Nutritional Needs for Different Life Stages
Nutrition is not a one size fits all. Your nutritional needs vary depending on your age, sex, activity level, and overall health. If a person does not meet their daily nutritional requirements than their body may not function properly.
In this week’s blog we are going to give healthy nutritional guidelines for different life stages. Individual requirements may vary depending on your own health needs so consult with your physician before making any dietary changes.
Nutrition for the expecting mother can be difficult. If the mother does not get the proper nutrition, the development of the fetus can be affected. There are multiple things that an expecting mother should be doing when it comes to nutrition. However, here are a select few essentials:
- The mother should be gaining weight: regardless if the mother is overweight or not, gaining weight is essential for the development of the baby. If the mother does not gain enough weight to support her own body and the growth of the fetus, it can result in the baby being born with a low birth weight.
- The mother should be taking in adequate calories: in order to gain weight the mother must increase her caloric intake. On average, an expecting mother should be taking in 300-400 additional calories each day in order to maintain the proper body function.
- Maintaining adequate protein and nutrients: a mother should not limit her protein intake. She should also maintain her vitamins and minerals, especially folate and iron. If trying to conceive, start taking folate early as folate helps reduce the risk of birth defects in the spine and brain. Prenatal supplements are usually recommended to expecting mothers to make sure they are receiving all the daily intake requirements for the growing baby. Prenatal DHA should also be consumed for the healthy development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. It will also help support a healthy pregnancy.
- Do not consume alcohol: a mother should not consume alcohol while pregnant, even if it is a glass of wine. While certain research says that a glass of wine will not hurt, there is not significant amount of evidence to support it.
- Avoid consuming aspartame: aspartame is an artificial sugar that is found in a multitude of food products. However, the baby can have an allergy to this sugar know as phenylketonuria. If the mother consumes aspartame and the baby is found to have this condition, serious irreversible growth defects can happen to the baby.
Breast feeding mothers have a different set of guidelines than formula feeding mothers due to the fact that their nutrients are being passed to the baby. It is recommended that mothers breast feed for at least 6 months and once the baby reaches 12 months, they should be introduced to a few solid foods. So that being said, breast feeding mothers need to have adequate nutrition for an additional year after giving birth.
- Make sure that mothers are ingesting adequate fluids: you do not want to restrict fluids in anyway as this can decrease your milk supply. Taking in the essential fluids will allow the mother to produce milk without worrying about having dry spell
- Avoid coffee, teas, alcohol, and soda: these fluids can make the mother have difficulty producing milk. Even if you are consume an adequate amount of these fluids, they still have the opposite effect on milk production.
Newborn and infancy:
As a child begins to ween off of being breast fed, it can feel overwhelming making sure that they get the right nutrition. However, their nutrient needs are not too difficult to meet as long as the foods they are consuming are healthy and baby safe.
- Avoid cow’s milk until 1 year old: baby’s digestive system can not handle breaking down cow’s milk. This is why formulas are mixed with water and never milk. Cow’s milk can start to be introduced in small quantities as the baby approaches 1 year old.
- Do not limit fat in a baby’s diet: babies need fat for energy and limiting that consumption can hinder that energy supply. Continue supplementing with baby DHA to support brain and eye development.
- Make sure the baby is getting the proper nutrients, specifically iron: if a baby is being breast fed then their iron levels are usually adequate due to the mother’s supply. However, formula fed babies should be getting iron through iron fortified formula options.
- Introduce solids at a reason age and pace: solids can be introduced at 4-6 months. However, you want to try only 1 food at a time, in 5 day intervals, to monitor for any potential allergies.
Childhood and adolescents
As we age, consuming food feels less like a chore and more like pleasure. However, we still need to be getting adequate nutrients and calories. Plus, children at this age should be more involved in their food choices. You want them picking out their own options, but help influence them through your examples. Children are most likely to mirror the food choices of their parents, so make a good impression through your own choices. Your children will definitely follow.
Adulthood and older adulthood
The biggest rule of thumb for nutrition as an adult is consuming more nutrient dense foods. We want to limit cholesterol, simple sugars, excess calories, fast (and processed) foods. Our food choices should be full of healthy nutrients and calories. A good way to introduce this idea is by making your plate 1/2 full of fruits and veggies.
Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to provide medical advice but rather be a baseline for proper nutrition during different life stages. Please consult with your health care provider if you have questions about your specific nutritional needs.