Healthy eating for healthy women

Eating well and keeping physically active is important for all women. Here are some simple nutrition tips to help women of various ages look and feel their best.

Simple nutrition tips for women to stay fit and healthy

Throughout May, the Heart Foundation runs its national For Women campaign. The goal is to empower and educate women on how to take charge of their heart health.

Eating well and keeping physically active is important for all women. As we move through the different stages of life, our nutritional needs change.

The Tick Team offers simple nutrition tips to help women of various ages look and feel their best.

Let’s start with teens

Adolescence is a time of rapid change – physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. As you juggle school, sports, socialising and sleep, it’s important to understand the value of maintaining a healthy eating pattern.

  • Enjoy the goodness of vegetables and fruit at every meal. They are a great addition to smoothies or as a quick, portable snack.
  • Always make time for a nourishing breakfast before school.
  • Choose whole grain breads and cereals. They provide a great source of energy for growth, sports and fitness.
  • Keep an eye on your iron. As a teenage girl, you have a higher risk of not achieving daily iron needs. Lean red meat, poultry, seafood, fortified breakfast cereals, legumes and eggs all provide some form of iron.
  • Your bones are growing rapidly so be sure to get plenty of calcium. Calcium-rich foods (like milk, yoghurt, cheese and tofu) support the development of strong bones.

Developing healthy habits and making the right food choices now, will set you up for a healthy future.

Moving through to mum

Nutrition deserves special attention if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Eating well to meet your increased nutritional needs and doing moderate physical activity, helps protect the long-term health of you and your baby.

When you’re preparing for pregnancy, are pregnant or breastfeeding, normally you don’t need to make drastic changes to your diet. Continue to eat a variety of healthy foods, drink plenty of water and keep active.

But there are some important things to be aware of particularly around: vitamins, minerals, alcohol and food safety. Take time to read more about healthy eating during pregnancy and breastfeeding. You can find out more about nutrition and breastfeeding on www.healthed.govt.nz (search using term 'breastfeeding').

For individual nutrition advice, chat to your GP or healthcare professional.

Taking care of your heart

Heart disease is often thought of as a ‘male problem’, but it’s actually the biggest killer of women in New Zealand. It can affect women of all ages, so it’s important to take care of your heart throughout your lifetime.

Good nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight will help protect your heart. A heart healthy dietary pattern is based largely on minimally processed foods. It also includes: plenty of vegetables and fruit; some whole grains in place of refined grains; legumes; nuts; seeds; and other sources of healthy fats such as oily fish. It may also contain non-processed lean meats or poultry and/or dairy.

Other risk factors you can control to reduce your risk of a heart attack include: smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, physical activity and alcohol intake.

As we age

Maintaining a healthy body weight and including physical activity in your day can help you enjoy independence and a better quality of life. You may have a smaller appetite than when you were younger, so it’s important to make each bite count when it comes to nutrition.

  • Choose a variety of foods every day from the four food groups.
  • As we grow older, we lose our sensitivity to thirst. It's important to drink fluids regularly (including water, tea, coffee or milk) even when you don't feel thirsty.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for bone health. Enjoy calcium-rich foods like milk, yoghurt, cheese, tinned fish (with bones) nuts and tofu. To help boost your Vitamin D levels, pop outside for a walk in the sun around midday.
  • Regular activity and high-fibre foods will help keep your bowels healthy.
  • Vitamin B12 plays a role in normal blood and brain function. This can be found in animal foods like meat, eggs or dairy, or fortified foods.
  • Dine with others – good company can help make meals a lot more enjoyable. 

No matter what age you are, embracing a healthy lifestyle can help you feel better inside and out.

Keep an eye for the Heart Foundation Tick and Two Ticks during your next grocery shop. The Tick helps you make healthier food choices compared to similar products. Two Ticks is only found on core foods for a healthy diet.