Plan meals by trying to include all food groups daily:
• Whole grains, such as whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice, quinoa, barley, rye or oats.
• Low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese.
• Protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, lean meat, beans, lentils or peas.
• Fruit such as apples, berries, melon, oranges, bananas and pears. Variety is important.
• Vegetables such as leafy greens, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, mushrooms, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots. Orange and dark green vegetables are especially important for the nutrients that they provide.
• Healthy fats include olive oil, canola oil, nuts and seeds, nut butters and avocado, fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and bluefish.
Limit added sugars, fat, alcohol and salt
• Limit regular soft drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages, juice, candy, baked goods and fried foods.
• Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day.
• Choose low-fat dairy and meat products instead of their full-fat versions. Avoid processed meats (i.e. salami, bologna, hotdogs, pepperoni) as much as possible.
• Limit processed foods and fast foods.
• Avoid adding salt at the table.
Special nutrient needs
Low iron levels can be caused by a women’s menstrual cycle or a problem with iron absorption. Iron-rich food sources include red meat, poultry, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils and fortified breads and cereals. Plant sources of iron are better absorbed when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods. For example, squeeze lemon juice on spinach.
Adequate folic acid is important for women in their childbearing years to decrease risk of birth defects. Consume adequate amounts of folic acid daily from fortified foods (some cereals, rice, or breads), foods that naturally contain folate (leafy greens, dry beans, peas, citrus fruits and avocado) or supplements.
Women need adequate calcium to help keep bones strong and prevent osteoporosis, a bone disease in which the bones become weak and break easily. Some high calcium foods include low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines and calcium-fortified foods like juices, soymilk and cereals. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium. Many people in the northeast are vitamin D deficient, because we don’t get enough sunshine.
Make exercise a priority. It is an important part of a women’s health. Regular daily activity helps with weight control, muscle strength, disease prevention and stress management. There are so many ways to be active. It is important to find something that you enjoy.
A registered dietitian can help to customize your eating plan. To schedule an appointment with an outpatient dietitian, call central scheduling at (781) 338-7111.