The last thing you want to worry about after having a baby is “What’s for dinner?” Because the answer often resembles “a spoonful of peanut butter” or “Hey, I found a granola bar in my pocket!” Neither of which is the kind of nutritious, filling food a new mom needs to keep her body moving and eyes open.
We asked a pair of experts for their favorite fast and furiously delicious meals that can be made in 30 minutes or less, mostly with ingredients you probably already have stocked in your kitchen—making it oh-so-easy to cook up something good when you lack the energy and time for made-from-scratch meals. And let’s face it, that’s all the time with a newborn in the house!
FAST FROM THE FREEZER
Denise Chiriboga, a.k.a. “The FitTritionist,” is a registered holistic nutritionist and personal trainer with two kids of her own—she knows exactly what it’s like trying to cobble together a meal in a sleep-deprived haze. That’s why she recommends marinated meats that cook up quickly, such as super-thin Greek-marinated chicken cutlets that you can throw in a pan or eggplant you can heat right out of the freezer. Many of her recipes are packed with ingredients that promote soft tissue healing (think bell peppers and broccoli for vitamin C; meat, eggs, beans, lentils, and quinoa for protein). And she’ll school you on the stuff that promotes milk production, like fenugreek, stinging nettle tea, oats, flax, chickpeas, ginger, papaya, garlic, and leafy greens.
Here Denise shares a pair of freezer-friendly proteins that you can have on hand for a mealtime emergency.
Greek Chicken Marinade
4 chicken breasts cut into 1-inch chunks or sliced into cutlets
For the marinade:
2 lemons, juiced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp Himalayan sea salt
1 tsp dried oregano
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
Pour all marinade ingredients together into a freezer bag, then add chicken. Push out all the air, and seal the bag. Push the chicken around in the closed bag to distribute the marinade. Place in freezer and forget about it until you need it!
Once ready to cook, let chicken thaw in the bag in the fridge overnight. Choose how you want to cook the chicken (Denise’s favorite is on the BBQ). To save time, don’t bother putting the cubes or cutlets on skewers, just use a grilling basket for the cubes or the cutlets can be placed right on top of the grill. If you don’t want to BBQ, you can sauté them in a pan on the stovetop. Serve on top of a salad, in a pita, or with any vegetable side.
Lighter Baked Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
2 large eggplants
3 cups (approx.) spelt breadcrumbs
2 cups (approx.) tomato or marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups (approx.) shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice eggplant into ¼-inch thick rounds. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or grease with coconut oil. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the bread crumbs to a different medium bowl. Dip each eggplant round into the egg, then dip into the breadcrumbs and set on the baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until eggplant becomes soft. Once the rounds are cool, place them in a freezer bag with parchment paper between layered rounds so they don’t stick together. When ready to eat, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove eggplant from freezer, place in baking dish, and immediately layer the tomato sauce and cheese on top (do not thaw the eggplant first). Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, until cheese is melted. Bake uncovered for another 5 minutes to brown the tops.
LOW-STRESS MEAL SOLUTIONS
Registered dietitian and mom of two Rima Kleiner, MS, RD, blogs at Dish on Fish where she touts all kinds of seafood with Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which can increase bonding and the happy hormones that make breast milk. Those three-letter wonders are key when it comes to keeping your heart in good shape and fighting postpartum depression. Breastfeeding mamas should put seafood on their plate two to three times per week, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. So do whatever’s easiest: fresh, frozen, canned, or pouched.
Rima’s recipe for sheet pan Asian salmon is big on protein, dietary fiber, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K, while being small on effort. Simply throw the frozen fillets straight into the oven with some vegetables, and dinner’s done in 20 minutes. Or try her no-cook poppy seed Greek yogurt tuna salad. It’s got tons of protein, Omega-3s, and selenium, plus probiotics to pump up immunity, improve mood, and aid digestion. And the poppy seeds have sedative properties (ever see “The Wizard of Oz?”) that may help you relax while boosting milk production.
Rima shares two of her favorite fast-n-easy entrees to keep your family fed, even when you’re at your most frantic.
Sheet Pan Asian Salmon
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
8 ounces green beans
1 bell pepper, sliced
3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, grated
4 salmon filets
Optional: sliced green onions and brown rice, for serving
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the veggies and the salmon together on the sheet pan in a single layer. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Drizzle the sauce over the salmon and veggies. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve over brown rice, and sprinkle with green onions if desired.
Poppy Seed Greek Yogurt Tuna Salad
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I prefer 2%)
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1 (12 oz) can tuna in water, well drained
1/2 cup chopped apples
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp chopped pecans
In a medium bowl, add the yogurt, mayonnaise, honey, vinegar, poppy seeds, and salt. Whisk until well combined. Add the drained tuna, apples, cranberries, and pecans to the dressing. Mix well. Serve immediately, or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.