U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration

My Bright Future: Physical Activity And Healthy Eating Guide for Adult Women

Getting Started: Questions to answer on your own and talk about with your health care provider.

Health Care Provider: Ideas on how to start a conversation with your health care provider and examples of questions you can ask.

My Health Care Visit: Section for your health care provider to fill out during your visit.

Setting My Goals: Charts for setting goals with your health care provider (or on your own).

What I Should Know: Information and ideas to help you reach your goals.

Hints for Reaching My Goals: More ideas to help you meet your goals.

Getting More Information: Other resources to help you.

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Getting Started

This section asks questions about your current levels of physical activity (moving your body) and healthy eating. Please check the boxes that best answer each question.

Physical Activity

1. How many days a week do you do physical activities?

2. How much time do you spend being physically active on a typical day?

3. What types of physical activity do you enjoy doing? (Check all that apply.)

4. What are some of the reasons that keep you from being as physically active as you’d like to be? (Check all that apply.)

Healthy Eating

5. On a typical day, how often do you have foods from the milk group? For example, how often do you drink milk, add milk to your cereal, or eat yogurt or cheese?

6. On a typical day, how often do you eat foods from the meat and beans group, such as hamburger, chicken, turkey, fish, pork, peanut butter, eggs, nuts, dried beans, or tofu?

7. On a typical day, how often do you eat foods from the grains group, such as cereal, rice, pasta, breads, tortillas, couscous, bagels, pita bread, or crackers?

8. On a typical day, how often do you eat fruit or drink 100% fruit juice?

9. On a typical day, how often do you eat vegetables or drink 100% vegetable juice?

10. On a typical day, do you think about or do any of the following? (Check all that apply.)

11. What are some of the reasons that keep you from eating as healthy as you’d like to?



“Since last year, I’ve gained a few pounds and don’t feel good with this extra weight. I started paying more attention to the things I eat, but knew that I had to start exercising. So I joined an exercise class at my church with a good friend. We kept each other going, and after 3 months, I’ve lost 10 pounds and found I have more energy. Not only that, but since I’ve had so much fun and made some great new friends, I’m going to keep up the classes.”

Linda, Springfield, Illinois

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Talking With My Health Care Provider

Many health care providers will answer your questions about physical activity and healthy eating. Let your provider know that you have some questions at the start of your visit or if he or she asks if there is anything that you’d like to talk about. Here are some examples of questions that you may want to ask.

In the space below, write questions that you would like to ask your health care provider.

My own questions:

  1. ________________________________________________________________
  2. ________________________________________________________________
  3. ________________________________________________________________

Share this booklet and the previous sections that you’ve completed with your health care provider. Remember to ask your questions.

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To Be Completed by My Health Care Provider

My Health Care Visit

These pages are for your health care provider to fill in. Now is the time for you and your health care provider to review the information in this booklet.

Date: ________________________________

Height (inches): ________________________

Weight (pounds): _______________________

BMI: ___________________

The body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight (not just weight alone). A BMI of 25 or higher means you are overweight or obese and at a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions. (Note: People who are muscular tend to have higher BMI scores without necessarily being overweight.)

[Illustration of a BMI Table]

Other measurements to keep in mind:

Blood pressure: _____________________

Cholesterol level: _____________________

Current Physical Activity Assessment:

Current Nutrition and Eating Habits Assessment:

Health Care Provider’s Recommendations:

  1. __________________________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________________________
  3. __________________________________________________________________

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Setting My Goals

To set goals that are right for you, think about what you want to change and why, and what steps you can take to reach your goals. These changes don’t have to be big. Even small steps can make a difference in your health! Also, think about who can help you and how you’ll reward yourself for making progress.

Use this chart to set simple physical activity and healthy eating goals with your health care provider. You can also ask your family or friends to help.

Sample Goal Lose 10 Pounds
My reason for this goal To be at a healthy weight and fit into my favorite dress for my sister’s wedding
Steps I’ll take

1. Eat three balanced meals each day.
2. Eat smaller portions at home and at restaurants.
3. Join the lunchtime walking group at work.

Who will help me My family and friends
When I’ll start Today
When I’ll meet my goal By the wedding — in 3 months
How I’ll reward myself for making progress toward my goal Buy myself some flowers


My Goal  
My reason for this goal  
Steps I’ll take


Who will help me  
When I’ll start  
When I’ll meet my goal  
How I’ll reward myself for making progress toward my goal  


My Goal  
My reason for this goal  
Steps I’ll take


Who will help me  
When I’ll start  
When I’ll meet my goal  
How I’ll reward myself for making progress toward my goal  

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What I Should Know

This section provides some information on physical activity and healthy eating choices to help you with your goals. Also, ask your health care provider for Bright Futures for Women’s Health and Wellness Reaching My Goal Tip Sheets or visit www.hrsa.gov/WomensHealth.

Physical Activity

Being physically active means moving your body. Regular physical activity can:


You can do this all at one time or break it up into shorter bouts of physical activity throughout the day.

Make Physical Activity a Part of Your Day

For . . . Try . . .
Flexibility Stretching, yoga, dancing

Lifting weights, situps, pushups, carrying groceries or a child

Heart Health (aerobic) Brisk walking, running, biking, swimming, jumping rope, roller skating, using aerobic equipment (for example, treadmill, stationary bike)

Physical Activity Safety Tips

STOP exercising and call 9-1-1 right away if you feel any of the signs below for more than a few minutes:

Healthy Eating

Food Variety

Eating a variety of foods helps ensure that you get the nutrients your body needs every day. Following MyPyramid.gov can help you create a balanced, healthy diet by giving you suggestions for the types and amounts you should have from all food groups each day. Be careful to limit oils (fats) and sweets for a more healthy diet and to prevent weight gain.

Food Groups

The Grains Group gives you carbohydrates for energy and vitamins such as folic acid, B vitamins, and minerals. Whole-grains foods such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal also have fiber that helps protect you against certain diseases and keeps your body regular. Fiber can help you feel full with fewer calories.

The Fruit and Vegetable Groups give you vitamins such as vitamin A and C, and folic acid; minerals such as potassium and iron; fiber; and other nutrients that are important for good health. They can also help protect you against disease and keep your body regular.

The Milk Group gives you minerals such as calcium and vitamins such as vitamin D to build strong, healthy bones and teeth. Foods in this group also have carbohydrates for energy and protein for important body functions. Whole-milk dairy foods contain unhealthy fats, so it’s a good idea to choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods.

The Meat and Beans Group gives you protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals such as iron. Meats, especially high-fat processed meats such as bologna contain unhealthy fats, so it’s a good idea to limit these or try lower fat varieties.

Oils (Fats) give you some vitamins such as Vitamin E and extra calories, which can make it hard to keep your weight in a healthy range. It’s especially important to limit saturated fat, which is found in whole dairy foods, many meats, butter, and lard, and raises the risk for heart disease—the number-one cause of death among women. Oils such as canola and olive oils are low in saturated fat and are healthier for you.


I rarely cook meat because my teenage daughter won’t eat it, so I was concerned about us not getting enough iron. How relieved I was to hear that we could get iron from other foods, such as fortified cereals, whole wheat bread, beans, like kidney and pinto beans, and spinach.So, now we’re making all types of iron-rich meals and we’re both enjoying something new at the dinner table.

— Shawna, Baltimore, Maryland

Making Healthy Food Choices

Food Group and Daily Amount to Eat* Am I Eating the Recommended Amount? Things to Keep in Mind
5-8 ounces
1 ounce = ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, cous cous or cereal; 1 slice of bread; 1 small tortilla; 1 small muffin; 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal. Choose whole grains at least half the time, such as whole grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice.
2-3 cups
1 cup = 1 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables; 1 cup vegetable juice; 2 cups leafy salad greens. Vary the types of vegetables you eat. Eat more dark green and orange vegetables.
1.5 – 2 cups
1 cup = 1 cup cut-up raw or cooked fruit; 1 cup fruit juice. Eat a variety of fruits. Choose fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit. Go easy on fruit juices.
3 cups
1 cup = 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1½ ounces low-fat or fat-free natural cheese; 2 ounces processed cheese. Choose low-fat or fat-free milk products. If you can’t tolerate milk, try lactose-free milk products.
Meat and Beans
5- 6.5 ounces
1 ounce = 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or fish; 1 egg, ¼ cup cooked dry beans or tofu; 1 tablespoon (Tbsp) peanut butter; ½ ounce nuts or seeds. Choose low-fat or lean meats. Bake, broil, or grill your meat, instead of frying. Eat more fish, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
5-7 teaspoons
1 teaspoon (tsp) = 1 tsp vegetable oil or soft margarine; 1 Tbsp low-fat margarine, 2 Tbsp light salad dressing. Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard.
[MyPyramid.gov Logo] * Recommendations are based on a 1600 – 2400 calorie diet. Women who are very active should aim for the higher amounts and women who are less active should aim for the lower amounts. For more information and a personalized plan, visit www.mypyramid.gov brought to us by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Understanding the Food Label

The Nutrition Facts panel on the food label can help you make smart food choices by giving you information on serving sizes, calories, and nutrients, such as saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Just look on the back of most food packages to find the label.


[Graphic showing a food label
for macroni and cheese ]

  • Read the label to see if a food is a good source of a nutrient or to compare similar foods—for example, to find which brand of macaroni and cheese is lower in fat.
  • The food label gives you information on the calorie content of the portions you eat. Check the serving size and the number of servings per container. Compare this to how much you actually eat.
  • The % Daily Values (DVs) that are listed on the right-hand side tell what percentage of a certain nutrient you’ll get from one serving of that food. If you want to limit a nutrient, such as sodium, then choose foods with a lower % DV. If you want to eat more of a nutrient such as calcium, then choose foods with a higher % DV.

For more information on the Nutrition Fact panel of the food label, see http://www.csfan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html.


Iron, folic acid, calcium, and vitamin D are a few of the many nutrients that are important for you.

Nutrient Why is it important? How do I get it?
Iron Helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia, which can make you feel tired. Eat lean meats; shellfish such as shrimp; ready-to-eat cereals with added iron; spinach; cooked dry beans, peas, and lentils; and enriched and whole grain breads.
Folic acid Needed for healthy blood and body proteins. Folic acid also helps to prevent birth defects during pregnancy. Drink orange juice; eat oranges, dark green leafy vegetables, green peas, or fortified cereals. (Check the food label for folic acid-fortified breakfast cereals.)
Calcium Needed for strong, healthy bones and teeth, and for the heart, muscles, and nerves to work well. Drink low-fat or fat-free milk and calcium-fortified juice or soy-based beverages; eat low-fat and fat-free milk products like yogurt or cheese and calcium-fortified cereals and breads. Eat collards, turnip greens, kale, and Chinese cabbage (which contain small amounts of calcium).
Vitamin D Helps the body absorb calcium to build strong bones. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products fortified with vitamin D. Spend 10–15 minutes, 3 days a week, in the sun so your body can make vitamin D.


I used to do a clothing exchange with my girlfriends with clothes that no longer fit. The last straw came when I had to give up my favorite brown suit. I knew it was time to start an exercise plan. So, I borrowed a fun exercise tape, cleared out my living room, and started exercising with my friends a few times a week. Soon, we started doing other fun things like line, salsa, and belly dancing – activities that we could do for the long haul, not just for quick fixes.

Janette Los Angeles, California

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Hints for Reaching My Goals

For more information on reaching your goals, ask your health care provider for copies of Bright Futures for Women’s Health and Wellness Reaching My Goal Tip Sheets or visit www.hrsa.gov/WomensHealth.


My friend’s daughter passed away from diabetes complications. At the time, I weighed 365 pounds and knew that obesity can set off diabetes. Since this disease runs in my family, I knew I had to take control of my weight. I read a lot about how to eat healthy and I made changes. Instead of breading and frying chicken like I used to, I grill it or bake it now. I’ve not only lost 165 pounds, I’ve learned how to be healthy for many years to come.

Mary,Omaha, Nebraska

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Getting More Information

Visit these Web sites for more tips and information about nutrition, physical activity, and women’s health.

Bright Futures for Women’s Health and Wellness Initiative

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Guidance on How To Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Panel on Food Labels

Eat 5 to 9 a Day for Better Health Campaign

Weight Loss and Control Health Information

National Women’s Health Information Center

Steps to a HealthierUS

My Pyramid

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