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Oxford Women’s Health

A lifetime of good nutrition: Sara Widdowson of Oxford Women’s Health on eating your way to better health

Sara Widdowson
Sara Widdowson

As women’s bodies grow and change, nutritional needs change too. Sara Widdowson, a Nutrition Consultant and Dietitian at Oxford Women’s Health, shares her expert advice on staying healthy at every age and stage of life.

What are the top priorities for children and adolescents when it comes to good nutrition?

Children and adolescents are still growing and need lots of energy. Rather than filling them up with calorie-dense foods, keep the focus on nutrient-rich foods, such as colourful vegetables, lean meat and milk, to make sure they are getting all they need to thrive.
Encouraging children to listen to their bodies – like stopping eating when they’re full – helps to establish good eating habits that will set them up for life.
For young women, iron intake is particularly important. Meat, nuts, and leafy-green vegetables all contain iron.

What should pregnant women be eating to help improve the health of their baby?

Instead of ‘eating for two’, pregnant women should be eating food that is twice as healthy. ‘Quality over quantity’ is an easy way to think about it.
What mum puts in her body is really important for the baby’s development. Folate from foods such as dark green vegetables, beans and lentils helps to prevent neural defects, while iodine is important for brain development, for example.

Oxford Women’s Health

Do nutritional needs change when you are having a period?

Your basal-metabolic rate – how much energy you’re burning at rest – is higher when you are having a period. I encourage women not to avoid that hunger but to try and choose nutrient-dense foods. Instead of chocolate, try magnesium-rich options like nuts and seafood.

Which foods are beneficial for women going through menopause?

Oestrogen and progesterone drop during menopause, which is particularly detrimental to bone health. Upping your calcium intake by eating canned fish, soy products and calcium-rich milk is crucial during this time.
There’s evidence to suggest that foods like tofu, milk, chickpeas, flaxseeds and lentils can help to reduce menopause symptoms.

Do older people have different nutritional needs?

When you get older you lose your thirst receptors, which means you can be dehydrated and not know it. Have a jug of water or water bottles in your fridge, so you can make sure you are drinking enough.
Getting short doses of vitamin D from the sun every day is important for bone health. Deficiency in B12 is also very common in older people, so including foods like milk, eggs, fish and chicken in your diet is key.
The most important thing to do at any age is to eat a nutrient rich diet. Eat vegetables at every meal, if possible, and include ‘good fats’ like oily fish, avocado and flaxseed oil in your daily routine.

Twentyfour Catering, photographer Tegan Clark.

Winter eats: get inspired to eat healthy this winter

Conventional wisdom has it that in lieu of thermals and scarves, the cooler temperatures trigger a biological change that make animals inclined to eat higher quantities of energy-dense food to keep warm.

Twentyfour Catering, photographer Tegan Clark.
Twentyfour Catering, photographer Tegan Clark.

And, although we humans may not put on our own winter coats in this evolutionary sense, fact is cooler temperatures, fewer daylight hours and more time spent inside can all have a significant effect on when, how much and even what we’re hungry for.
While we don’t see anything wrong with indulging a little over the winter months, our diets can be an integral ally in the war against the sniffles and snuffles.
So how can we pack a nutritional punch powerful enough to wage a strong dietary defence?

A perfect pairing

A healthy slow-release breakfast designed to keep you full of energy until lunch, porridge is a great way to start the day and makes a perfect pairing with nuts or seeds and some seasonal winter fruit like apples, pears, cranberries or dates.

A powerful punch

Foods like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, red peppers and citrus fruits pack a powerful vitamin C punch and, when it comes to immunity and energy, vitamin C is top of the nutritional charts.

Iron-rich inspiration

Red meats, lentils and green leafy vegetables are good sources of iron, which supports a healthy immune system and what better opportunity than this to incorporate some inspiring eats like the pictured lamb cutlets from Twentyfour Catering Co that made our delicious cover this issue.

Zoom in on zinc

When the temps start to plummet, we can come into contact with cold and flu viruses. Zinc can help contribute to a well-functioning immune system. Oysters, spinach and legumes are good sources.

At the root of health

You’ve likely heard of the traditional ‘comfort foods’, but there’s actually plenty of nutritious options out there too. Roasted root vegetables are a delicious and sweet option, or soups packed with vegetables – and garlic and ginger for an added nutritional kick.

Back to B12 basics

Fish such as salmon and cod, as well as milk, eggs and cheese, are a great source of vitamin B12. A nutritional immune system support, B12 also contributes to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue.

Our Vets

Pet nutrition focus: Our Vets gives us the run down on looking after your pet’s diet

A huge variety of dietary options are available for our four-legged friends. Some great, some not so great – but how does a caring owner really know what is right for their pet? The topic of diet is one discussed often for humans but can be forgotten when it comes to our beloved animals.

Our Vets

In veterinary clinics, nutrition is often described as the ‘5th Vital Assessment’ – following closely from heart, lung, temperature and pain assessments. When a diet is looked at in conjunction with all these, it’s easy to see just how important it is – and why vet clinics are keen to start the discussion.

Is your pet’s diet right for them?
There are many things that need to be taken into consideration when looking for the right diet for a pet. This includes their age, activity levels, medical conditions or any allergies they have. A massive amount of information is available on the internet. However, deciphering what information is true, and then applying this to a pet, can be the difficult part. The best thing that someone can do for their furry family members is to discuss their pet’s diet with the professionals.

What benefits could you see?
Feeding a high-quality diet that is balanced by using good, well-sourced ingredients can improve energy levels, digestion, skin and coat quality. Smelly breath? There are diets that can assist with the prevention of dental disease. Arthritis? Diets exist with anti-inflammatory properties to help improve mobility.
During February, Ourvets had a focus on nutrition and encouraged pet owners to ask the questions to find out more. “We want pets to have the best nutrition that suits their needs – but equally, we want our clients to understand why we have made a certain recommendation for their pet,” says Ourvets Practice Manager, Sarah Clements. “Certain diets can replace or reduce the need for medication and can provide a hassle-free treatment for some ailments.”
For those that feel their pet could benefit from a specific diet or are unsure what benefits they would see from dietary planning and advice, the knowledgeable team at Ourvets is always on hand to discuss.
Visit www.ourvets.co.nz.