With all the fad diets coming in and out of style, a woman's true nutritional needs may be overlooked. Women have different nutritional needs than men, and this should be reflected in their diet. In general, women need fewer calories than men, depending on their weight and physical activity levels.

In addition to the special nutritional needs of pregnancy and lactation, women need to take care to avoid iron deficiency anemia and osteoporosis. By getting back to the basics of healthy eating, women can optimize weight loss and increase their overall health.

Since women lose iron during menstruation, an iron-rich diet is important. Eating meat and fish several times a week will usually provide sufficient iron. Vegetarians should eat plenty of iron-fortified grains, beans, lentils, and green leafy vegetables. Since women are more prone to osteoporosis, adequate calcium intake is also important. To get enough calcium without too many calories, women should choose low-fat milks, cheeses, and yogurts, along with broccoli and green leafy vegetables.

For weight control and disease prevention, women should pay special attention to the fat content of their diet. Calories from fat should account for no more than 30% of total caloric intake (no more than 10% saturated fat). The easiest way for a woman to meet her nutritional needs is to plan a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products (or alternative calcium sources), and lean meats and fish. The well-balanced diet has never gone out of style.

Marlene Veloso