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Leigh-Anne Wooten MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, LSS BB
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChoosetoChallenge.A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So, let's all choose to challenge. How will you help forge a gender equal world? Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.
As we honor this important day, we must pause and recognize that in order to accomplish this great work that is required of us, we must properly fuel and care for our bodies. Women of all ages will be Choosing to Challenge issues that are important and relevant to them. And as we know, just as the challenges we face vary at different stages of our life, so do our nutritional needs. The ideal diet for a woman of any age is one that meets their needs, is balanced and easy to maintain. Let’s take a deeper look into the nutrition needs for women at various ages.
Research continues to support and encourage exclusively feeding babies breastmilk from birth to six months of life. From six to twelve months breast milk is still recommended while also introducing solid foods. Check out Chapter 2 of the recently updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans which covers the variety of foods to provide and avoid, when to introduce common allergens and other important tips for baby.
These first few years are pivotal in shaping a person’s taste preferences. The more they are exposed to the good stuff and not the bad stuff, the more likely they are to carry those preferences to adulthood.
From this young age through the rest of our lives, the basic tenets remain the same:
nutrient dense, variety and a focus on:
It is crucial that during the preschool years, girls learn positive eating habits, while continuing to be exposed to a variety of healthy foods (Hernández, 2010). You’ve heard the phrase – ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ and this could not be truer for our preschoolers. A healthy breakfast helps children learn, focus and excel in school. If you’re looking for some breakfast inspiration, try this peanut butter toast made with whole grain chia bread topped with sliced banana and a glass of chia milk.
‘Can I have a snack, pllllleeeaaassssee?’ If you’ve ever been around a school-aged child you’ve probably heard those words. And yes, healthy snacks are important to keep them energized throughout the day. Fresh fruits, nuts and even this delicious coconut and chia popsicles, make great snacks.
This is also a great time to get children, girls and boys in the kitchen. Get those culinary skills and appreciation for preparing healthy meals started as early as possible.
For most young adults, this is the first time making independent food choices, grocery shopping and preparing meals. Healthy cooking can be daunting though it doesn’t have to be! Here is one simple fast dish rich in fiber, protein and healthy fat: SOW Chia pasta with vegetables.
Women’s diets vary greatly based on age, activity and what’s going on in their life (pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause). Below are specific nutrition recommendations for these stages.
Nutrition has a major impact on mom’s health and risk of complications during pregnancy as well as the growth, development and health of the baby (Haro, 2016). Check out Chapter 5 of the Dietary Guidelines for guidance on calorie and nutrient needs, caffeine and alcohol recommendations and food safety tips for expectant and new moms.
Did You Know: Omega-3 fat is essential for the fetus and baby’s brain and eye development and can be found in fatty fish and SOW chia oil?
Among the most common problems during pregnancy are nausea and vomiting, leading women to avoid certain foods. If you want to incorporate omega-3s daily in your diet without the smell of fish, try a tablespoon of SOW chia oil in salads or prepare this delicious basil and strawberries dressing.
This stage of life is defined as 45 to 64 years old. During menopause, body composition (the percent of fat versus muscle), metabolism, nutrient needs and nutrient absorption all change. For these reasons, it is very important to maintain (or adopt) healthy habits to maintain weight, fight against osteoporosis, and help prevent cardiovascular disease. (Varela-Moreiras, 2008). Calcium, vitamin D, protein and omega-3 fat will all support a woman’s health at this age. For a great tasting and great-for-you treat, try this chia milk ‘Frappuccino’ that is packed with calcium and omega-3s.
The older adult is age 64 and up. To a certain extent, it’s what we have done in the years prior that have the greatest impact on our health in our older years. Long-term positive lifestyle choices will set us up for success but that being said, now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal. Most older adults are overweight and at higher risk for chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease (number 1 killer of women), osteoporosis and sarcopenia (loss in bone and muscle mass respectively). Some specific nutrition recommendations include a focus on:
The goal of International Women’s Day is to, “make it YOUR day to do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women.” What better way to respond to this then by empowering women to take our health and wellness into our own hands. Let’s make sure our bodies are primed so that we can join the movement and #ChoosetoChallenge at EVERY age.
Here are a couple great recipes!