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Eating for the Fourth Trimester: Shopping and Eating Realistically

by Michelle Porter, MPH, RD

I’m trying to wrap my brain around the thought of a third and final little one. Silly things come to mind, like, “Oh, now we can buy monogrammed stockings at Christmas time!” that make it exciting to try for and survive another newborn phase, because then our family will be “complete.” But post partum is hard. At least for me, my first two newborn phases were about survival—except I was surviving while also trying to act like I could manage everything with ease. Now I know that I can manage more than I ever imagined: raising a 3.5-year-old and a 1.5-year-old and at the same time, leaving a 10-year-old career and starting a new business venture. Of course, there’s also the cooking, the laundry, the cleaning, the baths, the bedtime routines… It all gets done. My time management skills are well honed. But if my husband and I are blessed to have a next little one, I don’t want to use them! I don’t want to feel obligated to juggle all these different balls so seemingly effortlessly. I want to slow down.

As first-time moms maybe we need to prove to ourselves that we can do it, so we can be a part of the “mom club.” But now I feel like president, vice president, and treasurer of the mom club; I don’t have to prove to anyone that I’m a skilled mom. The snot on my shoulder, and bags under my eyes, the little ones hanging off of me say it all. For better or worse, this will be my last time through the “trenches,” and before I even have a positive pregnancy test, I am planning my strategy to savor and enjoy it. I have the rest of my life to do the other tasks, but little ones only fall asleep on your chest cuddled in a ball for so long. This final time I am hell-bent on enjoying and cherishing whatever little tokens I do like about the baby stage. So, to you, my fellow mamas and deeply to myself, I write this guest blog series for Katie, as a reminder to focus on what it really means to take care of ourselves and our families during the newborn phase. Here, from my perspective as a Registered Dietitian and a “been-there-done-that” mom, are some ideas that you may find helpful and practical in surviving and thriving during the fourth trimester:

You don’t have to eat perfectly, even if you are breastfeeding. You have a newborn; you just need to eat. Make it easy on yourself. There is nothing wrong with fresh-organic-locally grown-made-from-scratch-foods; there is nothing wrong with an eventual goal to lose some weight. But now is probably not the best time to stress over supporting the local farmers market, nor to hone your cooking skills or overly concern yourself with weight loss. You have a very challenging year ahead of you. Think of nutrition as a spectrum—there is almost always a better choice to make, but there is almost always a worse choice to make, too. Many factors go into where on that spectrum you choose to be on any given day for any given meal or snack. I understand that most of us feel the need to be perfect, especially when it comes to our families’ nutrition. Sometimes striving for perfection paralyzes us, though, and before you know it, you’re stuck in a week of takeout every night because your plan for the fresh-organic-locally-grown-made-from-scratch Pinterest recipes didn’t pan out. So for now (and I would recommend always), let’s exchange “perfect eating” for just plain old basic “good enough.” Aim for the healthiest side of the spectrum that also satisfies your current need for convenience.

My tip for part one of this series is to take advantage of your local grocery delivery service. Acme, Wegman’s, Giant, and Shop Rite all deliver groceries or have in-store pick up. This means you can populate a grocery list of “staples” and then just go in and add extras each week or shop only for the extras elsewhere. With the website Instacart, you can set up delivery with Acme, Wegman’s, or Giant grocery stores as well as some pharmacies. The first delivery is free and then the additional ones incur a $6.00 fee, but think of all the unplanned purchases we make at the store. It easily amounts to more than $6.00, so the fee is probably cost-saving or at least cost-neutral. Grocery delivery will accomplish two things: First, you have food in the house to eat, and second, you have an hour of time free that you would have spent grocery shopping. You can use this time to accomplish some other item on your to-do list, but you could also use this time to engage in some self-care that helps you recuperate and recharge.

When thinking about grocery staples just think through this list:

Grains: bread, oatmeal, pasta, rice, cereal, etc.

Vegetables: go for already cut/ready to cook; bagged salad or even frozen steam-able bags of veggies are easy

Fruit: fresh or frozen are both great in this category

Canned goods: beans, soups, tuna, etc.

Protein sources: beans, chicken, fish, tofu, turkey burger, or stea.

Dairy or dairy alternatives: yogurt, cheese, milk

Flavoring ingredients: ketchup, mustard, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, mayo, stir fry sauce, salsa, oil, vinegar, salad dressings, etc.

Lunches: PB & J, deli meat, cheese, soup, or yogurts

Breakfasts: coffee, tea, eggs, protein bars, Ezekiel cinnamon raisin English muffins and all-natural nut butter? (Available in freezer section at Wegmans or Giant, in case you’re interested in trying. It’s Katie’s new favorite breakfast!)

If ever there were a time for grocery delivery, the newborn period is it. Check it out or farm it out to your partner. My husband would return home with only Wonder Bread and Cheese-Itz if I sent him, so consider who in your family would make the best choices for your grocery needs and consider grocery delivery to help you meet those needs. Stay tuned for next week, when I will share part two, Healthier Take Out Options.


Michelle Porter, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian, board-certified specialist in obesity and weight management, and a Balanced Breastfeeding Mentor.

For the past 10 years, Michelle has worked as an outpatient dietitian. Her areas of experience include bariatric surgery, nonsurgical weight management, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dyslipidemia, hypertension and PCOS. She also has personal and professional experience in plant-based nutrition and completed eCornell’s Plant Based Nutrition certification (2017). ​Although Michelle has a great deal of expertise in these areas, she is also willing and very interested in working with anyone who needs the assistance of an RD.

Michelle has a passion for nutrition and helping others. Being a nutritionist is truly a vocation for Michelle, a rewarding career that also remains a hobby in her personal life and, she feels, one of her greatest gifts to her family on a daily basis.

If you are interested in a free nutrition consultation with Michelle, sign up by clicking on the green button here.