March is National Nutrition Month and a reminder to focus on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound dietary habits. But for women, those habits can be difficult to maintain. Balancing the demands of work, family and school are just a few of the obstacles women face daily in the struggle to maintain a healthy diet. But the right food choices can not only support your mood, boost your energy, and help you maintain a healthy weight, they can also be a huge support through the different stages in a woman’s life.
As children, boys’ and girls’ dietary needs are very similar. But when puberty begins, women start to develop unique nutritional requirements. As we age and our bodies go through more physical and hormonal changes, our nutritional needs continue to evolve, making it important that our diets evolve to meet these changing needs.
Women should enjoy a variety of healthful foods from all the food groups, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat or fat-free dairy and lean protein. Nutrient-rich foods help provide energy for women’s busy lives and help to reduce the risk of disease. A daily healthy eating plan should regularly include:
- At least three, one-ounce equivalents of whole grains such as whole-grain bread, whole-wheat cereal flakes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or oats.
- Three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products including milk, yogurt or cheese; or calcium-fortified plant-based alternatives.
- Five to 5-and-a-half, one-ounce equivalents of protein such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds.
- Two cups of fruits — fresh, frozen or canned without added sugar.
- Two-and-a-half cups of colorful vegetables — fresh, frozen or canned without added salt.
While women tend to need fewer calories than men, their requirements for certain vitamins and minerals are much higher. Hormonal changes associated with menstruation, childbearing, and menopause mean that women have a higher risk of anemia, weakened bones, and osteoporosis, requiring a higher intake of nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin B9 (folate).
Be sure to check with your physician or a registered dietitian to discuss your exact nutrient needs based on your age, wellness and stage of life.
Many women tend to be prone to neglecting their own dietary needs. But by working with your physician on your unique nutritional needs, you can improve your energy and mood, combat stress, fight disease and be a healthier more vibrant you throughout your ever-changing life.