Keeping up with The Kids – A Nutritional Therapist’s Top Tips
Being a mum and being knackered go together. If you’re one, then you’re the other. Right? Which can make keeping up with our kids a challenge, especially if they’re on the go from the moment their eyes open.
I’m going to share a secret with you. Having more mama energy isn’t about the perfect diet or Insta-worthy plates of food. It’s not about pouring over recipe books or being a domestic goddess. It’s about knowing a little nutrition 101.
Yep. You have to nourish you, too.
(And no, it doesn’t have to take loads of time, planning or shopping.)
What and how we eat can have a huge impact on our energy levels. Every single one of the mums I see in my clinic are knackered. Varying degrees of burnt-out-on-their-knees, just-let-me-sleep knackered. Since day 1 of becoming a mum, they’ve put their health at the bottom of their to-do list and the result is often that day-to-day mumming feels like an endurance race.
Now, there are many reasons why you could feel tired and there are many possible ways to address low energy. What I would say to you is that if your tiredness is recent or much worse than usual, it’s worth seeing your GP and having a chat with them.
Nail your blood sugar
This is a biggie for mum health. There always needs to be a certain level of sugar, or glucose, circulating in our blood. This gives us energy and our body is very good at self-regulating or balancing those levels. If we take in too much sugar, for example from refined carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta or refined sugars like biscuits or chocolate, that balance is compromised. If we eat too much sugar, or refined carbohydrate, our blood sugar goes up… and then drops. These spikes and drops in blood sugar contribute to the crashes in energy you might feel in the day – especially mid-afternoon. It also can be part of why you crave sugar or caffeine in the first place.
Avoiding that roller-coaster of highs and lows makes a massive difference to everything from your patience with the kids, to how anxious you feel.
Does this sound familiar?
You’re up early and rushing around. Someone is either crying or asking you for something. Food is fuel right now so you grab some toast and jam or a bowl of cereal and a cup of tea. By 10 you’re so hungry your body is screaming for food and it wants it fast so it’s more than likely you’ll grab something easy. It’ll probably be sweet. And you’ll want to wash it down with tea or coffee.
You’ll burn through that quickly so when it comes to lunch, you’ll have the same hanger driving your decisions. Sandwich. Crisps. Pasta salad maybe. Or you’ll just skip lunch to squeeze in more work before pick-up. And so, it goes on. 3-5pm is the danger zone for most mums. Grazing on the kids snacks or biscuits with a cuppa. Finishing their dinner and then making a quick meal later when you are so shattered all you want to do is collapse with a glass or two of wine in front of Netflix. Your time.
It’s a cycle. We all do it. But over time it demolishes your energy and keeping up with the kids feels more of a struggle.
How to break the sugar/caffeine cycle
The first meal you eat of the day will dictate what you eat for the rest of the day. You need to start the day with a breakfast that fills you up and keeps you going. It makes a HUGE difference. Trust me, just try it for a week. If you start the day with a meal that gives you a sustained release of energy, you will feel clearer headed, calmer and more in control of your food choices. When we’re really hungry and rushed, we make poor food choices.
Most women don’t eat enough protein. And they absolutely don’t start the day with enough. Getting protein into your breakfast is important for one good reason: protein keeps us fuller for longer. When offered a pastry mid-morning, you might still want it, but you won’t inhale it in 30 seconds because you’re desperate for a hit of energy.
A good breakfast doesn’t need to take much time. On my website I have a free recipe collection: Fantastic in Five: Breakfasts for Mums in a Hurry. Just five minutes to make each one. Even if you only change one thing about your diet next week, make it a better breakfast.
Porridge is a great base – but you need more protein so add some chopped nuts, or ground seeds, or just a dollop of peanut butter, and you’ll feel better.
Eggs. Cheap. Quick. Scrambled, poached, fried or boiled. A great source of protein. Have them on wholewheat toast and a handful of berries and that’s a great brekkie.
Even if you only have time for a smoothie – make sure you get some protein in. A good quality protein powder or some nut butter will support your energy levels.
Are you fatphobic?
So, we now know that protein is our friend. Aim to eat some with every snack and every meal. It can just be a palmful of nuts, or a piece of cheese with an apple.
Eating more healthy fats will also help. Women need to eat healthy fats. Our bodies cannot make them. They support good hormonal balance, our skin health, our nervous system and our mental health. Fats are not the enemy – we just need to choose the right ones. In terms of our blood sugar, protein keeps you full for longer and fat slows down the metabolism of protein which helps maintain a lovely steady blood sugar level for even longer. What does that mean? Less snacking and better energy. Great options are a palmful of nuts or seeds each day, oily fish (mackerel, sardines, salmon) and avocadoes.
No carbs before Marbs?
Ditch that idea. You can eat carbs. You need those, too. We just need to opt for unrefined carbohydrate and watch your portion size. Go for brown rice, not white, wholewheat pasta and brown bread. And don’t forget that vegetables are carbs too (starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes or butternut squash are a good choice). Plus, the fibre and nutrients they provide are great for our energy as well. Try and get them into your meals, especially lunch and dinner. Aim for half of your plate to be veggies.
Making a small change can have a big impact on your health.
Getting that combination right – protein, some healthy fats, unrefined carbohydrate plus some veggies and fruit – is the foundation to good energy. Tweaking your breakfast is a great start. Once you have more energy in the morning, you will find you get through to lunch easier and happier, ready to get that combo into your next meal, and so on. You’ll feel more patient, less shouty and find it’s much easier to run around after the little darlings from dawn to dusk.
Thalia Pellegrini is a Registered Nutritional Therapist (FdSc Dip ION BANT CNHC). Based in North London, she runs her nutrition clinic online via Zoom. Known as the Knackered Mums Nutritionist, she creates bespoke nutrition plans for mums and is the founder of the Knackered to Nourished group program for mums in their 40s.
www.thaliapellegrini.com where you can also download her FREE breakfast recipe collection. She also offers FREE 20-minute Discovery calls if you’re interested in pursuing nutritional therapy. You can join her free private FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/nourishedmummeetup or follow her on Instagram @thaliapellegrini_nutrition for more info, recipes and tips for your mum health.