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4 tips for being a healthier, happier mom

By Nicci Micco, April 27, 2011 - 11:23am

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4 tips for being a healthier, happier mom

A: I am a health journalist. B: I am a mom of two young boys.

A + B tends to equal an obsession with headlines on health, parenting or—even better—a combination of the two. But, lately, much of the news in the health-plus-parenting beat is downright depressing. Like the recent study published in the April 11 issue of Pediatrics that found moms of young kids exercise less and don’t eat as well as other women.

I can totally see how it happens: having limited time makes it hard to fit in exercise. (Read my tips for sidestepping fitness struggles here.) I can also see how not having much time for yourself might lead to seeking out treats that provide instant gratification, like, say, lots of hazelnut iced lattes. (In the study, the moms tended to consume more sweetened beverages, as well as more saturated fat. I’m convinced that the latter must be due to eating bits of toddlers’ left-behind cheese. Gross, you say? Of course. But admit it: you’ve done it too.)

Yes, life with young kids is a bit nutty—but there’s no sense in feeling sorry for ourselves. (Everyone is busy!) I like to see these studies as a call to action. A call to set some resolutions that will make me the happiest, healthiest mom I can be. Here’s my latest list:

#1: I will eat happy foods. In a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, those who reported eating a diet rich in whole foods were less likely to report feeling depressed than those who ate lots of desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains and high-fat dairy products. Other studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids in fish are associated with lower risk of depression and that folate, a B vitamin found in beans, citrus and dark green vegetables like spinach, affects neurotransmitters that impact mood. Thus, I will be filling my shopping cart with fish, such as salmon, and loads of fruits, vegetables and beans.
Related: Does chocolate really make you happy? The bottom line on it, and 3 more mood-boosting foods here.

#2: I will make time for exercise —difficult but not impossible with some planning and what I like to call “social support” from my husband and a few friends with whom I run every Saturday morning. That’s my “me” time and—Dads, if you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift for the exercise-loving mother in your life, here’s a great one: offer to watch the kids for a couple of hours so she can get a real workout in. On days when there’s no time for this sort of fitness, walk or “play hard” with your kids. My boys think it’s hilarious to watch me dance “vigorously.” And, thanks to his daycare teacher, my 3-year-old is quite the Zumba master: he’s taught me a few moves.
Related: Check out these cool tools to help you meet your fitness goals.

#3: I will get enough sleep. First step: Putting myself to bed earlier (since I can’t change the fact that my younger son wakes up at 5 a.m. ready to party). Next step: I’ll make sure I’m not wasting time tossing and turning. To that end, I’ll be better about creating healthy outlets for stress (see #2) and, in the evening, I’ll be sure to avoid foods and drinks, such as coffee containing too much caffeine, that could be sabotaging my sleep.
Related:Foods that might help you catch more Zzz’s.

#4: I will give my body the nutrients it needs. Particularly for moms-to-be and nursing moms (like me), it’s important to get enough of critical nutrients like iron and calcium, since your baby will take what he needs from you. So, I’ll be having lots of beans and greens (which provide iron), plus moderate amounts of iron-rich dark meats, as well as my prenatal vitamin. For calcium, I’ll snack on low-fat yogurt and make myself a daily decaf skim latte, sans sugary syrup.
Related:Baby on board? Here’s how you should be eating.


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TAGS: Nicci Micco, Health Blog, Fitness, Wellness

Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.

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