A balanced and nutritious diet is a key part of both men and women’s over all well-being. The basics of eating healthy are the same for all of us. Women, however, do have special nutrition needs that change during the different stages of their lives.
According to the Office on Women’s Health, eating healthy means “choosing different types of healthy food from all the food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins) most of the time, in the correct amounts.” At each meal, we should be filling our plates with all the food groups, with half of the plate consisting of fruits and vegetables.
There are five stages women should take into account when focusing on their nutritional needs: teen years, young adult, before and during pregnancy, during breastfeeding, and after menopause.
During their teen years, girls need more calcium and Vitamin D. From the ages of 14-18, the focus should be on an increase of iron. Foods that are rich in iron include red meats, eggs, poultry, legumes, and dark leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli.
As young adults, women are growing and developing and should be seeing an increase in their calorie intake to allot for this. After the age of 25, a woman’s resting metabolism will go down. Research indicates this happens for a few reasons such as less activity, muscle loss, and the aging of our internal organs; which also makes this a great time to focus on finding and maintaining an active lifestyle, in tandem with good nutrition.
BEFORE AND DURING PREGNANCY
Before and during pregnancy, certain nutrients will be needed more than during other times of a woman’s life to support their own health and the development of their baby. These nutrients include protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid. A balanced diet can help create a natural increase in calcium. The American Pregnancy Association lists the following food groups where calcium is prevalent: fruits and vegetables, dairy, fish, beans, and fortified foods.
When breastfeeding, a mother will need to continue to eat well and increase their water intake. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers tips on how to drink more water:
- Carry a water bottle with you and refill it throughout the day.
- Freeze some freezer safe water bottles, and take one with you to have cold water all day.
- Choose water over sugary drinks.
- Opt for water when eating out.
- Serve water during meals.
- Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water to improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do.
After menopause, a woman’s risk for diseases increase. What you eat can affect your risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. This is a great time to talk to your doctor and find out if you need more calcium and vitamin D. While we all know that Vitamin D can be acquired from (safely!) getting some sunshine, there are also ways to increase your intake of Vitamin D through your diet. The government dietary guidelines show food sources such as: proteins, dairy, fortified soy alternatives, and other sources here.
No matter what stage of your life you’re in – we are here for you. If you have questions about your nutrition needs consult your healthcare provider or schedule an appointment today.