What Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding & Healthy Meal and Snack Ideas

There are foods that you should avoid while breastfeeding. 

This is because they either increase the risk of colics or because they can reach the baby through breast milk. 

In this article, we’ll go over the foods to avoid while breastfeeding, the best foods to eat, and foods that can increase milk supply while nursing.

We’ll also review how to make healthy meals and snacks while breastfeeding. 

What Foods Not To Eat While Breastfeeding (Nursing)

First, we will go over the foods you want to avoid while breastfeeding (nursing). These are foods that might increase the risk of colics, might affect the baby, or change the flavor of the breast milk. 

1) Garlic

While eating garlic won’t harm the baby, garlic might change the flavor of breast milk. Since it provides an intense flavor, it could increase the chances of the baby rejecting breast milk. Also, garlic might increase the risk of colics for certain babies. 

Now, keep in mind that this varies from baby to baby. If you are used to having high garlic foods during pregnancy, chances are that the baby will most likely accept the flavor. This might also happen with other strong flavors, such as onions. 

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2) Cruciferous Vegetables

Vegetables from the cruciferous family can increase the risk of gas in the mother and baby. 

Examples of cruciferous vegetables include:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli

Again, while this might not happen to everyone, if your baby has more gas than usual, you might want to stay away from gassy foods while breastfeeding. 

3) High Mercury Fish 

Fish can be a great way to increase your omega-3 intake (which we are going to talk about in detail later in the article). The problem is that most fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are high in mercury. 

Evidence suggests a high mercury intake can affect the baby’s central nervous system. It can lead to impaired memory, cognitive functions, and language development. 

So, fish you want to avoid while nursing that are high in mercury include: 

  • Bigeye tuna
  • Marlin
  • King mackerel
  • Shark
  • Swordfish 

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4) Peppermint, Parsley, and Sage

It seems that including these herbs in your diet might decrease breast milk content. So, if you have low breast milk production or want to avoid affecting it altogether, you might want to avoid these herbs. 

Should I Avoid Allergies Foods While Breastfeeding?

A common concern some mothers have is if they should avoid allergens, such as soy, peanuts, citric foods, nuts, and wheat (gluten). 

While this is unnecessary, if there is a family history of allergic reactions to any of the previously mentioned foods, it’s best to avoid them while breastfeeding. 

If you have concerns regarding any of the foods and the possible effects they might have on your baby, talk to a health professional for personalized guidance. 

Can You Eat Spicy Foods While Breastfeeding?

Yes, it’s safe to eat spicy food while breastfeeding. Currently, there is no research stating that eating spicy food might affect the baby. 

In fact, the more variety of flavors you consume, especially while you are pregnant, the baby might be more open to trying new foods. 

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Nutrition And Breastfeeding 

Before we talk about the foods you want to eat while breastfeeding, it’s important to understand general nutritional concepts. 

Do I need to double my calorie intake while nursing?

Most people believe they need to eat double their calories when breastfeeding. However, while you need to eat more calories, you only need to increase your maintenance calories by 300 to 500 extra calories. 

Increasing your calories too much can lead to an increased risk of weight gain. 

Can I lose weight while breastfeeding?

If you are looking to lose weight, you can do so when breastfeeding as long as it doesn’t affect your milk production. 

Keep in mind that reducing your caloric intake too much can affect milk production. If you want to lose weight, make sure you talk with a health professional to determine the right amount of calories based on weight, age, height, and other factors. 

Getting a balanced diet while breastfeeding

As for the nutrients, your diet while nursing should be varied and balanced. All three macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) should be included since they play an essential role in milk production. 

Eating a wide range of products can supply essential vitamins and minerals the baby needs to grow healthy. 

Best Foods For Breastfeeding Mothers

Here, we’ll go over the foods you want to include while breastfeeding. Now, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all. 

A breastfeeding diet should be personalized according to your age, weight, height, and activity levels. So, when possible, make sure you consult with a health professional. 

For each group, make sure you have as much variety as possible. Remember that each food has a unique set of nutrients. 

So, to guarantee you get enough nutrients throughout the day, have as many different options as possible. 

This means not only eating leafy greens as your main source of vegetables but also adding mushrooms and zucchini. 

1) Fruits

Fruits are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals. They are also high in antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation. 

While the servings might vary according to each person, try to strive for two to three servings per day. 

In addition, they are also high in fiber, meaning they can help promote good gut health and digestion. 

Most women struggle with constipation after giving birth. Fruits can provide fiber, which helps improve bowel movements. 

Here are some options you can include in your nursing diet:

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple 
  • Grapefruit 

2) Vegetables

Just like fruits, vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. One benefit of vegetables over fruit is that they tend to be lower in calories and carbs. Strive to reach for three to four servings of vegetables daily. 

Some vegetables you can eat while breast-feeding are:

  • Leafy greens
  • Mushrooms 
  • Zucchini 
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers 

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3) Whole Grains and Starchy Veggies 

Whole grains and starchy vegetables offer several essential vitamins and minerals. They mostly provide carbs, the body’s primary energy source. 

Make sure you choose whole grains (brown rice, whole grain pasta, and whole wheat bread) and keep the skin of the starchy vegetables since this is where most of the fiber comes from. 

Some grains, such as quinoa, beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are also high in protein, making it a great option for moms struggling with protein intake. 

4) Proteins

When breastfeeding, the protein requirements tend to increase slightly. Make sure you have a protein source at every meal, including snacks. 

Great sources of protein include: 

  • Eggs and egg whites
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Greek yogurt 
  • Seafood
  • Fish
  • Edamame

5) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Evidence suggests that having an adequate consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can improve fatty acid composition. 

Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA play an essential role in brain formation, which is vital for the child’s brain development and improving cognitive function. 

The most common source of omega-3 fatty acids is fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon. 

However, eating too much fatty fish can increase the risk of mercury poisoning. You can eat two to three servings of fatty fish throughout the week without affecting milk production. 

For the rest of the week, if you want to increase the omega-3 content, you can add plant-based sources, such as:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds


6) Water

Breastmilk is 87% water. So, you need to have a proper water intake to have good milk production. 

If you don’t drink enough water, you run the risk of dehydration, which can eventually lead to less milk production. 

While the total water intake might vary for each person, the average recommendation is to drink at least 128 ounces. 

FruitsFruits are a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
VegetablesVegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Whole grains and starchy veggiesWhole grains and starchy vegetables offer several essential vitamins and minerals.
Protein-rich foodsProtein needs increase when breastfeeding.
Omega-3 fatty acidsOmega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in brain formation, which is vital for the child’s brain development.
GarlicGarlic might change the flavor of breast milk and increase the risk of colics in certain babies. 
Cruciferous vegetablesCruciferous vegetables can increase the risk of gas in the mother and baby.
High mercury fishA high mercury intake can affect the baby’s central nervous system.
Peppermint, sage, parsleyThese herbs might decrease breast milk content.

Foods To Eat While Nursing To Increase Milk Supply

Currently, the evidence is still mixed regarding the influence of certain foods on milk supply and lactation. 

Some studies have shown that fenugreek, goat’s rue, and oat milk might increase milk production in some women. 

Before you rely on herbs or any other supplementation to increase breastmilk, determine if you are getting enough calories and water. In most cases, these are the main reasons women have lower milk production. 

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Meal and Snack Ideas For Nursing Moms

Now that we’ve gone over what foods to eat and which to avoid while breastfeeding, what are some options for you to eat? 

Having to figure out what to eat while breastfeeding might be overwhelming. The good news is that we’ve created a few meals and snacks for you to have while breastfeeding to make things easier for you. 

6 quick-and-easy snacks to try

  1. Chia seed pudding. Mix chia seeds, coconut or almond milk, Greek yogurt, berries, almond, and vanilla extract. 
  2. Oatmeal protein balls. Blend oats, peanut butter, honey, hemp seeds, and dates. 
  3. Cucumber slices with cream cheese and smoked salmon
  4. Hummus with veggie sticks
  5. Roasted edamame or chickpeas. Once you roast them, you can add different spices to change the flavor. 
  6. Guacamole with veggie sticks

5 healthy meal ideas

  1. Banana pancakes. Mix oats, banana, eggs, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. 
  2. Overnight oats. In a Mason jar, mix oats, almond milk, vanilla extract, protein powder, and blueberries. 
  3. Roasted salmon with sweet potatoes and asparagus
  4. Beef with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots
  5. Avocado toast with hard-boiled eggs or smoked salmon

Are There Other Things You Need To Avoid When Breastfeeding?


While moderate alcohol consumption is safe for breastfeeding women, it’s best to avoid it altogether. 

It seems that alcohol can stay in the body for two to three hours after only one drink. However, the more alcohol you drink, the longer it stays in the body, which can reach breast milk. 

Besides having a negative effect on the baby, it also seems that alcohol can reduce milk production. 

So, if you are going to have a drink, make sure you keep extra breast milk for your baby to have. But if you can avoid alcohol altogether, that’s even better. 


Can you drink coffee while breastfeeding?

Caffeine can reach breast milk. Since babies have a hard time metabolizing caffeine, it can result in sleeping problems and irritability. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to avoid caffeine completely. According to the CDC, you can still have a moderate consumption of caffeine (300 mg daily). This represents consuming two to three cups of coffee. 

Make sure you avoid energy drinks since they are not only high in caffeine but they also contain herbs that might not be recommended for when breastfeeding. 

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Herbal Supplements 

Not all herbal supplements are bad when breastfeeding. However, before you start adding a new supplement, consult with a health professional to determine if you can add it to your diet. 

How To Tell If Your Breastfeeding Diet Is Affecting Your Baby

Every baby can have a different reaction to your diet. However, there are some common symptoms you need to be on the lookout for. 

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Colics
  • Eczema
  • Hives
  • Constipation
  • Excessive gas
  • Wheezing
  • Congestion 

If your baby has any previous symptoms, consult a pediatrician to determine the root cause of the problem. 


Breastfeeding provides all the essential nutrients the baby needs to grow healthy. When pregnant, women need to avoid several foods that might affect the baby. 

During breastfeeding, you are allowed more foods, but you still need to be careful about which you add since they can reach breast milk. 

Therefore, it’s important to know what not to eat while breastfeeding.

Foods nursing mothers want to avoid include garlic, cruciferous vegetables, certain herbs, and high-mercury fish. 

These foods can increase the risk of colics, change the flavor of the breast milk, reduce milk production, or contaminate the milk. 

Instead, focus on natural ingredients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. 

Make sure you are eating enough and drinking plenty of water to have adequate milk production. Always consult with a health professional to get a personalized plan based on your needs. 

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  2. Bose-O’Reilly S, McCarty KM, Steckling N, Lettmeier B. Mercury exposure and children’s health. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care. 2010 Sep;40(8):186-215. doi: 10.1016/j.cppeds.2010.07.002. PMID: 20816346; PMCID: PMC3096006.
  3. Martin CR, Ling PR, Blackburn GL. Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant Formula. Nutrients. 2016 May 11;8(5):279. doi: 10.3390/nu8050279. PMID: 27187450; PMCID: PMC4882692.
  4. Bazzano AN, Cenac L, Brandt AJ, Barnett J, Thibeau S, Theall KP. Maternal experiences with and sources of information on galactagogues to support lactation: a cross-sectional study. Int J Womens Health. 2017 Feb 27;9:105-113. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S128517. PMID: 28280392; PMCID: PMC5338995.
  5. CDC. Maternal Diet.

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