Eating a balanced diet is important to provide energy, improve health and decrease risk for certain diseases. Women have special nutrient needs that change at each stage in life. Therefore, this month, we want to focus on providing healthy eating tips for UTMB’s “wonder women” to help boost their health as they continue to serve our community. Additional resources are also provided for more detailed information for meeting specific needs.
Start with a healthy eating plan. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables to help increase your intake of fiber. Try a variety—fresh, frozen or canned. Just make sure to avoid those with added sugars or salt. If you are interested in following a specific diet plan, try the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The DASH diet is a balanced eating plan that recommends increasing plant-based foods and decreasing saturated fats and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Choose healthy fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats that you can incorporate into your eating plan. Food sources include salmon, trout, tuna, avocados, vegetable oils and nuts. Aim to eat less saturated fat by opting for low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean sources of meat, and plant-based protein foods such as beans or lentils.
Vitamin D and calcium are important throughout all stages of life. Eat a variety of calcium-rich foods daily to ensure healthy bones and teeth. Include more milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, calcium-fortified cereals and juices, or non-dairy milk alternatives such as almond milk. Vitamin D also works to prevent decreases in bone density. Many sources of calcium will likely include fortified amounts of vitamin D, but vitamin D can also be found in fatty fish or eggs.
Don’t forget about iron and folate. Women have higher iron needs. Choose iron-rich foods like red meat, chicken, spinach, and fortified cereals to promote good health and energy levels. Folate is essential for women of childbearing age to decrease the risk of birth defects. Try eating more citrus fruits, leafy greens and fortified cereals.
Pair eating well with physical activity. Women are encouraged to participate in at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly. Meet this recommendation by doing something active, like walking, biking or attending an aerobics class, for at least 30 minutes daily. This may also help you reach or maintain a healthy weight to decrease your risk for chronic diseases.
Great resources to find more detailed information to meet your specific needs.