There’s a never-ending list of things that makes us women different from the guys. We smell better (usually), have no willpower against chocolate, and manage to keep the household running like a well-oiled machine. The differences don’t end there, though. Whether you’re happy at your current weight, trying to drop a few pounds, or getting your body ready for a baby, there are some special nutritional needs you should be aware of depending on your age and what stage of life you’re in.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following components of a healthy diet for weight maintenance:
Whole grains – three one-ounce servings
Dairy – three fat-free or low-fat servings
Proteins – five to six ounces of lean meats or other proteins, like beans
Fruit – two cups
Vegetables – two-and-a-half cups
This menu provides a nice balance of nutrients and serves as an excellent starting point. That being said, there are a few other nutritional needs that should be considered:
Low Iron or Iron Deficient Anemia (IDA) – Iron is used by the body to make hemoglobin, which is a protein inside the red blood cell that transports oxygen to all parts of the body. Low iron or not enough hemoglobin is known as iron deficient anemia. Women are at a higher risk for IDA if they have very heavy or long periods. Women can also become anemic after losing a significant amount of blood during childbirth. A diet rich in iron can ensure that the body has enough of it to produce healthy red blood cells. Eggs, dairy, fish, meat, poultry, certain green leafy vegetables, and iron-fortified foods, like ready-to-eat cereals, are good sources of iron. Your body can more easily absorb iron in the presence of vitamin C, so try adding strawberries to your cereal or having a glass of orange juice with your eggs.
Calcium – It’s common knowledge that bones need calcium to stay strong and healthy, but how many of us actually get the recommended three servings daily? Osteoporosis is a condition that results when bones become weak and brittle. Women are at a higher risk of developing the disease than men, so ladies, find some granola and dig into that yogurt! Other than dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, other calcium-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, certain grains, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, and garlic. Don’t forget about vitamin D, which works in the intestines to help the body absorb calcium. A half hour in the sun provides vitamin D for your body, along with shrimp, cod, eggs, and milk with added vitamin D.
Folic acid – Folic acid is a B vitamin that is used to make new cells. While everyone at every age needs folic acid, it is especially important for women of childbearing age to help protect a baby during development. Folic acid has been shown to prevent birth defects, especially in the brain and spine. Good sources include citrus fruit, leafy greens, fortified cereals, and dried beans and peas. While we always encourage the consumption of whole foods, folic acid is available in supplement form.
Regardless of age, all women can benefit from a plant-based diet that is low in alcohol and caffeine and includes a minimal amount of processed foods. And don’t skip the exercise, either! Start with a half hour each day and be sure to include cardio and weight training to keep your heart healthy and your skeleton strong. While us girls might not be able to lose weight at the drop of a hat, navigate rush hour traffic with ease, or resist the urge to spend every penny on shoes, we certainly can consume a healthy diet that provides all of the key nutrients that we need. Now all we need to do is get him to hand over the remote…
If you’re looking for an eating plan that is geared toward women, you’re sure to find all the info you need at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website at www.eatright.org. If you would like to meet with our registered dietitians to help construct a meal plan that is as unique as you are, please let us know! You could qualify for SIX FREE VISITS if your insurance plan qualifies! Contact us by phone or e-mail, or leave us a message on Facebook or Twitter: