Eating Correctly in Your 20s and 30s
These are the childbearing years. Women must be sure they eat enough green veggies to keep their bodies ready with sufficient folic acid to prevent birth defects in any babies that come along. This means loading up on the dark green, leafy vegetables as well as taking a folic acid supplement before getting pregnant.
According to nutritionist Cross, eating correctly in your 20s and 30s can be a matter of visual aesthetics, rather than a tiresome exercise in milligram counting. "Eat by the colors," urges Cross. She explains that if you put a rainbow on your plate, you will probably be getting the nutrients you need. Iceberg, potatoes, white bread -- these probably are not as loaded with goodies as a riotously colorful plate of sweet potatoes, mixed greens, peppers and penne, and golden roasted chicken! Put the mushy next to the crispy, the smooth next to the noisy.
"Stop worrying about counting things and worry about taste and eating," Cross says.
However, the 20s and especially your 30s may also mark the end of your participation in the work softball team; you may go salsa dancing less than you did before. Your caloric requirements begin to drop. An active woman in her 20s, Nelson says, may get away with 2,500 calories a day -- she has to see if she is gaining weight on that. Two thousand calories are probably a better target.
Calcium is also important in your 20s. Bones aren't fully formed in your teens, they continue to strengthen until age 30. Vitamin D is also important in these years -- you may get enough from milk if you drink it, or the sun, but Nelson says some women should supplement. You need 200 IU of the vitamin up to age 50, increasing to 400 IU a day from age 50 to 70, and 600 IU above 70.
Molly Kimball, RD, sports and lifestyle nutritionist at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation and Hospital in New Orleans, says magnesium is also important at this age because it can help with PMS. Load up on spinach, peanuts, black beans, brown rice, and sea bass. Similarly, vitamin B-6, found in garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, and avocado, can help with fluid retention.
Women who menstruate heavily may need additional iron. "Many breakfast cereals are supplemented or you can cook in an iron skillet," advises Heller. Other sources include red meat, dried fruits, and dried beans. Kimball adds that iron from non-meat sources is absorbed better if vitamin C is added -- so throw some orange slices in that spinach salad.