File this under “things that make sense, given how hard it is to get ‘me time’ when you have a baby.” Women may monitor their diets during pregnancy, but a new study published in Pediatrics reports that mothers of young kids don’t eat as well as women without youngsters — consuming more calories, more sugar-sweetened bevs and more saturated fats. New moms also exercise less and are more likely to be overweight. (The fathers in the study also exercised less, but weren’t more likely to carry extra pounds — not surprising, given the baby weight factor.) The researchers called for more support of new parents by health care providers, so moms and dads can balance crazy-busy parenthood with good health habits — both for themselves and as models for their kids.
Nutrients you need — at every age
Although good nutrition is key for maintaining lifelong health and fitness, different nutrients become important at different ages.
Girls and teens
Calcium. Bone mass builds during the teen years and early adulthood. Experts recommend 1,300 mg. of calcium for girls ages 9–19. (good sources: low-fat dairy, calcium-fortified orange juice, broccoli, kale.)
Iron. To avoid iron deficiency — which can lead to poor school or work performance, fatigue and impaired immunity — girls between 14 and 18 should take in 15 mg. of iron per day, according to experts. (good sources: lean meat, halibut, tuna, beans, lentils and iron-fortified breakfast cereals.)
Women of childbearing age
Calcium. You may not be building bone mass the way you were, but 1,000–3,000 mg. of calcium a day is still important to help combat bone loss later in life.
Iron. Women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 18 mg. per day, and pregnant women require 27 mg. per day. Lactating women need only 9 mg., because they’re not menstruating.
Folic acid. A daily intake of 400–800 mcg. can help prevent neural tube defects in developing fetuses. (good sources: leafy greens, pregnancy supplements that include folic acid.)
B12. B12 also promotes nervous system development, and teens and adult women require 2.4 mcg. per day. Animal protein provides most of our B12, so women who are vegan or vegetarian should make sure they’re getting enough. (good sources: liver, dairy products.)
Omega-3s. These essential fatty acids reduce the risk of heart disease, and help build brain and nerve cells in fetuses. (good sources: oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, canola oil.)
Calcium. Women between the ages of 50 and 70 can slow bone loss by taking in 1,200 mg. of calcium per day.
B12. As women age, their ability to absorb B12 decreases, so supplementation (under a doctor’s care) may be necessary.
Fluids. Kidney function becomes less efficient with age, meaning that a higher fluid intake is necessary to remove toxins. You’ll know you’re drinking enough fluids as long as urine color stays clear or very pale.