quality, and contribute to water pollution.

Furthermore, the globalised food system that supports UPFs is vulnerable to climate change, which can disrupt agricultural production, transportation networks, and waste management systems, further exacerbating the environmental impact of these foods.

In light of these alarming environmental concerns, it is crucial to shift away from our reliance on UPFs and embrace a more sustainable food system.

This shift requires a multifaceted approach that involves:

  1. Promoting whole, unprocessed foods: Encouraging the consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean proteins can significantly reduce the demand for UPFs.
  2. Supporting sustainable agricultural practices: Fostering sustainable farming methods that minimize environmental impact, such as agroecology and organic farming, can reduce the harm associated with UPF production.
  3. Reducing food waste: Minimising food waste at all stages of the food supply chain, from production to consumption, can reduce the overall environmental impact of our food system.
  4. Promoting responsible consumption: Educating consumers about the environmental consequences of their food choices and encouraging mindful consumption habits can drive demand for more sustainable food products.
  5. Enacting supportive policies: Governments can implement policies that support sustainable food production, reduce the consumption of UPFs, and encourage the development of more environmentally friendly packaging solutions.

Transitioning away from UPFs towards a more sustainable food system is not only essential for protecting our planet but also for safeguarding our health and well-being.

By embracing a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods, we can reduce our environmental footprint, improve our health, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

The time to act is now; let’s choose a healthier, more sustainable path for ourselves and for the planet we share.

Do you need help in making changes to your dietary routines?

Our specialist maternal health dietitians are able to tailor a program to support you to adapt recommendations to your lifestyle and preferences. If you need support, please make an appointment to help you achieve your goals.

IMAGE CREDIT: Unsplash/Dose Juice

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Pieces of apple, lemon, cucumber, spinach leaves and lettuce on a green background.

Ultra-processed foods have become increasingly prevalent in modern diets. They are heavily modified and contain unhealthy fats, added sugars, and salt. While ultra-processed foods may taste appealing, their excessive consumption can lead to weight gain and other health problems.

How Ultra-Processed Foods Contribute to Weight Gain

Several factors contribute to the weight-gaining potential of ultra-processed foods:

  1. High Energy Density: Ultra-processed foods are often packed with kilojoules, providing a large amount of energy in a relatively small volume. This can lead to overconsumption and an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure.
  2. Palatability and Overeating: Ultra-processed foods are engineered to be highly palatable, triggering the release of dopamine, a pleasure neurotransmitter. This can lead to overeating and difficulty controlling their intake.
  3. Lack of Satiety: Ultra-processed foods often lack fibre and protein, nutrients that promote satiety and fullness. This can lead to increased hunger and frequent snacking, contributing to weight gain.
  4. Disruption of Hormones: Ultra-processed foods can interfere with the production and regulation of hormones that control appetite and metabolism. This can lead to increased hunger and an increased tendency to store excess weight.

Studies Linking Ultra-Processed Foods to Weight Gain

Several studies have investigated the association between ultra-processed food consumption and weight gain. A 2019 study published in the journal “PLOS Medicine” found interesting results. Participants who consumed a diet high in ultra-processed foods were more likely to gain weight over a two-year period compared to those who consumed a diet low in ultra-processed foods.

Another study, published in the journal “Cell Metabolism,” investigated what would happen if they gave people two different diets in a very controlled setting. Using 20 volunteers, they randomly allocated whether these people would be fed either ultra-processed or unprocessed diets for 2 weeks immediately followed by the alternate diet for 2 weeks.

Meals were closely matched for energy (kilojoules), energy density, macronutrients, sugar, sodium, and fibre. The people in the study were asked to consume as much or as little as desired.

The researchers found that more energy (kilojoules) were eaten with the ultra-processed diet (consuming more carbs and fat, but not protein). Weight changes were strongly associated with energy (kilojoules) eaten.

Additional Health Concerns Associated with Ultra-Processed Foods

In addition to weight gain, ultra-processed foods have been linked to a range of other health problems, including:

  • Increased risk of heart disease: Ultra-processed foods are often high in saturated and trans fats, which can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes: Eating ultra-processed foods is linked to worsening of insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
  • Increased risk of certain cancers: Ultra-processed foods may contain harmful compounds that have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer.
  • Disruption of a healthy gut microbiome. Ultra-processed foods can disrupt the gut microbiome by not delivering it enough fibre and through containing a variety of additives, such as emulsifiers and preservatives, which can have harmful effects on the microbiome and change these healthy bacteria.

Recommendations for Reducing Ultra-Processed Food Consumption

To reduce the risk of weight gain and other health problems associated with ultra-processed foods, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Prioritise whole, minimally processed foods: Focus on consuming whole, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  2. Limit consumption of packaged and ready-made meals: Packaged and ready-made meals often contain high amounts of ultra-processed ingredients. Opt for cooking meals at home using fresh ingredients whenever possible.
  3. Read food labels carefully: Pay attention to food labels and identify ingredients that indicate ultra-processing. These include preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours.
  4. Make gradual changes: Gradually reducing your consumption of ultra-processed foods can be more sustainable than making drastic changes overnight.
  5. Seek support: Consider seeking guidance from an accredited practising dietitian to develop a personalised plan for reducing ultra-processed food consumption and achieving your health goals.

Do you need help in making changes to your dietary routines?

Our specialist maternal health dietitians are able to tailor a program to support you to adapt guideline recommendations to your lifestyle and preferences. If you need support, please make an appointment to help you achieve your goals.

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Austin Chen

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Neon sign saying “This is the sign you’ve been looking for”

Ultra-processed foods are foods that have been heavily altered from their natural state through a series of industrial processes.

But isn’t chopping and canning also processing?

Food processing generally refers to any action that alters food from its natural state, such as drying, freezing, milling, canning, or adding salt, sugar, fat, or other additives for flavour or preservation.

Ultra-processed foods are not simply foods that have been modified by processing, but rather edible products formulated from food-derived substances, along with additives that heighten their appeal and durability.

Ultra-processed foods are heavily industrially processed products that have undergone multiple alterations, often involving a combination of techniques such as hydrogenation, extrusion, and fortification. As a result, these foods are often high in unhealthy fats, added sugar, and salt, and they are low in fibre and nutrients.

What is the impact of eating ultra-processed foods on our health?

Ultra-processed foods make up a significant portion of the modern diet, and they have been linked to a number of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Last month, our blog outlined how ultra-processed foods can have a negative impact on pregnancy health.

There is growing evidence that ultra-processed foods can also have a negative impact on gut health. The gut microbiome is a community of trillions of bacteria that live in the intestines. The microbiome plays an important role in digestion, inflammation, immune function, and overall health.

What do ultra-processed foods do to our gut bacteria?

A healthy gut microbiome is diverse and contains a balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria.

Ultra-processed foods can disrupt the gut microbiome in a number of ways.

These foods are often low in fibre, a nutrient that is essential for the growth of beneficial bacteria. Fibre FEEDS the gut bacteria which, in turn, produce SCFAs or ‘short chain fatty acids’. These SCFAs send chemical messages around the body to modulate our immune system, digestion, inflammatory processes and even how much energy we extract (and store) from the food we eat.

Ultra-processed foods also contain a variety of additives, such as emulsifiers and preservatives, which can have harmful effects on the microbiome and change these healthy bacteria.

Studies have shown that people who consume a diet high in ultra-processed foods have a less diverse gut microbiome than those who consume a more traditional diet.

This can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Increased risk of obesity: A less diverse gut microbiome is associated with an increased risk of obesity. This is because the microbiome plays a role in regulating appetite and metabolism.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD is a group of chronic inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. People with IBD have a less diverse gut microbiome than those who do not have the disease.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS is a common condition characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea. People with IBS have changes in the gut microbiome, which can influence intestinal inflammation and pain.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels and blood fats. People with type 2 diabetes often have a less diverse gut microbiome than those who do not have the disease.

 How to Improve Gut Health

There are a number of things you can do to improve your gut health and reduce your consumption of ultra-processed foods:

  • Enjoy a diet that is high in fibre. Fibre is a nutrient that is essential for the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Limit your intake of ultra-processed foods. Ultra-processed foods are often low in fibre and nutrients, and they are high in unhealthy fats, added sugar, and salt. Minimise eating food from crinkly packets!
  • Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, contain live bacteria that can help to improve gut health.
  • Manage stress. Stress can have a negative impact on gut health. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, yoga, or meditation.

Do you need help in making changes to your dietary routines?

Our specialist maternal health dietitians are able to tailor a program to support you to adapt guideline recommendations to your lifestyle and preferences. If you need support, please make an appointment to help you achieve your goals.

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Jamie Street/ Unsplash

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries in a white, heart shaped, ceramic dish
 

 

 

During pregnancy, a woman’s nutritional needs increase to support the growth and development of her baby. However, the modern diet is increasingly dominated by ultra-processed foods, which can pose significant risks to both maternal and fetal health.

Understanding the potential consequences of ultra-processed food consumption during pregnancy is crucial for making informed dietary choices and supporting optimal health outcomes.

Defining Ultra-Processed Foods

Food processing generally refers to any action that alters food from its natural state, such as drying, freezing, milling, canning, or adding salt, sugar, fat, or other additives for flavour or preservation.

Ultra-processed foods are not simply foods that have been modified by processing, but rather edible products formulated from food-derived substances, along with additives that heighten their appeal and durability.

Ultra-processed foods are heavily industrially processed products that have undergone multiple alterations, often involving a combination of techniques such as hydrogenation, extrusion, and fortification.

These foods are typically low in fibre, nutrients, and water, while being high in unhealthy fats, added sugar, and salt. Examples of ultra-processed foods include packaged snacks, sugary drinks, processed meats, and ready-made meals. They are the foods that typically can’t be “created in your kitchen”.

Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods on Maternal Health

Excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods during pregnancy can lead to a range of health concerns for mothers, including:

  • Excessive gestational weight gain (GWG): Ultra-processed foods are often high in calories and low in satiety (being filling), contributing to excessive weight gain during pregnancy. GWG is associated with increased risks of gestational diabetes (GDM), preeclampsia, and postpartum complications.
  • Increased risk of GDM: GDM is a condition characterised by high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. Ultra-processed foods, particularly those high in added sugar, can make management of BGLs in GDM harder.
  • Elevated blood pressure: Ultra-processed foods often contain high amounts of sodium, which may contribute to elevated blood pressure during pregnancy. This can increase the risk of preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy complication.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: Ultra-processed foods are often low in essential nutrients, such as fibre, vitamins, and minerals, which are crucial for maternal health and fetal development.

Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods on Fetal Health

The harmful effects of ultra-processed foods can extend beyond maternal health and impact fetal development as well:

  • Increased risk of fetal growth restriction (FGR): FGR is a condition characterized by slowed fetal growth. Ultra-processed foods, particularly those low in protein and essential nutrients, may increase the risk of FGR.
  • Increased risk of obesity in offspring: Children born to mothers with high ultra-processed food intake during pregnancy may have an increased risk of developing obesity later in life. 

Recommendations for Limiting Ultra-Processed Food Consumption

From Australian national dietary surveys we know that over one-third of Australians energy intake (kilojoules) come from ultra-processed (i.e. junk food and drink).  That’s one bite in every three.

Given the potential risks associated with ultra-processed food consumption during pregnancy, healthcare providers recommend that pregnant women prioritise a diet rich in whole, minimally processed foods.

Here are some practical tips for limiting ultra-processed foods:

  • Focus on whole foods: Fill your plate with nutrient-rich whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Cook at home: Prepare meals at home using fresh ingredients whenever possible. This gives you control over the ingredients and reduces the temptation to rely on packaged, heavily processed foods.
  • Read food labels carefully: Pay attention to food labels and identify ingredients that indicate ultra-processing. These include preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours.
  • Limit sugary drinks: Avoid or significantly reduce consumption of sugary drinks, including soft drinks, fruit juices, and sweetened coffee beverages. Make water your drink of choice.
  • Choose whole-grain over refined grains: Opt for whole-grain products like whole-wheat bread, biscuits and cereals, and quinoa over refined grains like white bread and processed biscuits and cereals.
  • Snack on healthy alternatives: Replace unhealthy snacks like chips and biscuits with nutrient-rich options like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and yoghurt.
  • Seek professional guidance: Consult with an accredited practising dietitian for personalised advice on limiting ultra-processed foods and creating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet during pregnancy.

Ultra-processed foods, while convenient and appealing, pose significant risks to both maternal and fetal health during pregnancy.

By prioritising whole, unprocessed foods and limiting ultra-processed options, pregnant women can promote their own well-being and ensure optimal health outcomes for their developing babies.

Remember, making informed dietary choices during pregnancy is an investment in your health as well as the health and wellbeing of your baby.

Do you need help in making changes to your dietary routines?

Our specialist maternal health dietitians are able to tailor a program to support you to adapt guideline recommendations to your lifestyle and preferences. If you need support, please make an appointment to help you achieve your goals.

 

 

EXTRA READINGS AND REFERENCES:

https://www.globalfoodresearchprogram.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/UPF_ultra-processed_food_fact_sheet.pdf

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-12-16/dependency-ultra-processed-foods-history-health-concerns-experts/103196858

https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-022-01298-w#:~:text=Ultra%2Dprocessed%20food%20intake%20during%20pregnancy%20and%20postpartum%20may%20increase,environment%20and%20breastfeeding%20%5B5%5D.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36235585/

 

IMAGE CREDIT: Anne Sprat/ Unsplash

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Stack of four donuts with pink icing and covered in coloured sprinkles