Nutrition Across the Lifespans: Women’s Edition!

As many of you nutrition nerds have heard, the The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada released this detailed article very recently on the Canadian consensus regarding female nutrition from adolescents and beyond. It’s a prettyyyyy long document but has TONS of important information for us ladies on the noms we should be focusing on specific to each life stage. Here’s a brief play-by-play on what was released.

Adolescents:

This phase in a female life span can have HUGE impacts on the growth and development in various ways. It’s a time to continue or initiate obesity prevention and when eating disorders are of high prevalance. Some of the recommendations included:

  • Discussing good nutrition and explore/address possible body image concerns. Be alert of teenage eating patterns and habits.
  • Encourage adolescents to eat with the family to establish a positive eating environment.
  • Encourage eating a variety of foods and a diet high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat dairy, lower in processed meal and sugary/refined foods.

  • Promote optimal bone development with adequate calcium and vitamin D intakes – 1300mg/d and 600IU/d respectively.

Preconceptual:

Unplanned pregnancies are, well, a thing, which means we women of child bearing age need to keep up with proper nutrition in case a “surprise” comes along! Here are the recommendations:

  • Women of childbearing age should consume 0.4mg of folic acid in a daily multivitamin at least 2-3 months before pregnancy.
  • Weight management strategies for women who are under or overweight. Increase dietary intakes for women who are ovulating abnormally from being under weight – some suggestions included increase meal frequency and preventing excessive exercise OR if over weight by adjusting intakes and increasing exercise.

Pregnancy:

Nutrition is super important during pregnancy so choosing nutrient dense (rather than energy dense/nutrient poor) items are a women’s go to to nourish both yourself and your soon-to-be tiny human. There is no recommended increase in energy needs during the first trimester but it is suggested to modestly increase intakes of only 2-3 additional Canada’s Food Guide servings per DAY from any food group. Some things to think about include:

  • Weight gain based on body mass index (or BMI) – each body mass has different suggested weight gain targets during pregnancy.
  • Important micronutrients include folate, iron, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine.
  • Some foods should be avoided or limited – these include foods with possible contamination of bacteria or fish high in mercury.
  • Alcohol consumption in pregnancy can cause fetal harm.

Postpartum/Lactation:

Nutritional requirements for breastfeeding women is slightly elevated to help support lactation. Breastfeeding is the “unequalled” method of feeding babes and is encouraged for at least the first 6 months of an infants life for up to 2 years alongside complementary feeding. Some recommendations included:

  • Encouraging exclusive breastfeeding and the benefits for both mummy and baby. As a personal note, this can be very difficult for some mothers (as a RD who works occasionally in NICU and Peds) so don’t be disheartened as a mum if you’re unable to breast feed for the recommended time frame.
  • A reduction in caloric intake of 500 kcal/day and participation in moderate aerobic exercise 4 days per week should promote a gradual measured weight loss of 0.5 kg/week postpartum.
  • Provide breastfed infants 400IU vitamin D due to insufficient amounts in breast milk.
  • Maternal intake of allergy and infant colic-associated foods have been associated with colic symptoms in exclusively breastfed young infants but not associated with allergy formation. The way to determine what’s causing the possible colic-symptoms would be to eliminate foods one at a time.

Menopause and Beyond:

This life stage is greatly impacted by possible health issues, social/family circumstance. This includes various stressors.

  • Weight gain is a main concern during this life span. Modest caloric restrictions while consume adequate amounts of protein (0.8-1.2g/kg body weight/d is suggested, divided into multiple meals).
  • Consume complex carbohydrates to help with the increased risk of insulin resistance related to aging.
  • Consuming  1200 mg calcium and 800 IU vitamin D along with regular physical activity of at least 2.5 hours per week which includes weight-bearing activity can help with bone health.
  • With increased age comes decreased absorption of vitamin B12, an important vitamin related to neurological health. Keep up with vitamin B12 intakes by consuming 2.4 mg/day through fortified foods (e.g., non-dairy milks, meat substitutes) or supplements and have vitamin B12 status assessed by your GP if you’re at increased risk for decreased vitamin B12 absorption.

For those with extra time on their hands, take a look at the article for more information! Did you learn something from this article release? Let me know in the comments!

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