Sneak Peek: New Healthy Eating and Exercise Content

Eating well and getting active are two of the best things we can do for our health, so it makes sense that there is an overwhelming amount of advice out there on these topics. But with all the competing information, it can be hard to know where to start and what’s best for you.

Nicole GreeneHere’s the good news — the Office on Women’s Health can help! We recently updated our healthy eating and physical activity information so that everything you need is in one place. Plus, we’re focused on answering questions that will help you make the best decisions for you and your body. But you don’t have to take my word for it! Check out the six questions below. They’re just a sampling of what we have on womenshealth.gov.

  1. Healthy eating: Does it include a specific diet or type of food?

No. There is no one special ingredient or vitamin that will make you healthy and cure illness. Healthy eating is more about your overall eating pattern. To eat healthy, you want to choose different types of healthy foods from all the food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins — most of the time and in the amounts you need. (Tip: If you’re not sure what you should eat every day, check out our information on women’s daily needs based on age group.) You’re allowed to enjoy your favorite (and less healthy foods) in moderation, but a healthy eating pattern limits foods with added sugars, saturated and trans fat, and salt.

Here’s what healthy eating DOESN’T mean: Following a strict diet; eating only specific types of foods, like organic or gluten-free food; or skipping meals and certain nutrients unless you have a medical diagnosis.

  1. Making healthy changes: Where do I start?

The key is to start small. Try eating more vegetables, snacking on fruit more often, and cooking at home more each week. (Did you know studies show that people who eat at home more often eat healthier and have a healthy weight?) Here are some goals you can set to help yourself eat healthier:

  • Add a salad to your dinner most nights. You can pick up premade options at the store to save yourself time.
  • Buy one piece of whole fruit, like apples and oranges, for each day of the week. These make great snacks when you need a morning or afternoon pick-me-up.
  • Plan out your meals for the week ahead of time. Then make a healthy grocery list — and stick to it!
  1. Women and calories: How many do I need?

This number is unique to you! The number of calories you need is based on your physical activity level, age, height, weight, and other health considerations, such as whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. (Tip: MyPlate can help you figure out how many calories you need each day.)

On average, women need about 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day. If you’re really active, you might need more than that.

  1. Physical activity: How much should I do?

Any physical activity is better than none, but here are the amounts all women should aim for each week:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking. This is about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
  • Or, you can do 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as jogging, hiking, or a step class.
  • And, muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days a week. You can try lifting weights, using exercise bands, or using your own body weight with exercises like push-ups and sit-ups.

Regular exercise can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and risk of diseases like breast cancer and heart disease, just to name a few benefits.

  1. Getting active: What are some tips to help me get started?

If you’re new to exercise or it’s been a while, walking is a great place to start. You don’t need fancy clothes or equipment, just comfortable walking shoes and a safe place to walk. If you’d rather get moving in the privacy of your home, you can do that, too! Try dancing to your favorite music, finding a workout video online, or renting a DVD from your library. Tip: Start slowly and choose activities you enjoy!

  1. Exercise and aging: How does it help me?

Physical activity can help with your health as you age by keeping your bones strong, preventing you from breaking a hip, decreasing pain from arthritis, and preventing dementia. Regular exercise also can help you maintain the independence to do everyday activities like getting dressed, using the bathroom, bathing, and eating.

Do you have more questions about healthy eating and getting active? Explore womenshealth.gov today! Our content covers additional topics, including reading nutrition labels, food allergies and sensitivities, working out and your period, and staying safe during exercise. If you need help finding specific information on our site, you can call our Helpline at 1-800-994-9662.