Women and Eating and Health

Sure, you’ve heard it thousands of times…you are what you eat.  Make healthy choices.  Facts are, when you eat healthy studies show everyone in your household does as well.

Think of healthy eating as both wellness enhancing and disease prevention.  It means choosing different types of healthy food from all of the food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins), most of the time, in the correct amounts for you. Healthy eating also means not eating a lot of foods with added sugar, sodium (salt), and saturated and trans fats.

What is healthy eating?

Healthy eating also means getting nutrients primarily from food rather than from vitamins or other supplements. Some women might need vitamins, minerals, or other supplements at certain times in life like before or during pregnancy. But most women, most of the time, should get their essential nutrients from what they eat and drink.

What you eat and drink is influenced by where you live, the types of foods available in your community and in your budget, your culture and background, and your personal preferences. Often, healthy eating is affected by things that are not directly under your control, like how close the grocery store is to your house or job. Focusing on the choices you can control will help you make small changes in your daily life to eat healthier.

How Many Calories do I need?

The amount of calories you need is based on your physical activity level, age, height, weight, and other unique health considerations, such as whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What does healthy eating look like?

Use MyPlate as a guide to build a healthy diet. Think about filling your plate with foods from the five food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy — at each meal. Snacks can be a good way to fill in fruits and whole grains you might have missed at meals. Most of us don’t need complicated calorie counting programs or special recipes for healthy eating.

Some simple tips to improve your eating habits are to eat more vegetables, snack on fruit more often, and cook at home more each week.

  • Fruits and vegetables. Everyone needs to eat fruits and vegetables every day. Try to fill about half of your plate with fruits or vegetables at meals. Most women do not get enough fruits and vegetables. Eat whole fruit (not juice) and try different types of vegetables during the week.
  • Protein. Eat different types of foods with protein, including seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and soy products. Most women do not eat enough seafood to meet weekly recommendations of 8 to 10 ounces (or about two servings a week).4
  • Grains. Make at least half your grains whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, or whole-wheat bread. Most women do not eat enough whole grains.5
  • Dairy. Women should get 3 cups of dairy each day, but most women get only half that amount.6 If you can’t drink milk, try to eat low-fat plain yogurt or low-fat cheese. Dairy products are among the best food sources of the mineral calcium, but some vegetables such as kale and broccoli also have calcium, as do some fortified foods such as fortified soymilk, fortified cereals, and many fruit juices. Most girls ages 9 to 18 and women older than 50 need more calcium for good bone health.
  • When cooking try to use oils from plants instead of solid fats like butter, margarine, or coconut oil. See this list of oils and fats to see how healthy each type of cooking oil and solid fat is. Most women eat too much solid fat through packaged foods like chips or salad dressing, and not enough healthy fats like olive oil or the type of fat in seafood.

Healthy eating means not eating a lot of food with added sugars, saturated and trans fat, and sodium (salt). Healthy eating means eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy types of protein and dairy and not eating or drinking too many calories for your body type.

Does Healthy Eating include a specific diet or food type?

No. There is no one special ingredient or vitamin that will make you healthy and cure illness. One of the keys to healthy eating is your overall pattern of eating.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money, follow a very strict diet, or eat only specific types of food to eat healthy. Healthy eating is not about skipping meals or certain nutrients. Healthy eating is not limited to certain types of food, like organic, gluten-free, or enriched food. It is not limited to certain patterns of eating, such as high protein.

You also do not have to stop eating all of your favorite foods. You can eat a variety of foods, including less healthy favorites, as long as you don’t eat them all the time and keep the amount small.

Some diets have been shown by researchers to prevent disease and help people reach and maintain a healthy weight. Get started with one of these:

Healthy U.S.-style eating plan

Mediterranean-style eating plan

Vegetarian eating plan