Healthy for Life: What to Eat in Your 20s, 30s, 40s, and Beyond
Nutrition in Your 20s
You're working your first real job, making new friends, dating, getting married, maybe even starting a family. Your life is a whirlwind, which means healthy eating is the first thing to go. To conquer your biggest diet dilemmas:
Make fast food healthy. Researchers at Brown University Medical School found that 20-somethings eat 25 percent more fast-food meals than they did in their teens. Grabbing dinner on the go means you may be missing out on crucial nutrients, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Slave over the stove? Nah. Choose healthy convenience foods -- rotisserie chicken, shrimp cocktail, steamed dumplings, salads -- and enjoy them with speedy additions from your kitchen -- whole wheat pasta, instant brown rice, frozen veggies. For guilt-free fast-food choices, see "The Best Food to Eat on the Road."
Drink to your health. Margaritas, mojitos, and cosmos can pack on the pounds faster than you can say cheers. Enter light beer (110 calories in a 12-ounce bottle). It's filling, so you're less likely to want a second, and it takes a good long time to drink.
Protein: Thanks to chronic dieting, skipped meals, and girl foods like frozen yogurt and low-fat muffins, it's likely you're falling short in this department. Protein helps keep you full and provides the building blocks so you can make and keep calorie-burning muscle. "Recent studies suggest that, at a minimum, we need 60 to 70 grams of protein a day," says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Get your quota by eating skinless white-meat poultry, lean steak, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, and low-fat dairy.
Potassium: Your muscles and heart need it to function properly. But most women in their 20s get less than half the recommended amount, according to the USDA. Munching two cups of fruit (an apple, a banana, and a plain yogurt with fresh strawberries) and two and a half cups of veggies daily (a garden salad and a side of broccoli) provides all the potassium you need.
Omega-3 fats: They may boost the level of serotonin, a feel-good chemical in your brain -- good news, since women are particularly susceptible to depression in their 20s. Salmon and tuna are the best source, but you can also get your fill from walnuts, ground flaxseed, and canola oil.
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