Slim for Life
What to Eat in Your 50s and Beyond
The challenge: Your body seems to be working against you.
Call this the Me Decade. For the first time in years you have more time for yourself. Freed from the demands of raising small children, you're cooking less and eating out more.
On the inside you're experiencing major shifts too. Sure, there's menopause. But you may also start to notice a slower metabolism and digestive system. "Part of this is normal aging," Dr. Peeke says. "But how radically these things affect your body depends on how well you eat the right foods and get lots of physical activity."Your Diet To-Do List
Eat your calories earlier. Can't figure out why the pounds are creeping on even though you've reduced your portions? "Eating less is only part of the equation. The other part is eating smarter," Dr. Peeke says. "Right now, every calorie has to be the highest quality you can find." And when you're burning only 1,400 to 1,600 calories a day (thanks to that slower metabolism), squeezing in all the nutrition you need can be tricky.
It gets even harder if you frequently skimp on breakfast and lunch so you can save room for dinner out. No matter how balanced that evening meal is, it can't possibly deliver a day's worth of nutrition. But it can pack a ton of fat and calories. And because you waited all day to eat it, you'll be starving and likely to consume more than you planned.
A smarter strategy: Rearrange your meals, feasting by day and nibbling by night. That means a 300- to 400-calorie breakfast and a 400- to 500-calorie lunch, with a 200- to 250-calorie afternoon snack. Eating those calories earlier will make it easier to enjoy a small dinner out -- an appetizer and a side salad, say -- without going overboard.
Get savvy about supplements."Starting in your 50s, your body doesn't use many nutrients as well as it used to," Sandon says. "Calcium and vitamin B12 become an issue because your stomach produces less of the acid needed to absorb them. At the same time, your skin becomes less efficient at synthesizing vitamin D." Without enough B12 you may end up feeling run down and lethargic, while insufficient calcium and vitamin D weaken your bones and make your body less effective when it comes to burning fat.
In a perfect world, you'd get all of your nutrients from food. But if you're scaling back portion sizes, that won't work. Ditto if you've recently ditched dairy -- a key source of B12, D, and calcium -- because you've suddenly become lactose intolerant, a condition that commonly happens to women in their 50s, according to Dr. Peeke. That's why a vitamin makes good sense. Instead of a standard multi, look specifically for one designed for women over 50. Not only will it supply extra B12 and D, but it's also low in iron, which is much less of a concern post-menopause. If your multi doesn't provide the full 1,200 milligrams of calcium you need, take a daily calcium citrate supplement.
Outsmart diabetes. Your hormones aren't the only things that are going haywire right now. Insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, may be out of whack as well. Normally insulin shuttles glucose (aka sugar) from your bloodstream to your cells, where it's used for energy. But as you age, your body often can't use the insulin it makes as effectively as it once did. When this happens, a condition known as insulin resistance can develop, causing glucose to hang out in your bloodstream instead of traveling to your cells, where it's needed. Trouble is, once insulin resistance starts, full-blown diabetes isn't far behind.
The right diet can help. First, steer clear of refined sugars. Eat plenty of whole foods like fruits and vegetables (aim for four and a half cups daily). Choose whole grains over processed ones; they slow the rate at which your body digests and absorbs carbohydrates. That means lower blood sugar and less demand on your pancreas to pump out insulin. People who regularly feast on whole grains are 20 to 40 percent less likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular diseases than those who rarely eat them, according to a 2004 University of Minnesota School of Public Health review.Your Recipes for Success
1 cup high-fiber whole-grain cereal (such as Bran Flakes) with 2 tablespoons flaxseed, 1 cup mixed berries, and 8 ounces 1% milk (or 1% lactose-reduced milk)
White bean hummus pita pocket: In a food processor, blend 1/2 cup rinsed and drained cannellini beans, 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Stuff one 6-inch whole wheat pita with 1/2 cup arugula, 1/4 cup chopped yellow pepper, and 2 slices tomato. Top with hummus.
1 small oatmeal-raisin cookie
8-ounce container 2% plain Greek yogurt topped with 1 small diced pear and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
4 ounces grilled tuna drizzled with soy-wasabi glaze (1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce whisked with 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon prepared wasabi)
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup baby bok choy sauteed in 1 teaspoon canola oil
Nutrition facts (for the day): 1,502 calories, 87g protein, 199g carbohydrate, 46g fat (9g saturated), 39g fiber
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2009.
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