Figuring out how to feed myself when I went back to work after maternity leave definitely ranked high among my daily stressors. And neither of my sons even had any food sensitivities! Breastfeeding and pumping three times a day at the office left me STARVING at lunch time, and pretty much every hour and a half throughout the day. Today, I’m delighted Veronica Lamb, a health coach for moms whose babies have food sensitivities, is joining us to offer lunch and snack ideas for working moms, particularly those who are breastfeeding and whose diets have been modified on account of baby. (These tips are great for all of us, though!)
Here are a few other Mindful Return posts you may find helpful, too:
- Sending Milk and Food to Daycare: Logistical Tips and Tricks
- Cooler Bags for Schlepping Breast Milk: Top Picks from the Trenches
Returning to work after maternity leave is a logistical challenge. Period. The logistics are even trickier for a breastfeeding mom and can be particularly challenging for a mom whose baby has a food sensitivity. Mom has to watch her food and ingredients carefully, which often means packing lunch and snacks every day.
I’ve been through this myself with both of my babies. With my first born, my daughter, I really was overwhelmed with the transition back to work. It was a Friday when I learned that wheat, dairy, and coconut, among other things, needed to be cut from my diet in order to stop her constant crying, rashes, and explosive digestive issues. That weekend, my husband flew off to a weeklong trip. Then, that Monday, I was starting my first day back from maternity leave. I thought for sure I was going to starve to death during the workday. I pray that trifecta of awfulness never happens to any of you!
With my second born, I recognized food sensitivities right away and had plenty of time to make sure I had a good plan for lunches. Having learned from this twice, here are some of my best tips.
6 Lunch and Snack Tips for New Moms at the Office
If you can plan ahead one to two weeks before you return to work from maternity leave, then you will have plenty of time to experiment with meals and snacks that could be packed and will travel well to work. Focus on meals that reheat well or don’t wilt or get soggy within a few hours. Make sure you pack your dressings separate from your salads or breads. If you’re taking a soup, test out that container to make sure it doesn’t leak!
Pick Your Containers
No one wants more dishes to do. Pick containers that are large enough to hold an entire meal. Preferably, choose containers that you can reheat and eat straight from. I prefer glass containers that can go from the freezer or fridge to the microwave, and my favorite is a wide-mouth Mason jar. They are safe for the freezer and microwave. Plus, the wide mouth makes them easy to clean.
Bulk and Batch
Double your dinner recipes and save the leftovers for lunch. I’m currently ditching my average-sized slow cooker and am buying an extra large one so I can double my slow cooker recipes. I also have two casserole pans, so I can double down on those recipes too.
For example, I love an easy chicken bake. I throw chicken breasts in a casserole pan with a few potatoes cut into chunks, along with some frozen green beans. I cover it all in Italian spices, sea salt, and a little chicken broth. It cooks up delicious and juicy.
Divide Batches into Individual Serving Sizes
Break your batch-cooked meals into individual serving sizes. Do this as you are done with dinner or cleaning up from cooking. We all just want to relax in the evenings, but take this one extra step, and it will save you all kinds of headaches. The mornings are always too busy. Don’t leave the separating into individual serving sizes until the last minute. Get it done ASAP.
Get Big Containers of Snacks
Breastfeeding moms are HUNGRY. We always need snacks on hand. If possible, store these in bulk at the office. Keep a large bag of baby carrots and hummus in the office fridge. Keep snacking veggies on hand – broccoli, celery, snap peas, etc… Bring avocados and a big bag of organic chips. Keep a stash of simple snack bars on hand. If you don’t have to worry about nut allergies, Larabar is my favorite for their simple ingredients.
Have a Plan B
Eventually, some day, you won’t have a lunch or enough snacks with you. Make your Plan B now. Find out if there are any restaurants with “safe” foods you can eat. Don’t rule out going to the grocery store. Grab a can of chicken breast, celery, and some allergy free mayo to whip up an easy chicken salad at the office.
Once you get your routine down, it will be second nature and virtually no stress on you. The great thing about having your own lunch is that you are eating healthier, saving money, and you can rest assured your little one won’t have any adverse reactions.
Do you struggle with the what-to-bring-for lunch question? Share your top tips in comments!
Veronica Lamb is a health coach for breastfeeding moms with food sensitive babies. She helps moms stop the constant crying and restore peace to their household. Meal plans, recipes, and shopping lists make it easy for moms to remove the Top 8 Allergens from their diet and get the nutrition they need without upsetting baby’s sensitive system. When not working or volunteering she can be found hiking or relaxing at the beach with her family in Hawaii. Radiant Life Consulting Facebook Group Instagram
Need more help with the logistics of your return to work after maternity leave? Join the next session of Mindful Return for a 4-week curriculum and peer mentoring community.