Our nutritional needs change throughout our life. Focus on these key nutrients at each life stage:
Calcium is essential in your teens and 20s as you build your ‘peak bone mass’. After you’ve reached this peak, calcium will continue to be lost from your bones through the rest of your life. Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are some of the richest sources of calcium,
so enjoy a smoothie or glass of milk each day. Add some cheese to a sandwich, and enjoy a tub of yoghurt as an easy go-to snack.
Now that you’ve begun menstruating, you’ll need more iron than before. You can boost your iron intake by including lean red meat 3–4 times per week.
Vitamin C is important to help maintain a healthy immune system. Potatoes, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables are some of the richest food sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin D is a fairly common nutritional deficiency in adults. Not only is it essential for healthy bones and muscles, but emerging research now suggests that it may help to reduce the risk of diabetes and excess weight gain. Boost your vitamin D intake with eggs a few days each week.
Trying to conceive
Folate becomes essential for building your baby’s neural tube (brain and spinal cord), which will occur even before you know you are pregnant. Start a folic acid supplement and ensure you eat some green leafy vegetables such as broccoli or kale each day.
Iodine You’ll also want to boost your iodine stores before you conceive, so include bread, seaweed or fish in your diet.
Omega-3 is great for egg health, so in the three months leading up to conception, include oily fish like salmon or sardines in your meal plan three times each week.
Folate continues to be very important throughout the first trimester of pregnancy, so ensure that you continue to include plenty of green leafy vegetables in your diet. If you can’t stomach them due to morning sickness, try a green juice instead.
Iron Your iron needs skyrocket during your second and third trimesters as your baby grows.
Ensure that you are meeting your iron requirements by including lean red meat on your plate 3–4 times per week.
Researchers have found that vitamin D plays a particularly important role during pregnancy. It helps you reduce your baby’s risk of developing a range of conditions, including food allergies and asthma.
Calcium requirements soar from 1000mg per day to be 1300mg each day following menopause, so include an extra glass of milk, slice of cheese or tub of yoghurt in your meal plan.
Fibre is never more vital than after menopause, so make sure that you choose high-fibre foods such as oats or chickpeas, and snack on 30 grams of nuts each day.
Omega-3 fats Cholesterol levels will increase after menopause, which makes omega-3 intake increasingly important to decrease the risk of heart disease. The best source of omega-3 is
fish, so include it in your meal plan 2–3 times each week.