The 8th annual National Women's Health Week kicks off on Mother's Day, May 13, and continues with National Women's Checkup Day on the 14th.
The theme for the week is, "It's Your Time: Pamper Your Mind, Body and Spirit." National Women's Health Week encourages women to take simple steps for a longer, healthier and happier life.
"Eating healthfully is one of the most important things women can do to achieve and maintain good health," says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
"Each day brings the opportunity to eat more healthfully," the nutritionist asserts, adding, "Even if you’ve not eaten nutritiously in the past, you can make changes in your diet that will help you have more energy and lower your risk of disease."
The USDA MyPyramid serves as a guide for foods that will lead to better health. Plan meals and snacks that include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, lower-fat meat and dairy products from these food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and lean meat and beans.
Women, on average, require fewer calories than men, but their need for vitamins and minerals is just as high, Reames explains, noting that the challenge for women is to get the nutrients needed while eating less food.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture information, women are far less likely to eat the minimum number of servings of grains, vegetables, dairy foods and meat and protein foods.
Women are at higher risk than men for osteoporosis. Reames says this risk occurs because women, compared with men, generally consume less calcium, have smaller bodies and bone mass and live longer. The hormonal changes occurring after menopause also accelerate bone loss.
Three servings from the milk group supplies about 900 milligrams of calcium. Adult women need 1,000-1,200 milligrams daily to keep bones strong. Besides dairy products, good sources of calcium are calcium-fortified cereals and soy drinks, tofu made with calcium sulfate, canned salmon and sardines and leafy, dark green vegetables.
Reames says to think positive about improving your diet, but avoid some common pitfalls that may sabotage your plan. For example, "I’ll just have a salad for lunch" often backfires, because lettuce salads aren’t filling, and you may end up snacking later.
Also, if you use a big helping of dressing on your salad you may get more calories and fat than a sandwich, fruit and skim milk meal. Many dressings have between 8 and 15 grams of fat and 100-150 calories per tablespoon.
Another pitfall is, "I’m too busy to eat." If you skip breakfast or lunch, you won’t have the energy you need for the day’s activities. Many people who skip meals often overeat later.
"Milk is for kids." This pitfall overlooks the fact that strong bones and teeth are important for everyone, especially for older women. Some nutrition experts estimate that just one in 25 women older than 60 consumes enough calcium. Milk and yogurt are convenient, easy-to-consume, inexpensive sources of calcium and protein that promote healthy bones and teeth.
For additional information about eating healthfully using the USDA MyPyramid, contact the LSU AgCenter Extension agent in your parish.