As you reach your 30s, bodily changes call for different dietary needs. Women in this stage of life will find that following the dietary habits of your teen years and 20s will not address nutritional needs, and can result in unwanted weight gain. Overall, your ideal diet will reflect the basic tenets of healthy eating — lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Consult your doctor before making any dramatic changes to your diet.
Changes in the 30s
Once you reach your 30s, your metabolism begins to slow down. Dietitian Marissa Lippert explains on the Culinate website that while the decrease is small — 1 to 2 percent per decade — it tends to result in your body producing more fat and less muscle. During this time, your bone density decreases as your body's ability to build new bone slows. Consuming foods that contribute to bone health become paramount as you enter this decade of life.
Appropriate Caloric Intake
As you get older, your body needs fewer calories to perform necessary functions. Your metabolism also slows down. This means that eating beyond the daily calorie needs for your age will lead to weight gain more quickly. The United States Department of Agriculture has established daily calorie guidelines based on age, sex and activity level. According to the guidelines, a 30-year-old woman should consume about 2,000 calories daily, while a woman 31 to 39 should stick to about 1,800 daily if she lives a sedentary lifestyle.
If your activity level equals walking 1.5 to 3 miles daily, increase your daily calories by about 200; if your activity level equals walking more than 3 miles daily, the guidelines suggest adding 400 calories to the base recommendation.
Getting adequate amounts of calcium is important in all stages of life, but it becomes of particular concern in your 30s, because this marks the start of decreased bone density in women. Lippert recommends getting at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Good sources include low-fat dairy products, calcium-fortified drinks like orange juice and soy milk, almonds, broccoli and leafy greens. If you feel you cannot meet your daily needs through diet, consult your doctor about supplementation. The forms your body absorbs best include calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, Lippert explain.
Registered dietitian Leslie Bonci, speaking to "Fitness" magazine, advises women in their 30s to increase their intake of antioxidants. While beneficial at all ages, as you reach this stage of life, your risk for cancer and other diseases increase, and the aging process can begin to take its toll. Antioxidants help fight aging and cell damage. Rich sources include fruits and vegetables such as berries and leafy greens, wine and dark chocolate, notes Bonci. Get the broadest range of antioxidants by eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables from across the color spectrum.
Keeping Energy High
A study led by Laura E. Murray-Kolb at Pennsylvania State University found that iron deficiency affected cognitive functioning in women. The research, published in the March 2007 edition of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” looked at the link between iron and mental function in women aged 18 to 35, and found that women with greater iron intake performed better and more quickly on cognitive function tests. Women in their 30s fall into the category of women with the greatest risk of deficiency. You should get about 18 mg of iron daily from sources like lean beef, pumpkin seeds, soybeans and breakfast cereals fortified with the mineral. Do not take iron supplements unless a doctor tells you to do so; excess iron can lead to numerous problems.
Eating to keep metabolism high can help combat the natural slowdown that starts around this time. Lippert recommends eating small protein-rich snacks between meals to boost metabolism and calorie-burning potential. She suggests things like an ounce of cheese with whole-grain crackers or an apple paired with a nut butter.
- Culinate.com: Eating Well from 30 to 60
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans Chapter 2: Adequate Nutrients
- "Fitness" magazine: What to Eat in Your 20s, 30s, 40s and Beyond; Karen Ansel, R.D.; August 2007
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Iron Treatment Normalizes Cognitive Function in Young Women; Laura E Murray-Kolb and John L. Beard; March 2007