It’s March, which means it’s National Nutrition Month! “Go Further with Food” is the theme for 2018, and its importance is timely for many reasons. Whether it’s starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast or fueling before an athletic event, the foods you choose can make a difference. In this newsletter, we focus specifically on women’s nutrition because, well, a balanced diet is a cornerstone of health.
Women, like men, should enjoy a variety of foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, and lean protein. A healthy daily diet typically includes: at least 3 servings of whole grains, such as whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice, or oats; 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products, including low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese; 5-6 ounces of protein such as lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans or peas, and nuts; 2 cups of fruits; and 2.5 cups of colorful vegetables.
Iron is one of the keys to good health and energy levels in women. Some iron-rich food sources include red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, and fish. Some meatless options include kale, spinach, beans, lentils, and fortified breads and cereals. Plant-based sources of iron are more easily absorbed by your body when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods. So try out some fortified cereal with strawberries on top, spinach salad with mandarin orange slices, or add tomatoes to lentil soup.
Folic Acid during the Reproductive Years
When a woman reaches childbearing age, consuming foods with folic acid can decrease the risk of birth defects, should she become pregnant. Citrus fruits, leafy greens, beans, and peas naturally contain folate. There are also many folic acid fortified foods such as cereals, rice, and breads.
Daily Calcium Requirments
For healthy teeth and bones, women need to eat a variety of calcium-rich foods every day. Calcium keeps bones strong and prevents osteoporosis, a bone disease in which the bones become weak and break easily. Some calcium-rich foods include low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, sardines, tofu (if made with calcium sulfate) and calcium-fortified foods, including juices and cereals.
Foods to Limit
To maintain health at any age, it’s recommended that women limit excess calories from added sugars, fat, and alcohol. More specifically, try to limit the consumption of soft drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, baked goods, and fried foods; limit alcohol intake to one drink per day (e.g., 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor); opt for low-fat dairy and meat products instead of their full-fat counterparts; and eat fewer foods that are high in saturated fat — the kind found in fatty meats, sausages, cheese and full-fat dairy products, baked goods, and pizza.
Balancing Calories with Activity
While food has been the primary focus of this newsletter, it’s important to remember that exercise is also a crucial part of a woman’s health. Regular daily activity, no matter how little, helps with weight control, muscle strength, and stress management — all important for a healthy lifestyle.
This content is provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Visit their “Healthy Eating for Women” webpage for