Put Good Nutrition on Mom's Plate
Kudos to Moms everywhere! They're magicians at juggling a never-ending "to do" list. They help with homework, keep track of play dates, make dinner, dole out hugs, and much, much more.
But for many moms, meeting their own nutrition needs goes on the back burner.
All women have special nutrition needs that vary with age and stage of life. Put good health on your plate by including foods with these key nutrients.
Pump Up Iron
During the childbearing years, women are particularly prone to low iron levels. If you often feel tired and rundown, your diet might be short on iron. For women ages 19-50, the recommended daily iron intake is 18 mg. For ages 51 and over, it drops to 8 mg; during pregnancy, it jumps to 27 mg.
The heme iron in animal foods such as beef, chicken and fish is better-absorbed than the non-heme iron in some plant foods. If you're a vegetarian or don't eat much meat, enjoy plenty of foods with non-heme iron such as spinach, beans and iron-fortified cereals and breads. Couple these options with vitamin C-rich foods, which enhance iron absorption. For instance, top iron-fortified cereal with strawberries, add orange segments to spinach salad, and pair a bean burrito with sautéed red peppers.
Prepare for Pregnancy with Folate
Women who don't get enough of the B-vitamin folate (also called folic acid) are at increased risk for having babies with neural tube defects. All women of childbearing age should get enough folate because nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned. The recommended daily folate intake is 400 mcg for women ages 19 and over; it rises to 600 mcg during pregnancy.
Folate is naturally found in foods like orange juice, spinach, dried beans and lentils. Most enriched grain products¬ such as bread, cereal, rice and pasta are fortified with folic acid (check the Nutrition Facts panel to be sure).
Strengthen Bones with Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is important for building and maintaining strong bones throughout a woman's life, but many women don't get enough. The recommended daily calcium intake is 1,000 mg for women ages 19-50 and 1,200 mg for ages 51 and over. Low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese are excellent sources of calcium.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb and use calcium. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D increases as women get older: it's 200 IU for ages 19-50; 400 IU for ages 51-70, and 600 IU for ages 71 and over. Evidence is mounting that higher amounts of vitamin D may offer protection from several chronic diseases, so stay tuned for a possible increase in recommendations. Milk is usually fortified with vitamin D. Look for vitamin D and calcium in fortified products such as cheese, yogurt, juice and cereal (again, check the Nutrition Facts panel to be sure).
Help Your Heart with Omega-3s
After menopause, women's risk of heart attack and stroke rise dramatically. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating two servings of fish each week to get beneficial omega-3 fatty acids (a serving is 3½-ounces cooked or ¾-cup flaked). According to the AHA, omega-3s may reduce risk for abnormal heartbeats, decrease triglyceride levels, and slow plaque build-up in arteries. The best types to reel in are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna.