At every stage of life, good nutrition plays an integral role in women’s health. It’s a common belief in some circles that a healthy diet is unaffordable or too difficult. Social norms and culture play a role too. Women are constantly exposed to advertisements and the media which are saturated with very thin aspirational women so it’s not surprising that people have the idea that thin is good and women feel they have to starve themselves to be attractive.
A recent study evaluated articles and advertisements featuring weight loss topics and products in women’s health and fitness magazines. The most popular topics discussed were exercising and dieting, and the most prevalent weight loss products portrayed included weight loss pills, fat burners, hunger reduction strategies and fat blockers. Overall, the study found that 40% of the claims were either false or misleading.
No wonder some women feel as though it is nearly impossible to eat healthfully. Thankfully, eating a balanced diet and achieving a healthy lifestyle is easier than most think.
- Don’t skip meals. Eating three meals with snacks in between is the best way to maintain your energy. You are more likely to choose foods that are not as nutrient dense when you skip meals and become overly hungry. Plan ahead! Always take food or balanced snacks with you if you are on the go.
- Avoid too much added sugar. Sugary drinks (i.e. soda, sports drinks, sweet teas, sweetened coffees, etc.) are major energy dense culprits. They contain lots of calories but very little, if any, nutrients. Try sugar-free powder mixes or sweetening water with fruits.
- Iron is one of the keys to good health and energy levels for women. Iron-rich food sources include red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils, and fortified breads and cereals.
- For healthy bones and teeth, eat a variety of calcium-rich foods every day. Calcium-rich foods include low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, sardines, and calcium-fortified foods like juices and cereals.
- Be mindful when eating. Slow down when you eat. Try to pace yourself so that your meals last at least 20 minutes, and 10 minutes for snacks. Listen to your body. Eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full will help you find a balance. Take note of any patterns; are you eating because you’re hungry, bored, stressed, or sad?
- Avoid fad diets or fad foods. You do not need to buy low-carb, gluten-free, fat-free, or diet foods. These foods are typically not lower in calories and are usually loaded with other ingredients such as salt and sugar to replace what was removed.
- Avoid negative food thoughts. Most foods can be part of healthy eating. The key is finding a balance that works for you. Avoid over indulging on foods high in saturated fat, trans-fat and added sugar. Instead, focus on nutrient-dense foods most days with an occasional indulgence with NO guilt.
- Move every day. If you can’t set aside a block of time, do short activities throughout the day, such as three 10-minute walks. Choose activities that are fun and easy to fit into your life. Mix up your activities to avoid boredom.
YOU are more than just a number on a scale. Loving yourself and being healthy is more important than any health craze or fad diet.
An analysis of weight loss articles and advertisements in mainstream women’s health and fitness magazines: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4932226/.
Healthy Eating for Women: http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/healthy-eating-for-women.