Young women need a balanced diet to fuel their active bodies and minds. But at this point in life, healthy eating sometimes becomes a challenge. College life can interrupt normal patterns of eating and sleep. In addition, hormonal changes may lead to conditions such as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, or unhealthy body image issues could develop. The best thing a young woman can do is to understand her own body and stay well, by adopting a healthy eating style, getting regular physical activity and rest, and maintaining a healthy body image.
Healthy Eating Style
Use these tips to eat healthfully:
- Eat a variety of foods from all of the MyPlate food groups, and more high-fiber whole foods such as beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Include lean protein with meals and snacks, such as lean cuts of beef and pork, chicken, turkey, seafood and eggs. Also try plant-based protein foods including tofu, beans and peas, nut butters, nuts and seeds.
- Choose foods with healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado and vegetable oils, including olive and canola oil.
- Include iron-rich foods for energy and good health. Sources include red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils and fortified breads and cereals.
- Limit excess calories from alcohol, late-night snacking and overeating at the college dining hall.
- Help alleviate symptoms of PMS by cutting down on sources of salt, caffeine and added sugars.
- Drink beverages such as regular and sparkling water, fat-free or low-fat milk, fortified soymilk, unsweetened teas and coffee.
Physical Activity and Rest
Young women should get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as walking, jogging, biking or dancing most days a week. In addition, do resistance training activities at least two days a week. This will help keep your muscles and bones strong. Resistance training may include free weights, wrist and ankle weights and resistance bands.
Physical activity is just as important as rest. On average, teens need nine to 10 hours of sleep every night and adults seven to eight. If you are having trouble sleeping, try meditating or reading a book before bed. Regular sleeping cycles can help increase your energy levels, which may affect your performance in school and have a positive impact on your health overall.
Positive Body Image
Having a healthy relationship with food and a positive body image are also important. Influences from peers and the media may cause young women to set unrealistic weight goals or develop a negative body image. It’s possible for people to be healthy at all different sizes and shapes. Understanding the weight range that is appropriate for you will help. Focusing on the health benefits of eating right and being physically active can help, too.
For more information, consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.