Consuming a diet with a variety and balance of healthy foods is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. The nutrient and energy needs of girls and women are important for growth, for healthy development and maturation during adolescence, during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, and as women get older. As well, healthy eating patterns can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.
The nutrition needs and concerns for female nutrition are published in the Canadian Consensus on Female Nutrition: Adolescence, Reproduction, Menopause and Beyond. Key points include:
- Consume a balanced and varied diet higher in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (for non-pregnant and non-lactating women); lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened beverages and refined grains to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Include foods that are good sources of specific nutrients of concern across the female lifecycle – calcium, iron, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
- Some nutrient supplements are recommended when diets do not contain enough of certain nutrients: Women of childbearing age should consume 0.4 mg folic acid in a daily multivitamin for at least 2 to 3 months prior to pregnancy, in addition to consuming foods high in folate such as dark green, leafy vegetables and legumes. During pregnancy, daily supplements containing 0.4 to 1 mg folic acid and 16 to 20 mg of elemental iron are recommended. For menopausal women, a daily supplement of 1200 mg calcium (in divided doses) and 800 IU vitamin D is often recommended, as well as 2.4 mcg vitamin B12 from fortified foods or a supplement.
Dietitians of Canada contributed to the development of and endorsed the Canadian Consensus on Female Nutrition: Adolescence, Reproduction, Menopause and Beyond, a project led by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, published in 2016. The aim of this document was to provide health care professionals in Canada with the basic knowledge and tools to provide nutrition guidance to females from adolescence through their reproductive years to menopause and beyond.