Alexandra (Ali) Bandier, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian who specializes in prenatal, postnatal, and pediatric nutrition. She is the founder of Senta Health and mom to Pierce. She previously worked at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, a top 5 children’s hospital in the US and throughout her career has helped hundreds of families navigate their medical nutrition needs.
Through her experience in the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities, Ali is certified as a Maternal and Child Health Leader by California’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program. She is also a member of the Children’s Health Council at Weill Cornell Medicine. An advocate for evidence-based recommendations, we caught up with the busy mother to chat about how she juggles a busy career with motherhood, what her healthy postpartum snack was, and how moderation is key.
What drew you to working with moms, babies, and children as you pursued a career in nutrition and dietetics?
When I worked at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, I saw how critical and impactful nutrition was to patient outcomes. Nutrition has the ability to be proactive and protective rather than just helping to remediate an issue. In starting with children, we can instill habits that provide a lifetime foundation of good health. Pregnancy, postpartum, and early childhood are moments of major transition which allow for the greatest reflection and change.
What is the number one tip you give to expecting mothers when it comes to nutrition?
Expecting mothers are often surprised to learn that what is eaten during the prenatal period can impact their children well into the future. For example, studies have shown how the addition of certain foods and nutrients to a prenatal diet can benefit a child’s long-term health — improving cognitive ability, IQ, memory, vision, and metabolic functioning, while reducing the risk of diseases or other issues, like eczema. So the prenatal period affords a lot of opportunity to make big impact health choices. With that said, we also have to be realistic and know that some days you will only want to eat crackers and lay in bed! And that’s okay too – everything in moderation!
What are your recommendations for moms right after giving birth? How can they ensure they and their baby are as nutritionally healthy as possible?
The early postpartum period can be a whirlwind of emotions. I never want anyone to feel added pressure. But if it’s manageable and doesn’t come at an emotional expense, healthy eating will certainly help a mom feel better during her postpartum recovery. During pregnancy and lactation, a mother’s body prioritizes the needs of the baby. Moms can run into nutrient deficiencies as a result. Important nutrients to replete the mother postpartum, and also promote thyroid health, include iron, collagen, DHA, choline, zinc, iodine, selenium, B vitamins, and vitamins A, C, and D. Some great food sources of these nutrients include dark leafy greens, bone broth, grass-fed meats, eggs, colorful vegetables, and fatty fish like salmon.
What was your favorite thing to eat when you were pregnant with your son?
I discovered an amazing dessert combination. While I’ve always loved Hu Kitchen dark chocolate and, separately, almond butter, I had never thought to make them into a sandwich. During pregnancy, I would make them into an upgraded Oreo of sorts: 2 layers of chocolate with almond butter in the middle. Amazingly decadent, and also packed with antioxidants, protein, and fat, which protect against mid-afternoon blood sugar drops. Tried it once when I was pregnant and have been hooked ever since!
How do you manage all of the counseling you do with Senta Health and raising a family? How do you prioritize?
I don’t view them as mutually exclusive. In fact, I feel like I am better at each by virtue of getting to do both. I benefit from speaking and working with lots of parents and children, and I learn something from every experience. Being engaged with my work actually helps me be a more informed mother. And the flip side is true as well—in currently raising a family of my own, I can better empathize with my clients. With that said, this flow and connection between work and home life can make it easy to forget about spending time on myself. This is always a work in progress, and I take little victories where I can.
What is it like living in New York City with a baby? What are some unexpected pros and cons?
NYC is amazing in that it has endless activities for kids. We live near Union Square Play, and my son Pierce goes there all the time. He loves their open-ended play classes, and it is a great place for him to socialize. Before having a child, I did not pay attention to just how many fantastic parks and playgrounds there are in the city—there is something amazing in every neighborhood.
What is one self care practice that you try to never miss out on?
I try to reframe self-care as the small moments I can take for myself. Any opportunity when I can be still and completely present. While I have less time for long baths or massages, every day I can find little joys in having a quiet cup of green tea in the morning and never eating my meals on the go. These things may seem small, but they make a big difference in how I think and feel.