Essential Nutrients for Women while Cutting Calories

Reviewed by Sharon Denny, MS, RDN
table with almonds, mushrooms, blueberries, peppers, strawberries - Essential Nutrients for Women while Cutting Calories

Marilyn Barbone/istock

Healthy weight management for adult women — like any other age — is all about energy balance. That means eating smarter and moving more. Unfortunately, when trying to lose weight, busy women tend to limit some of the very foods they need the most. Here are some tasty ways to get the essential energizing nutrients your body craves and to cut back on unnecessary calories at the same time.


The biggest problem with low-carb diets is they restrict your body's preferred energy source. If you want to cut back on calories from carbohydrates, focus on reducing your intake of soft drinks, candy and other foods with added sugars. To maximize your energy level and your long-term health, look to nutrient-rich carbohydrates. Enjoy the great taste of whole and fortified grains (6 to 7 servings per day, at least half of them fiber-rich whole grains). Also eat fruits (2 cups) and vegetables (2½ cups) every day.


Women sometimes cut back on protein foods to avoid fat. However, one of the most satisfying ways to eat and control weight is to include lean protein in every meal. Try low-fat dairy foods, eggs, lean meats, poultry, seafood, nuts and beans (a total of 6 ounces per day). Protein may be especially helpful in the morning. Add some protein to breakfast and you'll probably be satisfied until lunchtime. Chances are you won't be as tempted by all those high-fat, sugary mid-morning snacks.


Low iron intakes can lead to serious problems such as iron-deficiency anemia, the most common nutrient deficiency for women and children. To prevent anemia and fatigue, be sure to get a minimum of 15 milligrams of iron per day. Pump up your intake with excellent iron sources, such as lean red meat and iron-fortified cereals. Other good sources include poultry, fish, beans and leafy green vegetables.


Calcium does a lot more than build strong bones and teeth. Getting enough calcium helps keep your heart and muscles strong and may help prevent high blood pressure and colon cancer too. Those are plenty of reasons to enjoy high-calcium foods, such as low-fat dairy (milk, cheese and yogurt); tofu; green leafy vegetables; and calcium-fortified fruit juices. Aim for at least 1,000 milligrams per day (more if you are younger than 18 or older than 50).

Folic Acid

Every woman of childbearing age needs 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. That's what it takes to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects by 75 percent. Folic acid can also boost your immune function by producing disease-fighting white blood cells. Get your folic acid from tasty, nutrient-rich foods, such as enriched grain products, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, oranges, berries, nuts and beans.

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