Bite-Sized Nutrition Messages for Canadian Women
Regular consumption of a varied and balanced diet is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. The focus should be on healthy eating rather than individual nutrients.
The Canada Food Guide provides general advice for all Canadians on the major food groups.
It isn’t just what you eat, it is how you eat. Eating with the family is particularly important during adolescence. As the family grows up and moves away it is important to maintain healthy, mindful, eating habits.
Choices of foods are influenced by the “food environment” including food habits established during childhood, accessibility/availability of foods, ethnicity and culture, cost, food trends, media, and public policy. The current Canadian food environment can present a challenge to women aiming to consume a balanced, nutritious diet because of the ready availability and ease of processed foods high in salt and sugar-sweetened beverages.
There are many healthy diets, which all tend to be high in vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains and fruits, include low-fat dairy, fish and poultry, are lower in red or processed meats, and are low in salty foods or sweetened beverages. An individual’s diet will vary depending on her stage of life, activity levels and health, and the food environment.
Calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin D needs vary throughout a woman’s life, and a regular diet may not provide enough for optimal health. During adolescence, when starting a family, during pregnancy or breast feeding, and at menopause women will need to pay special attention to ensure that they are getting the right amount of these nutrients.
Folate & Folic acid
Since more than 50 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned and twenty per cent of women of reproductive age do not have enough folic acid for the best protection against spinal cord birth defects a folate-rich diet and folic acid supplement is important for all women of reproductive age.
Vitamin D is needed for strong bones. It is also important for a healthy immune system, it reduces inflammation, and may be protective against some chronic diseases and cancers. Women over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of at least 400 IU – 800 IU.
The body builds bones during adolescence and young adulthood, and continues to need calcium to maintain strong bones. Calcium intake during the younger years is the foundation of strong and healthy bones in later life and there is no second chance to build those bones to their peak strength.
Iron is needed by the blood to carry oxygen. Low iron affects energy levels, exercise capacity and brain function. Women lose iron with their periods and during pregnancy. Women who are obese are at twice the risk of iron deficiency. The average woman’s diet contains only half the iron she needs. One woman in 10 has empty iron stores.
Your teenaged daughter
It is normal to gain weight during adolescence as it is the normal growth to adulthood. Healthy habits for healthy weight through the teen years include: regular meals, preferably eaten as a family, at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables/ day, reducing of sugar-sweetened beverages, keeping time in front of screens (computer, TV etc.) to less than 2 hours per day of screen time and at least more than one hour each day of physical activity.
Seventy per cent of teenaged girls are not getting the calcium they need: 1300 mg/day from ages 9 to 18, ideally through diet, but girls may need supplements.
Adolescent girls need 600 IU of vitamin D per day, ideally through diet, but girls may need supplements.
Getting Ready to Start a Family
Despite birth control, about half of pregnancies in North America are unplanned so if pregnancy is even remotely possible it is wise to maintain good nutrition and to make sure you are getting enough of the key nutrients that are especially important in the earliest days of a pregnancy.
Healthy body weight for pregnancy
Being at your healthy body weight can help fertility, can help both you and your baby achieve a healthy pregnancy, and can improve health for your child right into adulthood. It is easier to gain needed pounds if you are underweight, or to reduce if you are carrying extra weight, before getting pregnant. This is not the time for starvation or fad diets, but to focus on the right amounts of the right foods, keeping a balanced diet, and increasing physical activity.
If you are planning a pregnancy it is important to start folic acid supplements, containing 0.4 to 1mg of folic acid, at least 2 – 3 months before you conceive. A prenatal supplement will give you all the folic acid you require. Women at higher risk for certain birth defects will be advised to take a greater amount of folic acid.
Nutrition in Pregnancy
It is said that when you are pregnant you are eating for two. What we now know that means is that how you eat in pregnancy can have an influence on the long term health of your child, and even of your future grandchildren. So eating for two means eating well for you and your baby, so that you both can benefit.
How much to eat
During pregnancy Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating a variety of nutritious foods from each of the food groups, including vegetable and fruit, dairy, fish and meat. A 5 oz serving of fish is advised once or more per week, and fatty fish are a good source of DHA.
During the first third of pregnancy no extra calories are required. Only a modest 340-450 calories are required in the later part of pregnancy, just 2 or 3 extra servings chosen from any of the nutritious foods.
Folic acid is important to protect the unborn baby from certain birth defects. A supplement containing 0.4 to 1.0mg of folic acid should be taken throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Iron is needed for the good health of both the mother and the baby. It influences everything from building blood cells to brain development. Between 30 – 60 mg of iron a day is recommended in pregnancy, compared to 15 – 19 mg before pregnancy. It is difficult to get enough iron from the diet, so a supplement is recommended. Iron is not needed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy so can be started later if it upsets the stomach. Iron will be better absorbed if it is taken with orange juice or vitamin C, and not with a meal, milk or caffeine.
Taking 2000 IU of vitamin D from early pregnancy and after birth can help maintain healthy vitamin D levels in your newborn.
Choline, Iodine and Omega Fatty Acids are important nutrients that may be difficult to get though the diet.
Multivitamins for Pregnancy
Multivitamins for pregnancy will contain higher amounts of the nutrients needed in pregnancy. Some women may prefer to take iron and folic acid as separate pills, or to supplement their regular multivitamin with folic acid or iron. Do not double up or take more than one of your regular multivitamin. Doing this can give your baby a harmful overdose of vitamin A.
For many, the changes in your or your partner’s health, social, or family circumstances that may happen at midlife can affect meal habits, with consequences for your weight and health.
Portion Control, Activity and Weight Control for Menopause and Beyond
Many studies have found a weight gain in women of about 4-5 pounds at the time of menopause. Women typically find that they do not need to eat as much as they did prior to menopause. Eating slowly and choosing nutritious foods is important with smaller portions. To maintain weight both portion control and activity levels are important.
How the body handles fats also changes around menopause, and it is not about the fat in your diet. The body can turn any extra calories that you eat into fat. Many women will notice their waist line expanding, as fat settles in the abdomen. Unfortunately, abdominal fat is associated with the “metabolic syndrome,” high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 Diabetes, so keeping your eating in line with your body’s needs is key. If you already have any of these medical conditions, exercise and a healthy diet with lots of vegetables and staying physically active is especially important.
After menopause women steadily lose muscle and strength. The key to maintaining strength is to eat enough protein (about 1 - 1.2 grams per kg of body weight, divided over three meals of the day), and to be physically active, building strength, not losing it.
Bones gradually become weaker after menopause. A common fracture in younger women is a broken wrist or forearm, resulting from a fall. As we age we are at risk of fractures in our spinal vertebrae and our hips. Adequate protein (1 – 1.2 grams per kilogram body weight), vitamin D (at least 400 IU) and calcium (1200 mg) supplemented in divided doses or slow release form will all help to maintain bone strength in older women. Exercising to increase muscle strength, core strength and flexibility will reduce the risk of a fall.
RECIPE: General Health
Gluten-Free Family Meatloaf
Almost half the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fibre so adding just a little chia can help increase your family’s fibre intake. In this meatloaf, chia seeds replace the egg and breadcrumbs typically used as binders in most meatloaves so this recipe is gluten free.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Chill time: 25 minutes
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (125 mL) PC Blue Menu Chicken Broth
1/4 cup (50 mL) black chia seeds
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh thyme
1 lb (450 g) lean ground beef
1 lb (450 g) lean ground pork
- Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook onions and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often, or until softened and golden. Stir in garlic; cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until fragrant. Transfer to large mixing bowl; let cool 5 minutes.
- Add broth, chia seeds, rosemary, thyme and remaining 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper; stir until well mixed. Add beef and pork. Using clean hands or large spoon, gently mix meat together with onion mixture until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Spray 13 x 9-inch (3 L) baking dish with cooking spray.
- Place meat mixture in centre of prepared baking dish. Shape into a 10 x 5-inch (25 x 13-cm) loaf; spray top of loaf lightly with cooking spray. Bake in centre of oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until browned and instant read thermometer reads 165°F (74°C). Remove from oven; let rest 5 minutes. Transfer to cutting board; slice and serve immediately with your favourite tomato sauce, if desired.
Makes 8 servings
Per serving: 310 calories, fat 21 g, omega 3 polyunsaturated fat 0.8 g, sodium 230 mg, carbohydrate 5 g, fibre 2 g, protein 25 g
Good source of iron
Good source of potassium
Source of omega
For more information, please visit HerNutrition.ca