When cooking postpartum meals for families, I prioritize the needs of the mother and what will make her feel best during this time. This first thing I consider is whether or not she is nursing, in which case we try to promote prolactin and eliminate any herbs or ingredients that may inhibit milk production in any way. The next things I keep in mind is ease of digestion, as this can be less than comfortable for a week to even a month or so after birth. And, this can be the case with any form of birth so it is definitely something to consider when making meal plans for your postpartum phase.
Therefore, when creating menus for postpartum, I focus on warming, nutritionally dense foods and things that will help to hydrate the body. And for the first few weeks, I try to stay away from things like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts which are rich in fiber that is not completely digested in the small intestine. This can cause discomfort and excess air in the large intestine when the body has to work harder to digest it further down the digestive tract. And, when your body is settling back into its pre-baby state, this is something we want to avoid, and can.
I typically keep things clean and simple for the first two weeks and gently add in items as I communicate with the mother about how she is feeling. Even though this dish includes a warm & roasted soft vegetable, the walnuts, couscous, and raisins can add a texture that may be better suited for the third or fourth week of postpartum.
With nursing mothers in mind, Megan and I took The Culinary Nest’s original recipe with sage (which is said to inhibit the production of prolactin) and eliminated it entirely. We instead added extra apricots, which are thought to help with milk production, and are high in fiber, vitamins A & C, potassium, and calcium. And lastly, don’t skip out on the walnuts in this recipe, as they are said to ward off postpartum depression given their high amount of DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid that promotes neurological function.
So, if you’re craving comfort food, but don’t want to sacrifice nutritional content and robust flavor to make that nursing baby a future foodie (babies can supposedly taste the flavors of the foods you eat in the milk you create which helps to promote an affinity to a variety of foods), try out the recipe below, made with love especially for you – by women, for women. And, if you want to follow along on our Instagram LIVE video, Megan shows us exactly how to make it! Enjoy!
3 acorn squash, halved & roasted
Salt & pepper
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup fennel, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 unpeeled Granny Smith apples, cored & diced
1/2 teaspoon thyme, dried
1 box couscous cooked (or about 2.5-3 cups cooked couscous with chicken stock)
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped & toasted
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon each salt & pepper, plus more to taste
Optional: add golden raisins, dried cranberries and top with fresh parsley!
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Half the acorn squash and place cut side up onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Liberally cover each with olive oil and sprinkle each half with garlic powder, salt & pepper. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove, drizzle each half with a light coating of maple syrup and place back into the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until the squash is fork tender. Remove from the oven and set side. Lower the oven temperature to 350˚F.
While the squash roasts, cook the couscous according to the package instructions using chicken stock instead of water (this is optional, but adds great flavor!). Set aside.
In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onion, fennel, celery, garlic & apple until tender, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in the thyme. Add the cooked couscous to the skillet along with 1/2 cup of the toasted walnuts, dried apricots and 3 tablespoons maple syrup. Stir well. Season with salt & pepper, taste and add more if needed. Also, if it feels like it could use more moisture, drizzle a little more olive oil. If it needs more, add another tablespoon of maple syrup.
Scoop the couscous mixture evenly into each of the acorn squash halves. Place the squash halves back into the oven for 15 minutes. Remove, top with the remaining 1/4 cup of toasted walnuts and enjoy hot!
Optional: one last drizzle of maple syrup over the end never hurt anyone!