Health & Nutrition Tips For Working Parents


Written by Emily Parks

Having recently taken on the title of ‘working mum’, I’ve come to notice a trend among those of us who wear this badge; we are pretty good at putting others first! How often do you double-check the kids faces are clean only to walk out of the house in mismatching shoes? Or prepare a special meal for the baby only to find yourself picking at the leftovers for lunch? Mothers are a hard-working bunch but maybe we are a wee bit slack when it comes to self-care.

Generally, women are more likely to suffer from nutrient deficiencies – due to a number of reasons – but mainly during our childbearing years when we’re dealing with monthly blood loss, childbirth and breastfeeding, on repeat.

Take iron as an example. One in 14 New Zealand women are low in iron (according to the last national nutrition survey) and with this in mind, it’s no wonder a few ladies in our office have experienced iron deficiency themselves at various stages in their lives. Poor eating habits during adolescence and some methods of birth control have impacted our iron status but the main factor that keeps coming up in conversation is pregnancy.

Pregnancy takes a toll on our iron status but it’s what comes after that we need to focus on – motherhood. Symptoms of iron deficiency are easy to ignore when you have others to look out for before yourself. Feeling fatigued? Blame it on the sleepless nights. Irritable? The never-ending washing piles. Can’t concentrate; feel the cold easily; or suffer frequent infections? It’s just the new normal.

So, how can we start putting ourselves first?

  • Treat yourself as if you were one of your children Make a bigger deal about feeling under the weather and allow yourself some time to rest.    

  • Listen to your body The common signs of iron deficiency are often ignored because they can be put down to the result of having a busy life. Feeling tired, grumpy, irritable and lacking focus are just some of the red flags that may indicate your iron levels are on the low side – it’s worth investigating and talking to your doctor.

  • Eat well-balanced meals that include a source of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Take time to plan ahead if you know you struggle with eating a regular balanced breakfast or lunch.

  • Hit that magic number 3-4 times per week Did you know eating lean red meat 3-4 times per week helps you meet not only your iron requirements, but zinc, vitamin B12 and protein requirements too, contributing to upping your energy levels, and feeling immune strong? Spag bol makes an appearance almost weekly in our household; add one slow cooker lamb curry with leftovers for lunch the next day and we’ve hit our target – too easy!

  • Look at the big picture Red meat does make a valuable contribution to iron intake, but it’s important to look at your overall diet and habits too, as these all have a role to play in your iron levels and overall health.