Female Diet & Nutrition
If a person eats a balanced and varied diet that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, gets enough calcium, avoids high fat and sugar content (like fast food), drinks six 8-ounce glasses of water, and exercises daily, he or she should be healthy.
However, if you are worried about your nutrition or weight, it is very important that you talk with your doctor about your concerns. There are many diets and supplements that can be dangerous to your health.
- What is a healthy diet?
- Nutritional Needs & Diet Changes With Age
- Obese vs. Overweight
- Nutrition & Diet Information for Female Athletes
- Determining Daily Fat Intake with a Healthy Diet
What is a healthy diet?
The United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services have jointly issued a complete report on a healthy diet titled "Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
Healthy diets follow the food guide "pyramid," which recommends:
- 6-11 servings of complex carbohydrates
- 2-3 servings each of fruits and vegetables
- 1-2 servings each of dairy products
- Proteins like meat, tofu, or beans
- Sparing use of added fats and sugars
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Nutritional Needs & Diet Changes With Age
The effects of a woman's diet on her children start long before she becomes pregnant. Stores of fat, protein, and other nutrients built up over the years are called upon during pregnancy for fetal nourishment.
During adolescence and early adulthood, women need to increase foods rich in calcium to build peak (maximum) bone mass to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis – a progressive loss of bone with aging that causes bones to be more susceptible to fracture. All women need more iron than men since younger women lose iron through menstruation.
Caloric intake varies for each person based on age, gender, and activity level.
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Obese vs. Overweight
The words obesity and overweight are generally used interchangeably. However, according to the Institute of Medicine report, their technical meanings are not identical. Overweight refers to an excess of body weight that includes all tissues, such as fat, bone, and muscle. Obesity refers specifically to an excess of body fat.
It is possible to be overweight without being obese, as in the case of a body builder who has a substantial amount of muscle mass. It is possible to be obese without being overweight, as in the case of a very sedentary person who is within the desirable weight range but who nevertheless has an excess of body fat.
However, most overweight people are also obese and vice versa. Men with more than 25 percent and women with more than 30 percent body fat are considered obese. The USFDA has released a chart detailing recommended weights relative to height; women should be in the lower end of their appropriate weight range, according to the chart.
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Nutrition & Diet Information for Female Athletes
Although there are few governmental sources of information on this topic, try searching Healthfinder to access government-selected (though not necessarily endorsed) information sources. At PAMF we have certified sports dietitians that work with teens.
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Determining Daily Fat Intake with a Healthy Diet
Your personal "fat allowance" depends on how many calories you take in each day. Remember, the total fat in your diet should average no more than 30 percent of your calories, and saturated fat should be no more than 10 percent.
The total fat and saturated fat grams you should eat depends on how many calories you consume each day. Check food labels to find out the number of fat grams (total and saturated) in each serving.
* – Amounts are equal to 30 percent of total calories (rounded down to the nearest 5); the recommendation is to eat this much or less.
** – Amounts are equal to 9 percent of total calories; the recommendation is to eat less than 10 percent of total calories as saturated fat. Each gram of fat is equal to 9 calories.
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Food and Nutrition Information Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.