Women have unique nutritional needs.
Different nutrients are important through the different stages of a woman’s life: teenage years, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause.
Certain nutrients are important in teenage girls as they begin menstruation, especially iron  . Daly et al found that up to 9% of Irish teenage girls may be deficient in iron. They also found that a significant number of teenagers are deficient in Vitamin D and Calcium  which are vital for growth the development of strong bones at this stage in life  .
As women enter adulthood, intake of folic acid is important to help prevent neural tube defects in their baby if they become pregnant . In pregnancy, protein, calcium, iron, folic acid and omega-3 are crucial for babies healthy development. These nutrients remain important through breastfeeding, as well as the requirement for a higher intake of fluids .
Iron remains an important nutrient right through a woman’s life, and good dietary sources are red meat, fish and shellfish, liver, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds, quinoa, wholemeal bread and dried fruit .
Calcium is another vital nutrient that up to 1 in 10 women are consuming in inadequate amounts . Good dietary sources include dairy products, some leafy green vegetables, canned fish and bread. Calcium is vital for teeth and bone health and is especially important the risk of developing osteoporosis rises as a woman moves through life to menopause and beyond .
Everyone would benefit from eating a healthy balanced diet including 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and limiting high fat/sugar/salt foods. To help guide you, the HSE has published some examples of healthy meal plans for people at different stages of life  You will find those created for girls and women at the links below:
- Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (2015) Women and Iron. Available from: https://www.indi.ie/women-s-health/546-women-and-iron.html#:~:text=Women%20are%20at%20risk%20of%20having%20low%20body,women%20could%20be%20at%20risk%20of%20iron%20deficiency%21. Accessed: 04/03/22
- Daly, A.N., O’Sullivan, E.J., McNulty, B.A., Walton, J. and Kearney, J.M., 2022. Eating behaviour styles and their association with sex, BMI and energy intake in Irish teens from the National Teens’ Food Survey II. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 81(OCE1).
- NHS (2021) Healthy Eating for Teens. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/healthy-eating-for-teens/. Accessed: 04/03/22
- Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (2016) Healthy Eating in Pregnancy. Available from: https://www.indi.ie/women-s-health/545-healthy-eating-during-pregnancy.html. Accessed 04/03/22
- HSE (2018) What to eat while breastfeeding. Available from: https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/babies-and-children/breastfeeding/health-lifestyle/what-to-eat/. Accessed 04/03/22
- British Nutrition Foundation (2018) Nutrition recommendations for women. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/life-stages/women/nutrition-recommendations-for-women/. Accessed: 04/03/22
- HSE (2022) Healthy Eating Guidelines. Available from: https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/healthwellbeing/our-priority-programmes/heal/healthy-eating-guidelines/. Accessed: 04/03/22