Healthy eating plans for women

Confused about what kinds of foods you should be eating for your health? A healthy eating plan can help. A healthy eating plan should include foods from all the food groups so that you get all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need. This page breaks down the amount of each food group women at different ages should get each day.1 We’ve also included examples of common foods to show you how easy it can be to meet your daily needs.

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Women age 19–25

The eating plan listed below is based on a 2,200-calorie eating plan for moderately active women.

Fruits (whole fruit = 1 cup): 2 cups

Example: 1 apple, 1 orange

Vegetables: 3 cups

Example: 1 cup of black beans, 1½ cups of leafy salad greens, 6 baby carrots

Proteins: 6 ounces

Example: ½ cup of baked beans or 1 small steak (5½ ounces), ½ ounce of almonds

Grains (at least half should be whole grains): 7 ounces

Example: 1 cup of cereal, 2 slices of bread, 1 cup of pasta, 1 mini bag of unbuttered microwave popcorn

Dairy: 3 cups

Example: 1 cup of low-fat milk, 1 8-ounce container of yogurt, 1½ ounces of cheese, or equal amounts of calcium-fortified dairy-free products

Fats/Oils: 29 grams, or about 6 teaspoons

Example: 1 tablespoon of canola oil, ½ medium avocado

Women age 26–50

The eating plan listed below is based on a 2,200-calorie eating plan for moderately active women.

Fruits (whole fruit = 1 cup): 2 cups

Example: 1 cup of grapes, 1 mixed fruit cup

Vegetables: 2½ cups

Example: 1 cup of cooked broccoli, 1 large sweet potato, ½ chopped red bell pepper

Proteins: 5½ ounces

Example: 2 eggs, ½ cup of baked beans, 1 small steak

Grains (at least half should be whole grains): 6 ounces

Example: 1 cup of cereal, 2 slices of bread, ½ cup of pasta, 1 mini bag of unbuttered microwave popcorn

Dairy: 3 cups

Example: 1 cup of low-fat milk, 1 8-ounce container of yogurt, 1½ ounces of cheese, or equal amounts of calcium-fortified dairy-free products

Fats/Oils: 27 grams, or about 5 teaspoons

Example: 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 ounce of almonds, 1 teaspoon of olive oil

Women age 51+

The eating plan listed below is based on a 1,800-calorie eating plan for moderately active women.

Fruits (whole fruit = 1 cup): 1½ cups

Example: 1 banana, 1 snack container of applesauce

Vegetables: 2½ cups

Example: 1 cup of cooked green beans, 1 medium potato, ½ baked acorn squash

Proteins: 5 ounces

Example: ½ chicken breast, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, ¼ cup of black beans

Grains (at least half should be whole grains): 6 ounces

Example: 1 cup of cereal, 2 slices of bread, ½ cup of pasta, 1 mini bag of unbuttered microwave popcorn

Dairy: 3 cups

Example: 1 cup of low-fat milk, 1 8-ounce container of yogurt, 1½ ounces of cheese, or equal amounts of calcium-fortified dairy-free products

Fats/Oils: 24 grams, or less than 5 teaspoons

Example: 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 ounce of almonds

Feeling overwhelmed? Try just one of these tips at a time.

Start small with just one goal, and once you’ve figured out how to meet that goal most days of the week, pick another small goal. You’ll have a healthy eating plan in place before you know it!

  • Buy one piece of whole fruit at the grocery store for each day of the week.
  • Add at least one vegetable to one of your meals each day.
  • Switch your favorite yogurt for a plain yogurt with whole fruit.
  • Drink water with lemon rather than sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Add a premade salad to your dinner most nights of the week.
  • Buy one less treat or splurge food at the store (chips, cookies, ice cream, etc.) than you normally would.
  • Ask for brown rice instead of white rice when you order Chinese food.
  • Put out a bowl of whole fruit on your kitchen counter.
  • Buy seafood instead of beef or pork for one dinner a week.
  • Plan a meatless meal using beans or tofu once a week.
  • Switch a sugary breakfast item (sugary cereal, muffin, doughnut, etc.) with a whole-grain or protein item like oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, or an egg.
  • Ask friends or family for their favorite healthy recipes.
  • Order thin-crust or whole-wheat pizza.
  • Buy healthy snacks (nuts, dried fruit, whole-wheat crackers, low-fat cheese, precut vegetables, whole fruit, etc.) to have ready when you get hungry.
  • Go grocery shopping with a list of healthy options.
  • Use the salad bar at work, school, or restaurants to get more vegetables that day.
  • Switch from using butter to cook to using olive oil or other healthier oils.

Sources

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2016). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Tables A2-1 and A3-1.