With so much high-fat, high-calorie, not to mention, high-sugar foods so easily at hand, it is no big surprise that many women suffer with a weight problem. However, to eat healthily it is not just a matter of women eating less but understanding how their diets need to differ from men and what their nutritional needs are.
The basics - calories
It's surprising how many women are not aware of even the most basic facts about recommended amounts. So, just to be clear, an average woman needs around 2,000 calories a day and potentially more if she is fairly active. This compares to more than 2,500 for men. Of course, you caloric intake will vary depending on such stats as your BMI (body mass index) and also your muscle size. In general, men have larger muscles than women which burn up far more calories, even when not exercising.
As well as being aware of the top end of the calorie count it is also worth noting not to go below say 1,200 - 1,400 calories or you could mess up your metabolism which means that your body will start to break down energy from muscles rather than fat. An extreme calorie reduction can lead to yo-yo dieting which can you leave in a constant emotional flux of craving and then denial.
Check the calorie content on foods and don't just guess. What sounds healthy might be the absolute opposite, as marketing people are really good at branding products to attract women who are watching their weight.
The basics - sugar
What is it about chocolate that has so many women raving about it? Well, to be honest, it does have lots of great pluses such as apparently making you feel happy! However, eat too much and you will soon slump after a huge sugar rush. Even if you are not chowing down on the chocolate, there is sugar in so many foods, including fruit.
In recent times, the average intake of sugar in the US has been around 19 teaspoons per day. When you compare this with the recommended maximum of six teaspoons for women, you don't need to be a mathematical wizard to work out that we are all consuming too much. Perhaps women are sweet enough already because they need less than men who can consume 50% more sugar.
Avoiding baked and processed foods is a good way to cut down on added sugars and if you feel that your sweet tooth is a little out of control then you might want to drastically reduce your sugar intake until you can go back to eating sugar in a regular way.
Cut out sugary drinks and make sure you are getting enough water. Coconut water can be a nice alternative too. Be aware of low fat foods which are often high in sugar instead.
The basics - fat
Women who are overweight often focus solely on one food and label this the baddy. It is easy to see why fat has come under attack as it can certainly help women pile on the pounds. There are more calories in fat for a start, with nine calories per gram, compared to less than half that with carbs and protein. However, we need fat and it is essential for your everyday functions. In general around 25-35% of your calories should be coming from fats, which is 70g, compared to 95g for men.
Fat can help you absorb vitamins and can therefore be of real benefit. What you need to concentrate on is so-called 'bad fats' or saturated fats, of which you need less than 7% of your total daily calories from. Less than 1% of calories should be made up of trans fats. Women should not be consuming more than 16g of saturated fat per day.
Read labels, as once you start looking at the amount of fat you are consuming you might be shocked to find out that even when you think you are eating fairly healthily you are actually exceeding your recommended daily dose.
Next month we will look at what other ways women's diets need to differ. Stay tuned!