Eating well is one of the best ways you can take care of yourself and those who depend on you. What you eat makes a big difference in the way you look and feel. A healthy diet gives you energy to get through your busy day, supports your mood, helps you maintain your weight, and keeps you looking your best.
What you eat can also be a huge support as you go through different stages in your life. Your food choices can help reduce PMS, boost fertility, combat stress, make pregnancy easier, and ease the symptoms of menopause. Whatever your age, committing to a healthy diet will help you look and feel your best so that you stay on top of your commitments and enjoy life.
Good nutrition for women of all ages
Good nutrition starts with the basics: a well-rounded diet consisting of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean sources of protein. These kinds of foods provide women with plenty of energy, the means for lifelong weight control, and the key ingredients for looking and feeling great at any age.
Top diet and nutrition tips for women
- Focus on whole, plant-based foods. Fill most of your plate with fruits and leafy green vegetables. Also include a variety of whole grains, beans, and legumes to give you filling fiber and keep you going throughout the day. Try to find minimally-processed or locally-grown foods whenever possible and make these foods the mainstay of your diet.
- Bone up on calcium. Women are at a greater risk than men of developing osteoporosis, so it’s important to get plenty of calcium to support your bone health. While dairy products are high in calcium, their animal fat and protein can accelerate bone loss. So also consider plant-based sources of calcium like beans, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens.
- Don’t eat too much protein. Protein is an essential part of any healthy diet, but eating too much animal-based protein—such as the levels recommended in many low-carb, high-protein diets—is particularly dangerous for women. Eating lots of protein causes calcium loss. Over time, this could lead to a decrease in bone density and osteoporosis.
- Make sure you get enough iron. Many women don’t get enough iron in their diet. On top of that, women lose a lot of this important mineral during menstruation. Boost your intake by eating iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, dark poultry, lentils, spinach, almonds, and iron-fortified cereals.
- Cut back on alcohol and caffeine. Women who have more than two alcoholic drinks a day are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Caffeine consumption interferes with hormone levels and also increases the loss of calcium. Try to limit alcohol consumption to one glass a day and caffeine to one cup a day.
Don’t cut out the fat!
Many women have been led to believe that dietary fat is unhealthy and will contribute to weight gain. But fats are a necessary part of a healthy diet. What really matters are the types of fat you eat.
Women need healthy fats in their diet to look and feel great
- Healthy fats boost your brain power and mood. Fats are essential to healthy brain function. They put you in a good mood and keep you mentally sharp.
- Healthy fats promote healthy pregnancies. When you’re pregnant, both you and your growing baby need healthy fat to feel your best. Fat is especially important to your baby’s developing brain and nervous system.
- Healthy fats contribute to lifelong beauty. Fats are essential for vibrant, glowing skin, hair, and nails. A lack of healthy fats in your diet can lead to dull, flaky skin, brittle nails, and dry or easily-damaged hair.
- Healthy fats help control cravings. Because fat is so dense in calories, a little goes a long way in making you feel full. Small amounts of good fats like nuts or seeds make great satisfying snacks.
- Fats lower the glycemic index of foods, easing the spike in blood sugar that results from eating carbohydrates.
- You need fat in order to absorb certain vitamins. Many important vitamins—including vitamins A, D, E, and K—are fat-soluble, meaning you need fat in your system in order to absorb them.
Choosing healthy fats
Rather than cutting fat out of your diet, make smart choices about the types of fat you eat. Saturated fat and trans fat—the “bad fats”—increase your risk for certain diseases, including heart disease and stroke. But polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats—the “good fats”—actually contribute to your health and vitality, support your mood, and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Foods rich in healthy fats include:
- olive and canola oil
- fish and seafood
- peanut butter
Choosing Healthy Fats
For years, nutritionists and doctors have preached the benefits of a low-fat diet. We’ve been told that reducing the amount of fat we eat is the key to losing weight, managing cholesterol, and preventing health problems. But when it comes to your mental and physical health, simply “cutting the fat” just doesn’t cut it.
Research shows that, more than the total amount of fat in your diet, it’s the types of fat you eat that really matter. Bad fats increase your cholesterol and your risk of certain diseases, while good fats have the opposite effect, protecting your heart and supporting overall health. In fact, good fats—such as omega-3 fats—are absolutely essential not only to your physical health but your emotional well-being.
Making sense of dietary fat
A walk down the grocery aisle will confirm our obsession with low-fat foods. We’re bombarded with supposedly guilt-free options: baked potato chips, fat-free ice cream, low-fat candies, cookies, and cakes. But while our low-fat options have exploded, so have obesity rates. Clearly, low-fat foods and diets haven’t delivered on their trim, healthy promises.
Despite what you may have been told, fat isn’t always the bad guy in the waistline wars. Bad fats, such as saturated fats and trans fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed for—weight gain, clogged arteries, and so forth. But good fats such as the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3s have the opposite effect.
As a matter of fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight.
The answer isn’t cutting out the fat—it’s learning to make healthy choices and to replace bad fats with good ones that promote health and well-being.
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Peanut oil
- Sesame oil
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
- Peanut butter
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)
- High-fat cuts of meat (beef, lamb, pork)
- Chicken with the skin
- Whole-fat dairy products (milk and cream)
- Ice cream
- Palm and coconut oil
- Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough
- Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips)
- Stick margarine
- Vegetable shortening
- Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish)
Saturated fats: Reduce this bad fat
When focusing on healthy fats, a good place to start is reducing your consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as red meat and whole milk dairy products. Poultry and fish also contain saturated fat, but less than red meat. Other sources of saturated fat include tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil and palm oil.
Simple ways to reduce saturated fat
- Eat less red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and more fish and chicken
- Go for lean cuts of meat, and stick to white meat, which has less saturated fat.
- Bake, broil, or grill instead of frying.
- Remove the skin from chicken and trim as much fat off of meat as possible before cooking.
- Avoid breaded meats and vegetables and deep-fried foods.
- Choose low-fat milk and lower-fat cheeses like mozzarella whenever possible; enjoy full-fat dairy in moderation.
- Use liquid vegetable oils such as olive oil or canola oil instead of lard, shortening, or butter.
- Avoid cream and cheese sauces, or have them served on the side.
|Sources of Saturated Fats||Healthier Options|
|Cheese||Low-fat or reduced-fat cheese|
|Red meat||White meat chicken or turkey|
|Cream||Low-fat milk or fat-free creamer|
|Eggs||Egg whites, an egg substitute or tofu|
|Ice cream||Frozen yogurt or reduced fat ice cream|
|Whole milk||Skim or 1% milk|
|Sour cream||Plain, non-fat yogurt|
Sources of trans fats
Many people think of margarine when they picture trans fats, and it’s true that some margarines are loaded with them. However, the primary source of trans fats in the Western diet comes from commercially-prepared baked goods and snack foods:
- Baked goods – cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and some breads like hamburger buns
- Fried foods – doughnuts, French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
- Snack foods – potato, corn, and tortilla chips; candy; packaged or microwave popcorn
- Solid fats – stick margarine and semi-solid vegetable shortening
- Pre-mixed products – cake mix, pancake mix, and chocolate drink mix
Price: $11.25 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25.
You Save: $3.75 (25%)