I get it. Some days, life throws so much at you that just making it through feels like an achievement in itself. On those “struggle days” when you have low capacity, self-care often takes a backseat, and finding the energy to prepare a balanced meal can seem like an impossible task.
If you’ve been there, you're not alone.
Every one of us has those days, those low-capacity moments when even thinking about what to eat feels like an impossible task.
Let's start by acknowledging that it's okay to struggle. It doesn’t mean anything about your ability or worthiness as a parent or person. Life is a rollercoaster, and motherhood? It’s often one crazy ride.
As a dietitian and a mother-focused postpartum doula, I’m here to talk about ways to nourish your body gently, even when you're running on empty.
Do you recall learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs? It’s a psychological theory that arranges human needs into a pyramid-shaped hierarchy. It suggests that people need to meet certain basic and survival level needs before they can focus on higher-level needs.
I’ve loosely translated that through the lens of nutrition and offer a way of thinking about nourishment that is compassionate and realistic when we are struggling.
Foundation: Calories and Hydration
On those low-capacity days, the foundational level of nutrition care is to get something into your body. Calories and hydration are your basic survival needs. Don't stress about perfection; the goal is to get some calories and fluid into your body. If you’re struggling, it's okay to rely on convenience and choose what is easy. Ask others for help if you can. Eating and drinking something is better than nothing.
Next Level: Protein and Fat
If you have a bit more capacity available, let's talk about making those meals more balanced. “Macronutrients” are the essential building blocks that make up our food. These include carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Each of these building blocks have unique functions and uses within our body. A gentle way to ensure some balance in your meal is to add a source of protein with each meal.
Some easy options can include: eggs, canned salmon, tuna or chicken, canned smoked oysters or mussels, canned beans or lentils, roasted nuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, hemp or chia seeds, purchased or pre-made bone broth, yogurt, cottage cheese, pepperoni sticks, beef or salmon jerky.
Going Further: Micronutrients and Nutrient-Dense Foods
Now, let's consider “micronutrients”, the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that keep your body humming and functioning well. On high capacity days, think about incorporating nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens (kale, spinach, cabbage, etc), or any sort of veggies with your meal. Fruits, especially berries, are also helpful. But remember, if it feels like too much, that's okay. The priority is always nourishment, not perfection.
What to learn more?
I’ve created a special guide just for you. It's called "Nourished in Minutes: A Gentle Meal Guide for Exhausted Moms on Struggle Days."
In this guide, you'll find an entire day's worth of meal ideas, all designed for days when you have low capacity. There are flexible options based on how you're feeling that day, so you can choose what suits you best.
With warmth and understanding,
Your Dietitian doula
P.S. - Cooking is hard and so is being a mom.
Know that even on struggle days, you're doing your best and that’s enough.
Make sure to download your free guide: [Nourished in Minutes]. It's a small step toward more compassionate self-care, one meal at a time.