Women and diet – we are obsessed by it! Women probably think about their diet more than any other health related issue.

What is diet?

Diet is the sum total of the food/drink that an individual consumes. Most of us have dietary habits – this is the food and drink that we usually have and it is this which mainly determines our health as a result of diet.

The old adage ‘We are what we eat’ is so true. Tired, overweight or underweight women, who are prone to infections, rarely take a healthy, nutritious diet. Fit, healthy, attractive women usually take a generally healthy diet and have sound eating habits.

What we eat or drink occasionally will rarely have any bearing on our overall health. It is the breakfast, lunch and dinner that we eat each day, to say nothing of the in between snacks, that determine our dietary health.

What is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet consists of carbohydrates, proteins and a small amount of fats. It contains vitamins and minerals and a great deal of water.

Carbohydrates – most of our energy should come from carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, potatoes, bread and cereals. If these are complex carbohydrates, our body has to work harder to release the energy inside the food, for example brown rice, brown bread and jacket potatoes. These complex carbohydrates contain more fibre, so our digestive system has bulk inside it, making us less prone to constipation.

Carbohydrates provide high energy for us during our day. The amount we need depends upon the amount of energy we expend. A busy women who walks and runs and does a lot of physical activity will need a lot more carbohydrates than a woman who drives to work and does a desk job.

If we do not eat enough carbohydrates for the energy we require our body can also get energy from fat stores or protein, through muscle breakdown.

Proteins are vital to our body as they makes new cells and repair damages cells, such as antibodies, new muscle cells, skin cells. Protein is found in meat, fish, pulses, beans and dairy products.

Fats are essential to our bodies too. Certain fats are necessary for brain and nerve function, but only in small amounts and these ‘healthy’ fats tend to come from fish and vegetables, such as oily fish and olives and avocados. Animal fats, such as the fat on red meat, full fat butter, cheese and other dairy products should be kept to a minimum as they contain little dietary goodness and only serve to add fat to the linings of our arteries and around our hips! Not good news girls!

Vitamins and minerals are found in fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and enriched breads and cereals. Eating unlimited fruit and veg is allowed always!

What should women avoid in their diet?

An unhealthy diet is a diet which is imbalanced – it contains too many fats, for example, and not enough vitamins, minerals or proteins.

The many functions of the body rely upon nutrients from our diet. If these nutrients are not available then the body cannot repair cells, make new cells and we become prone to infections and disease.

Beware of the following foods and keep them to a minimum in your diet:

  • Takeaway foods such as pizza or curry – they usually contain a lot more fat that you would add at home
  • Red meat, especially if it has not had its fat trimmed off
  • Sugary drinks that contain sugar and little nutritional value
  • Cheese and nibbles at drinks parties – lots of fat content and often a lot of salt and sugar added too
  • Excess alcohol – the recommended amount of alcohol for the average women is 14 drinks per week (a drink refers to a small glass of wine, small bottle of beer or single measure of spirits). Also women are advised to have no more than 3 drinks at one time as this places undue pressure on the liver and the body systems as they break down the alcohol.

What about dieting and women?

Many women in their lives feel the need to diet. Classic times are:

  • After having a baby, especially when the baby becomes one and is no longer breastfeeding
  • After finishing an unhappy relationship
  • At times of change in their lives, such as starting a new job.

There is a myriad of diets available, many of them very expensive. Their undoubted value is the motivation they provide and the support they give you. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on special foods and programmes, then why not join together with a few friends and support each other and have a weekly ‘weigh in’.

The balance is simple. If you eat more energy foods than you require for your energy output (what you use up in a day) you will gain weight.

If you eat just the right amount of food and the right kind of food for your energy requirements, your weight will be stable.

If you eat less than you expend in energy, you will loose weight.

So eat less, eat healthily, exercise more.

Simple – I just saved you $100s!

Healthy tips for women and their diet

How to have a great time, maintain your weight and still eat a healthy diet:

  • Make sure your platters contain lots of veggie nibbles, not just chippies and dips. Choose humus or tomato based dips, rather than creamy dips.
  • Prepare lots of vegetables and fill your plate with them – don’t save money in this department either. Choose lovely, in season vegetables and enjoy!
  • Roast vegetables are simply delicious, with a little olive oil (spray if you are calorie counting). Cauliflower has never tasted better!
  • Ensure you cook plenty of rice or pasta as these have a lot less calories per spoonful than the meat or sauce you may serve with them
  • If you simply can’t resist pudding then have fruit based puddings, they are full of natural sugars and contain little or no fats
  • Dry white wine has less calories than beer or sweet wine
  • Drink lots of water, especially before a meal so you don’t overeat (hot water with a slice of lemon makes a good alternative in the winter)

For morning and afternoon tea have fruit and veg and salad in abundance in your pantry, so you can always find a nibble that you fancy.

Eat well, look great, feel great!

In this fully revised edition, a naturopathic physician shows women how to use the latest in natural therapies to heal your body and promote good health. This essential illustrated natural health resource for all women shows how women can use nutrition, lifestyle and natural therapies to keep themselves fit and well.

Useful articles

Women and Exercise gives some ideas on how to spend that time out effectively to leave you feeling great!

Women need time out in order to function effectively in their many roles in life – click here to read more about it.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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