Finding Food Balance

Women should enjoy a variety of foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Nutrient-rich foods provide energy for women’s busy lives and help to prevent disease.

A healthy daily diet includes:

  • At least three one-ounce servings of whole grains such as whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice or oats.
  • Three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products – such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese.
  • Five to six ounces of protein such as lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans or peas and nuts.
  • 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.

Iron is one of the keys to good health and energy levels in women. Iron-rich food sources include red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils and fortified breads and cereals. Plant-based sources of iron are more easily absorbed by your body when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods. So eat fortified cereal with strawberries on top, spinach salad with mandarin orange slices or add tomatoes to lentil soup.

To keep weight in check at any age, women should avoid a lot of excess calories from added sugars, fat and alcohol.

  • Limit regular soft drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, baked goods and fried foods.
  • Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
  • Opt for low-fat dairy and meat products instead of their full-fat counterparts.

Eat fewer foods that are high in saturated fat — the kind found in fatty meats, sausages, cheese and full-fat dairy products, baked goods and pizza.  This is not only good for your waistline, but really great for your heart health.

Balancing Calories Throughout Your Day

Snack time isn’t just for kids. It’s for grown-ups, too, and can be an important part of a healthy diet.  Snacks get such a bad rap, but really it is beneficial to have about three meals and one or two healthy snacks every day.  Having one or two healthy snacks in your day may help you get through that late afternoon slump and prevent you from eating too much at your next meal.  And healthy snacks can be really colorful and tasty, too!

Eating fruits and vegetables with snacks is always recommended because these are food groups most of us don’t get enough of, and they are the lowest calorie food groups, so we can eat a lot of them.  But did you know that you can mix and match healthy foods from any of the five food groups?

Worried about overdoing it?  Just keep your snacks to under 200 calories each.  So get creative with those lonely baby carrots — what else can you eat with them that you love?

How about hummus, low-fat yogurt dip, nuts, mango salsa, wheat crackers, bean dip?  Any of these choices are winning snacks that will taste great.

Other ideas include:

  • 4 ounces lean deli meat with 1 large fruit
  • Whole wheat crackers with 1 – 2% string cheese and 3-5 thin slices lunch meat
  • 1 pack Nature Valley granola bars and 1 – 2% string cheese
  • ½ peanut butter sandwich on whole grain (1 Tbs. PB) and 1 small apple
  • 2 oz beef or turkey jerky, 1 – 2% string cheese, 15 nuts
  • 1 light yogurt with 1 tablespoon lite cool whip and 1 fruit
  • Kashi TLC granola bar with 15 nuts
  • 10 pretzels with 1 Tbs. peanut butter
  • Chewy Quaker granola bar with 12 oz skim milk
  • 1 pack (of 6) peanut butter crackers
  • Homemade Trail Mix: 1 cup whole grain cereal, 15-20 nuts, 1-2 Tbs. dried fruit
  • Energy bar (South Beach Protein, Clif Mojo, Power Bar Harvest, Zone, Luna, Advantage Peanut Butter Granola)
  • 1 pack South Beach Cookies and 10 oz skim milk or a string cheese
  • 1 small banana, ½ peanut butter sandwich on wheat (1 Tbs. PB)
  • 1 light yogurt, ½ cup whole grain cereal mixed in and 15 almonds
  • 2 graham crackers, 1 Tbs. peanut butter, light yogurt
  • Slim Fast high protein drink

One or two healthy snacks that are carefully planned may keep you from overeating and provide valuable nutrients. Consider having at least one food group for a snack, if not two.  For example, consider having a fruit and a protein for a snack, such as applesauce and pistachio nuts.

Combining nutrients this way helps that snack to do its job as a mini meal.  The carbohydrates will give you immediate energy, while the protein takes longer to digest. Please don’t mistake healthy snacking for grazing throughout the day.

Eat snacks that are under 200 calories.  This fits for most adults, but you may need more or fewer calories for snacks based on your physical activity level and how your calories are divided into your other meals.

Healthy snacks are limited only by your imagination.  Many meal items in small portions make great snacks, too, such as a ½ sandwich or cup of soup.  And a piece of whole fruit, handful of nuts, or a slice of veggie pizza makes quick snacks.

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