The first few months after giving birth are a special time for bonding between mother and baby. But what often gets forgotten or neglected in the shifting priorities (and sleeping schedules) of motherhood is postnatal recovery, the time of deep care for the mother so that she, in turn, can provide the best deep care for her baby. As we always say at Evereden, beauty is not skin deep (even when it comes to skincare!), which is why we recently spoke to Jill Donenfeld and Tiana Tenet, co-founders of The Culinistas, a personal chef and meal planning service designed especially busy families.
Jill has been called the “next Martha Stewart” by restaurateur Danny Meyer, was honored on the 2012 Forbes Under 30 List, and has authored several cookbooks since she began cooking for families during her senior year of college. Tiana began her career on Wall Street before she launched The Culinistas with Jill, and is currently expecting her first child. Luckily for her, the company offers a Postnatal Package that includes two chef visits per week, a Welcome Kit with kitchen essentials and goodies, and add-on options—such as a Lactation Support Session to get breastfeeding off to the right start.
We spoke with The Culinistas duo about the importance of postnatal nutrition, the best superfoods to incorporate into your diet (and skincare), and what they’re eating for wellness during the pandemic.
Tiana, congrats on the baby! Even though you’ve always been an advocate for holistic wellness and you’re an amazing cook yourself, has the journey to motherhood changed the way you eat in any way?
Tiana: I'm definitely more cautious. I've always been a really healthy eater—John [my husband] and I both preach moderation and balance. There’s nothing I don’t eat or withhold from my diet, and there’s nothing I overeat as well. But now, more than ever, I’ve been really thoughtful about the nutritional component of eating, especially in regards to baby development. I’ve been leaning into fiber, being thoughtful about how much meat I’m eating, and getting more seafood in my diet. If I have the urge to grab a Snapple, I’m more hesitant, knowing that it doesn’t really add nutrition to my diet.
Last night, for example, I made shrimp because we haven’t eaten fish in the family for a week—we’ve been emptying out our fridge and freezers. I know omega-3s are important for baby development, so I ate shrimp instead of chicken. I’m being more mindful about what’s nutritious, not just what’s considered healthy.
Tell us about the Postnatal Package, which we assume you’ll be using after giving birth.
Tiana: We have a postnatal service that's really geared towards new moms who have delivered a baby and need help getting the nutritional components back into their body. There are four different menus, so it's very similar to our core service, which is a weekly meal prep, and the main difference is that the menus are geared towards women who are either breastfeeding or just trying to reclaim a healthy body and diet after having a baby. There are three breastfeeding menus: one to moderate milk production, one to help with production if you are underproducing, and one to mitigate if you’re overproducing. For example, if you’re overproducing, you want to put some parsley into your diet because it will help you cut back on production.
There’s a lot of protein, oats, and almonds in the menu for helping you produce more milk. And there’s a menu for women who are not breastfeeding—and that’s totally fine and you should equally be focused on your body. We partnered with a lactation consultant, Jada Shapiro, who runs a company called Boober, for our add-on Lactation Support Sessions, so while Jada is working on your baby latching, we’re working on how what you’re eating plays into that, as well.
We launched this program because in U.S. culture, the woman is thought about the most before the baby arrives. There’s a lot of time and effort and attention that goes into pregnancy. But then, it all shifts to the baby after birth. So, we wanted to create a program that focused on the mother, and also is inclusive. You can enjoy a nice dinner with your partner, even it’s just for 15 minutes. It helps the mom acclimate back to normal life.
How has Covid-19 affected the way that your clients eat?
Jill: With people being home, they're definitely more interested in exploring the kitchen. Um, so we did launch a new service. It's called Kitchen Concierge, and it’s a weekly menu planning service where you can work directly with our team to come up with a menu for the week. We provide all the recipes and a grocery list, so you can shop efficiently and get meals on the table on an ongoing basis. We’ve definitely seen a pickup in people wanting to cook for themselves or their families. We also have a new clientele who loves our recipes, our brand, our social media presence, but couldn’t afford or didn’t want a chef in the home.
We’re really encouraging people to use the recipes as blueprints, and to adapt based on their dietary desires or needs. This is at the core of what we do.
Tiana: That's the thing about the Kitchen Concierge—the subscription is not just about getting recipes and a grocery list. You can get recipes from the New York Times. It’s about having a service member from our team who helps you keep things fresh and interesting all week. Let’s say you need a project for your kids. We’ll get on the phone, and we’ll figure out what’s in your pantry to help you make a baking project for your kids. We’re here to help you make it work. We’re not here to say you need to go to the grocery store and buy these exact 25 things.
What are some superfoods that are especially important for recovering new moms?
Jill: Avocados are super rich in magnesium, which helps regulate your nervous system. We love our chocolate pudding, which is made of avocado. It’s also very high in omega-3s, which are healthy fats. You're burning so many calories when you're nursing your baby that it's really important that you have enough calories. Most lactation consultants recommend three-to-four meals and five snacks a day. We have a lot of oats and whole grains and almonds on our menus as well. It really depends—if you’re lucky, you might have to actually reduce breast milk production, so we’d include parsley, mint, sage, alliums like garlic for those moms.
What is the difference between prenatal and postnatal nutrition?
Tiana: The first thing is quantity. During pregnancy, you're really not supposed to be overeating. It’s easy to overdo it because you're like, I'm getting big anyway, who cares? But actually, it makes birth a lot more difficult. It makes working out more difficult, which is essential for many moms. When you’re pregnant, you’re not supposed to eat any extra calories, and that’s completely different from when you start breastfeeding!
During pregnancy, there’s also more emphasis on baby development, like getting your folic acids, which increases blood flow, and blood flow is what ultimately creates milk flow. Nausea is also a concern. We have overnight oats made with ginger, and I would eat that constantly.
But what’s wonderful is that every woman is different, and with our program, we get to personalize the meals for every woman’s specific needs.
What are you eating to stay healthy while you’re sheltering in place?
Jill: I am going to the grocery store very infrequently. So, it really depends on when I last went to the grocery store. For example, I went to the grocery store on Sunday, so now I’m eating greens and fresh fruits and it’s so wonderful. But by the end of that trajectory, I’m reaching for the canned anchovies. The one thing that’s pretty consistent across the board is ginger. I eat ginger every day in some form, whether it’s chopped up in a fruit salad or sautéed in some wilted greens, or in some sautéed shrimp. I’m trying to have as much ginger as I possibly can because it’s so helpful for immune boosting.
I have also gotten very into split peas simply because I bought an incredible amount of them, and they’re so healthy and they work with anything. You can have them with a little bit of rice or you can have them in some sauce or you can have them as a mash to go with a protein. They’re so high in protein—in fact, they’re a complete protein!
Tiana: I just made a split pea soup! While Jill is focused on the antiviral, immune boosting aspect of eating, I’m definitely very focused on nurturing the baby. I’m at 33 weeks right now, so it’s getting real, and everything I eat is in support of baby development. I’m having a lot of calcium—a lot of fruit and yogurt. I start every morning with a smoothie, which I’ve always done, but now it’s geared towards what nutrients I need. I make soup every Monday, and that lasts all week. Last week, I made a lentil soup. This week was the split pea soup. Dinner is fair game, though. I’m confined with my in-laws and my husband, so we’re taking turns with cooking. We’re grilling, we’re making pizzas. I’m not as picky about dinner, but I’m controlled about breakfast and lunch.
Jill: You know what? We have so many great healthy bread and muffin recipes, and I have definitely caught the baking bug like everyone else! Every other day, I’m making a quick bread or banana muffins or strawberry ginger muffins. There are a lot of home baked goods around the house right now.