Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding?

Milkmaid Tea for breastfeeding mothers

Have you been told to avoid certain foods while you are breastfeeding? If so, let’s back up and ask why. Unless there is a specific reason YOU, your baby, or your family should not be exposed to certain foods, you don’t need a list of foods to avoid. You don’t need to avoid any foods if both you and your baby are happy.

The rules of good nutrition still apply. Favor unprocessed, whole foods. Buy organic any foods that are known to have the most pesticide residues. Get your vitamins and minerals from food sources when possible. Eat a lot of dark, colorful vegetables and fruits for the micronutrients.

If you wonder whether you are getting enough nutrition from your foods, sip tea while you are nursing. (Though, be careful never to hold a hot cup of tea over your baby. One kick and you can have an ugly accident. Let the tea cool off before you drink it.) If your milk supply is adequate, you could choose to drink nutrient-packed Third Trimester Tea from Earth Mama Angel Baby. This is a blend of red raspberry leaf, stinging nettle, chamomile, rose hips, and oat straw. All of these are great during pregnancy and during nursing. If you need to boost your milk production, Organic Milkmaid Tea included traditional herbal galactagogues, including fennel, fenugreek, anise seed and caraway seed, and mineral packed nettle and red raspberry leaf. Don’t drink this one while pregnant or if you already have enough milk. Whether you sip tea or water, having a drink nearby while you are nursing helps you to get enough water.

Will eating a lot of garlic flavour your breastmilk? Sure it will, but that isn’t a problem, if your baby likes garlic-flavoured breastmilk.

Can you eat peanuts and other nut butters? Sure, if you don’t have a history of peanut allergies in your family and your baby isn’t bothered. It won’t cause your baby to develop an allergy, and nuts (along with avocados, olives, salmon, and other oily foods) give you healthy fats you need.

Most of the foods that you might have heard you shouldn’t eat while breastfeeding (minus the nasty foods none of us should eat), is being eaten right now by a breastfeeding mother who is experiencing no problems. Your reactions and your babies reactions can be different.

If your baby is feeling gassy or having an unexplained diaper rash, the food you eat could potentially be the cause. You can eliminate foods that have been known to cause problems with some breastfeeding babies, then you can re-introduce slowly to check whether that was really the problem.

In the end, the only food my first baby seemed sensitive to me eating was tomatoes. Other foods often put in the same category, oranges and lemons, caused no problems at all. I don’t love tomatoes myself, so it was no hardship to give them up, and it helped my daughter avoid diaper rash. My second child had no sensitivities, and he still has no food sensitivities.

Your baby will be different. Start by assuming you can eat anything unless you have a family history of specific allergies. I found that it helped to keep a journal of my food and my baby’s reactions when I thought there might be a problem. I continued that same journal once I introduced solid foods. If you have already dealt with allergies, you are probably familiar with the idea of keeping a food journal of foods eaten and symptoms noticed. If you do have allergies, look over La Leche League’s list of articles on allergies and breastfeeding for specific help.

If you notice no discomfort in your baby, go ahead and eat curry, chocolate, and whatever else you love.

For more details on the foods that you don’t necessarily need to avoid while breastfeeding, read Kelly Mom’s post on foods to eat while nursing. She busts breastfeeding food myths with science.

How Are Families Going Sugar Free?

A spiral of sugar

Have you heard “The Toxic Truth about Sugar”? Last week, a group of scientists published their research on sugar in the journal Nature. Sugar, they found, can trigger “liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases.” They suggest using the models of intervention used to reduce alcohol and tobacco use to similarly reduce sugar use.

A lot of our customers talk about how they have created sugar-free nutrition for their families. This isn’t just a would-be-nice dream. When you consider the damage sugar can cause, keeping your children away from sugar becomes a high priority for their current and future health.

So, where do you start?

Know Sugar When You See It

Start in your pantry. Look at every food item and train yourself to find the hidden sugars that you didn’t even realize were hiding in your kitchen. Look for:

  • Agave Nectar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cane Crystals
  • Corn Sugar
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Corn Syrup
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Hydrogenated Starch
  • Invert Sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt Syrup
  • Maltose
  • Mannitol
  • Maple Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Polyols
  • Raw Sugar
  • Sorbitol
  • Sorghum
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Xylitol

That might not even be all of the hidden sugars. I compiled the list from several sources calling attention to added sugar on food labels.

And, Know Where Those Sugars Hide

Next step, look beyond the obvious places to find places that you just can’t believe would have added sugars. Look for sugar in toothpaste, cough syrup, chewing gum, mints, flavoured yogurt, vitamin water, bottled tea, juice drinks, packaged cereals, instant cereals, granola bars, applesauce, preserved fruit, salad dressing, barbeque sauce, tomato sauce, baked beans, soup, sugar-cured meats, as well, of course, as candies, cakes, and everything else you already know has sugar in it.

Have you found sugars in most of your canned, boxed, bottled, and otherwise packaged foods? To avoid the hidden sugars, start your family’s sugar-free journey by giving up prepared and packaged foods. It’s a simple and essential move.

Maybe you still want sweets (like the gooey sugar-free brownies we linked to on Saturday on the Making Love in the Kitchen blog). There are an abundance of websites and cookbooks that will help you find substitute sweets or sweets with less sugar, but they are still sweets.

Stop Looking for Substitutes

In the end, I suggest that rather than looking for substitutes to satisfy a sweet tooth, you get to the root of the problem and eat without the sweet. Pull your family’s natural human appetite for sweets back to levels the body can handle and satisfy that appetite with natural sweeteners like fruit, dairy, or even a bit of honey or maple syrup.

Start now so your children won’t expect sweets. By now, I mean even if you are just pregnant. Start from the first minute and the minute before that to bring your family’s nutritional focus to whole foods. Help your young children value the tasty, natural flavors of fresh foods without additives. (Read “My Sugar-free Son” at

Families are going sugar free by managing then shifting expectations about sweets. The amount of sugar consumed by the average North American is staggering. You don’t have to accept that as normal or inevitable for your children. Start with substitutions then move on to a whole new way of looking at food. You’ll feel great, and your children will grow without the hindrance of all of those toxic calories.

Image © Giedrius Zaleckas |

3 Reasons We Like Making Love in the Kitchen

Meghan Telpner creed

Where does Nature Mom go when she needs allergy-free recipes and clear reasoning for changing her eating habits? Making Love in the Kitchen with Meghan Telpner.

I seriously can’t recommend her site/blog enough. And if you are lucky enough to be local (she’s in Toronto), her cooking classes completely changed my boring, tasteless cooking void of all our allergy foods. I’m still learning everyday.

1. Don’t Take No for an Answer

A diagnosis of disease is not the last word. You have control of your health. It’s best if you start now, before allergy or disease force you to change your habits. If you are already facing disease, nutrition-dense foods will only help. No, I’m not claiming that you should forgo allopathic medicine, but you can improve body and mind through diet.

This is one of the most important lessons I learn from Meghan Telpner. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and chose meditation, acupuncture, and a whole foods diet rather than surgery or medication. After six years, she is symptom free. During that time, she became a certified nutritionist and opened her own cooking school in Toronto.

2. Create a Guide that Excites You

For Meghan, her creed is her philosophy of living. Her creed is the image you see above. You might find this inspiring, but I want to tell you that part of the power of this creed is you flipping the switch and realizing that YOU can and you MUST create your own beautiful philosophy of living so that you are realizing your own dreams. Start here if you like, but stretch it, test it, try out a few new things, and build a philosophy that makes your heart sing.

3. You Can Still Eat Brownies

Are you worried that your food will be boring if you remove sugar and other processed ingredients? Really? Well, stop that right now. If anything, conventional, processed foods are a crutch that keeps you from being creative with food. If you need to be convinced that you will be fine in a future with healthful foods, Butternut Squash Ooo-eee Goo-eee Brownies will ease your transition.

When you hang out on the Parenting by Nature Facebook page, you will find that Nature Mom and others mention Making Love in the Kitchen a lot. Join us!

What to Eat While Breastfeeding

Baby feeding her mother a banana

You might wonder whether you need to eat more, eat different foods, or drink more water during lactation. How much does your nutrition effect your baby? What should you eat while you are breastfeeding?

The short answer is very simple: your normal healthy diet is good already.

That’s the catch, though. Many of us don’t eat a consistently healthy diet. You probably watched what you ate during pregnancy, and you should continue to make the most healthy choices during breastfeeding. This is a good time to solidify eating habits that will serve you and your family well over time.

In recent years, research has confirmed that even if some nutrients are missing in a woman’s daily diet, she will still produce milk that will help her child grow. There is very little difference in the milk of healthy mothers and mothers who are severely malnourished.

Sheri Lyn Parpia Khan, “Maternal Nutrition during Breastfeeding,” NEW BEGINNINGS 21:2 (March-April 2004), 44.

A Good Diet

A good diet for breastfeeding women looks a lot like a good diet for the whole family. The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine did a thorough analysis of Nutrition During Lactation. In their recommendations for clinical implementation of their guidelines, they offered the following “Special Recommendations for Lactating Women.”

  • Avoid diets and medications that promise rapid weight loss.
  • Eat a wide variety of breads and cereal grains, fruits, vegetables, milk products, and meats or meat alternates each day.
  • Take three or more servings of milk products daily.
  • Make a greater effort to eat vitamin-A-rich vegetables or fruit often. Examples of vitamin-A-rich foods include carrots, spinach or other cooked greens, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe.
  • Be sure to drink when you are thirsty· You will need more fluid than usual.
  • If you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, such as cola, do so in moderation. Two servings daily are unlikely to harm the infant. Caffeine passes into the milk.

Nutrition During Pregnancy and Lactation: An Implementation Guide, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 1992.

Even this advice needs to be looked at carefully, since a vegetarian mother will likely get her calcium from almonds, spinach, or other calcium-rich foods rather than from animal milk. You don’t need to drink cow’s milk to make human milk.


You aren’t likely to need vitamin supplements if you eat a nutrient-dense diet. Again, whether your usual diet is giving you the nutrition you need can be an issue. You may want to evaluate your overall food intake to see how it compares with daily recommendations and adjust to increase your intake of particular kinds of foods.

Lactating women who meet the RDA for energy are likely to meet the RDA for all nutrients except calcium and zinc if the nutrient density of their diets is close to the average for young U.S. women.

Nutrition During Lactation, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 1991.

Drink Water

The usual advice is to drink more water, but you don’t need to over-think (or over-drink) this. Your body will tell you when you need more water. Drink when you are thirsty. To be sure that you have water available when you are thirsty, keep water close by at your usual nursing stations. Keep a water bottle in your diaper bag. If the water is available, you can easily drink when you feel the need.

Does it have to be water? No. Your body will work with whatever fluids you drink, though you should avoid sweet and caffeinated drinks as you would when pregnant. That is just part of a healthy diet.

Image © Lightkeeper |

Soda and Children

Sugar in sodaAs I’ve been thinking about healthy lunches and what’s for lunch at schools recently, I keep coming back to the problem of soda and children. Specifically, I wonder what is the state of soda in schools. To answer my question, I’ve set out on an investigation. The situation is actually better than I expected, but better isn’t good enough. Soft drinks are still a problem with children, and spreading awareness of the issues can only help.

The problem that astonishes me the most—and slaps me in the face through experience— is what happens to a child’s attention when they drink liquid candy. I can see that a child jacked-up on sugar will not be able to pay as much attention to their learning. For some children—for my children— sugar and the other ingredients in soda send them into a temporary state of buzzing from thing to thing, distracted and unable to retain information let alone engage a subject and their own natural curiosity. That’s just the surface. There is a lot more going on when children drink soda.

The Issues

Among the issues that come up in arguments against children’s excessive consumption of soft drinks are:

  • intake high calorie, calories empty of nutrition
  • replace nutritious calories, including, according to AAP. the calcium that comes from milk consumption (though there are many other sources of calcium in a well-balanced diet than cow’s milk)
  • not replacing but just adding on calories, which has made soda consumption a major risk factor in obesity
  • intake of refined sugar and other processed food-like substances
  • intake of substances not naturally occurring in the foods that your body has evolved to process
  • overload the body with too much to process, which for some can mean Type-2 (formerly called adult-onset) diabetes
  • intake of caffeine with jitteriness and increased heart rate similar to that adults experience
  • the diuretic effect of caffeine, which can lead to dehydration
  • risk of heart disease
  • development of dental caries and enamel erosion (AAP)
  • intake of high-fructose corn syrup
  • intake of artificial sweeteners

The American Beverage Association counters each of these points (and why wouldn’t they) with a series of eye-rollingly unlikely scenarios that would actually build a child’s health through the consumption of soft drinks. Rather than accepting and accommodating excuses, why not just start over with the nutritious foods and drinks we know our children need?

The Problems with Soda in School

Among the problems with soda in schools are the nutrition issues (taking in the bad and replacing the good), the attention issues (setting up a physiological reality that does not prepare children to learn), and the commercialization and brand experimentation issues (that gives over their consumption habits and brand loyalty for life). These are not small or simple issues, and those fighting to keep soda in schools work hard through lobbying and public relations to convince us that everything is just fine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement on “Soft Drinks in Schools” in which they specifically addressed vending contracts and nutrition policies. Not surprisingly, national soft drink associations have disputed the policy from pediatricians in the past five and a half years since the statement was released. AAP reaffirmed this policy earlier this year, so the pediatricians have not backed down. See the full statement for details and recommendations.

Contracts with school districts for exclusive soft drink rights encourage consumption directly and indirectly. School officials and parents need to become well informed about the health implications of vended drinks in school before making a decision about student access to them. A clearly defined, district-wide policy that restricts the sale of soft drinks will safeguard against health problems as a result of overconsumption.

One of the most often used arguments against removing soda vending machines from schools is funding. How will schools survive without vending machine contracts, we’re asked. Soda is a cop out for school funding, a short-term gain that creates several short-term and long-term problems. Though removing the crutch of soda can create short-term funding issues, the long-term gains in putting funding back were it belongs are worth the change.

The problems and the solutions seem clear enough. The arguments in favor of leaving vending machines in schools fail to persuade most. Implementation of solutions, however, is slow.

Bans on Soda in Schools

Health effects of soda are similar for adults and children, but efforts to curb soda drinking have focused on children, specifically on children in schools since these somewhat closed environments have been the locations of the aggressive marketing campaigns to capture a brand-loyal (and substance addicted) audience while they are young and vulnerable.

Bans and limitations of soda in schools are well underway over the past decade. Policies have come about through industry initiatives, medical association pressure, legislative and regulatory moves at every level of government, school board or school district policy, and decisions made in individual schools.

Bipartisan efforts on the federal level in the U.S. to either ban junk food and soda (1999) or even just issue guidelines (2004) have met with bipartisan defeat. So, the regulation of junk foods and sweet drinks has gone more local as school-by-school and now state-by-state guidelines and laws are put in place to limit children’s consumption of these empty and even (destructive) food-like substances. In every case, those who support a ban are up against heavily funded lobbying by the manufacturers of those junk food-substitutes.

The two most influential actions in recent efforts to ban sodas in schools have been the AAP statement in 2004 and the compromises worked out by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in 2006.

In Canada, the soft drink industry itself (Refreshments Canada) pulled out of schools in 2004 following the AAP statement. That is, they pulled out of some schools—elementary and junior high schools.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership between the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, pinpointed soda in schools as a major risk factor for obesity, and they set out to make a change. The Alliance, major soft drink producers, and the American Beverage Association created “School Beverage Guidelines” and a program to educate school children about those guidelines. The Alliance and their co-leader California Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger have continued to push this agenda for the past three years. Though limitations on soda sales in schools were welcomed by children’s health activists, for many this compromise with the soda producers themselves didn’t go far enough in ensuring that children eat only nutritious foods in schools. Some have even claimed that there has been no change in soda consumption with removal of sodas from schools. The full results aren’t in yet, though. The experiment is complete and the reporting has begun. Results will be available in 2010.

Now that sodas have been banned from many schools, it appears that the next step may be to tax sodas.

How to Help Your Children Understand Soda

Some of the news coverage of regulations and limits of soda in schools claims that these efforts don’t or won’t result in lower soda intake by children. You can stock your shelves with all of the right foods and drinks, but the people who will ultimately control what your children eat and drink while they are away from you are your children themselves. I’m not sure just calling soda liquid candy will be deterrent enough—that might actually work against your healthy goals.

If you want your children to drink less soda, explain why. Condition your children to make nutritious choices. Better yet, especially with younger children who might not understand a big “why not drink soda” discussion with abstract rules or requests, show them why.

In my family, we don’t have a hard rule against simple sugars or refined sugars. I know my children will make their own decisions, so I help them understand my reasons for wanting them to limit their own intake. When my son has overloaded on sugar and ended up emotional and bouncing around from thing to thing, he recognizes how much he dislikes the situation. He doesn’t like the feeling, so he chooses water given a choice of drinks. Until he forgets again. I do remind him, but the self-regulatory impulse is much stronger that the outside regulation by parents or school or government, so I encourage its development.

To help my kids understand what they were drinking in sodas, we experimented. We use Lawrence Hall of Science GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science) books. The year we studied chemistry, we used Secret Formulas (grade level 1-3) to explore sweetness of drinks. Cola is one of the secret formulas kids investigate in this book. Through taste tests and experimentation we reached the shocking realization that there are 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20-ounce serving of soda. By that point, my children were just grossed out by sodas.

What Should You Do to Ensure Healthy Foods at School?

Just because there are school lunch limitations in place in your schools does not mean that these limitations reach snack foods that compete with school lunch, called within the industry “competitive foods.” You still need to be part of the solution at home and in your child’s school. If you expect that your child will eat nutritious foods, you will have to be vigilant and active in making that happen.


Image © David Gallaher |