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Your Daughter's Diet: Calcium and Iron continued...

Teen girls need 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day, Jamieson-Petonic says. But as many as 80% of teen girls don’t get enough. Girls may fear that drinking milk will cause them to gain weight, and they replace milk with soft drinks. One solution is try sneaking calcium into your daughter's diet via smoothies made with nonfat milk, calcium-fortified soy milk, or tofu. Or top nonfat yogurt with berries and get more nutritional bang for your buck.

Teenage girls also need at least 15 milligrams of iron per day, Jamieson-Petonic says. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which causes fatigue, confusion, and weakness. What if your daughter is a vegetarian? To help keep iron levels up, Jamieson-Petonic suggests iron-fortified cereals, soy products such as tofu, soy nuts, soy milk, and even peanut butter. Bean-based dips -- including hummus -- can also provide iron and calcium.

Maybe the best thing you can do to get your daughter to eat healthfully is to make sure that you do. Model the behavior you want her to adopt. Keep cut vegetables on hand -- cucumbers, peppers, celery, carrots -- for easy, chip-free snacking. And make time for healthy family meals.

Menopause: Calcium and Vitamin D

When you reach menopause, your dietary needs change again. Calcium requirements go back up to teen levels -- from 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams a day. Yet most women get only 600 milligrams a day and usually need to take supplements to make up the difference.

“It is important for menopausal women to get enough calcium,” says Ruth Frechman, MA, RD, a spokeswoman for the ADA. “If there isn't enough dietary calcium, the body will take calcium from the bones to use for nerves, muscles, and the heart. Estrogen helps deposit calcium in the bones. Menopausal women start losing their bone mass without estrogen.”

So what does that mean for menopausal women who are prescribed hormone replacement therapy to help reduce symptoms of menopause? “The estrogen in hormone replacement therapy will protect a woman's bones,” Frechman says. “However, it is still necessary to eat a high-fiber, low-fat diet, which includes enough calcium and vitamin D.”

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