We get it: sometimes, life gets in the way of prioritizing your healthy habits. If you feel like you’ve been putting your health on the back burner, now’s a great time to reprioritize (because you deserve to feel your best!). From May 12 to May 18, it’s National Women’s Health Week — the perfect opportunity to commit to building positive habits.
Not sure where to begin? No problem! Our complete guide will give you the tips and info you need — starting today — to help set you on the path to health and wellness.
1. Commit to healthy eating
Eating a well-balanced diet is one of the key components to living a healthier lifestyle. Don’t worry: that doesn’t mean you need to eat broccoli for every meal. Start by focusing on making healthy food choices the majority of the time and keeping your portion sizes in check.
Experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women’s Health, which leads National Women’s Health Week, suggest focusing on an overall healthy eating pattern, elements of which include the following:1
- Choose healthy foods from all of the food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein and healthy fats.
- Limit foods with added sugar, sodium, as well as saturated and trans fats.
- Structure your eating so that about half of each meal is composed of vegetables. Opt for whole fruits instead of fruit juice.
- Try to get your protein from a variety of sources, including eggs, lean meats, nuts, beans, peas, seafood and poultry.
- Make sure at least half of your grains are whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-grain bread.
- When using oils, opt for those made from plants, such as olive oil, rather than solid fats, such as butter or margarine.
Be sure to include fiber-rich foods in your diet, such as beans, fresh fruit, dark-green leafy vegetables, squash and nuts.
- If you’re between the ages of 19 and 30, you should be getting at least 28 grams of fiber per day.
- If you’re between 31 and 50, you need 25 grams.
- If you’re 51 or older, you need 22 grams daily.
- Getting enough fiber helps reduce your risk of developing health conditions common to many women, including heart disease, diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Calcium, vitamin D, and iron are especially important for women, so focus on foods that provide plenty of these nutrients. Dairy products are among the best sources of calcium; other sources include tofu and vegetables such as kale and broccoli.2 Vitamin D can be found in seafood, some fortified dairy products, and in egg yolks. You’ll also get vitamin D through sun exposure (don’t forget your sunscreen).3 Good sources of iron include white beans, spinach and lentils.4
Remember to always consult your physician before starting a weight loss program or making changes to your diet.
2. Stay active
No matter your age, experts recommend getting physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Not only can regular exercise help you maintain a healthy weight (or help support your weight loss goals), but it offers many other benefits. These include a reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes; and an improvement in your physical fitness, functional capacity and mental health.5
New to exercise? We’ve got you covered. Read our Beginner’s Guide to Exercise to get started!
While any amount of exercise is better than none, try and aim for at least 30 minutes a day, five days per week6 — and even more if you can swing it, as research has shown additional benefits with longer-duration, more-frequent or higher-intensity exercise. In addition to doing moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on most, if not all, days, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends doing muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week.5
3. Practice self-care – for your mind and body
When was the last time you did something just for yourself? Self-care is essential for your overall health and well-being, the Cleveland Clinic reports.7 Self-care is just what it sounds like – taking the time to care for yourself – just like you would a family member or loved one. And remember: taking time for yourself isn’t selfish. Sometimes putting your needs first can help you to take care of others in healthy and productive ways, and that’s nothing to feel guilty about!
Here are a few self-care ideas you can put into practice:
- Spend a quiet night in. Make a delicious healthy meal (try one of these 5-minute side dishes), watch one of your favorite movies or get lost in a great book. Take a relaxing bath and tuck in early!
- Treat yourself! Go to the spa for a facial, get a manicure or pedicure (or both!), or go shopping and pick out a new outfit.
- Unwind in nature. Find a local trail or path and take in nature’s beauty.
Want more? Check out these 10 self-care tips.
4. Get enough quality rest
The importance of sleep has been getting a fair amount of attention recently, and for good reason: According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, getting enough high-quality sleep is important not only for your mental and physical health, but for your quality of life and your safety.8
Sleep deficiency — which includes not only sleep deprivation, but a number of other factors, including not sleeping well, not getting all the different types of sleep your body needs or having a sleep disorder — is linked to a number of health conditions, including an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, obesity and stroke.9 It can also change the activity in some parts of your brain, leading to increased difficulty with decision-making and problem-solving; and it can affect your ability to control your emotions and behavior.
So treat your sleep with the reverence and respect it deserves. Commit to getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and do everything you can to make sure the sleep you get is of the highest quality.9
5. See your doctor at least once a year
Even if you aren’t sick, it’s important to see your healthcare practitioner every year for a well-woman visit. Depending on your age, these visits often include routine screenings and tests to help make sure you’re healthy, such as cholesterol screenings, blood pressure checks, Pap smears and osteoporosis screenings. They’re also a chance to make sure you’re up-to-date on other health screenings, such as mammograms, as well as your vaccines.
Since the recent measles outbreak, experts suggest that some adults may need a booster to confer maximum immunity; be sure to check with your doctor.10
In honor of National Women’s Health Week, we hope you take some of these tips and put them at the top of your list. After all, you deserve to feel your best and live your healthiest life!
If you’re looking to improve your health, Jenny Craig can help! By following our newest program, Rapid Results, you may experience a variety of health benefits beyond the scale. In fact, by losing as little as 5-10% of your body weight, you could experience benefits like improved cholesterol levels,11 better sleep12 and more. If you’re ready to lose weight or start your journey to better health — we’re here to help with delicious, balanced meals and dedicated one-on-one support. Your journey is just one click away — get started today!
Carole Anderson Lucia
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Reviewed By Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.