Swap in healthy fats
Fat may be higher in calories than carbohydrates or protein, but it satisfies your hunger—and that’s key to keeping your calorie count down. People tend to lose more weight and keep it off on a calorie-reduced diet that contains healthy fats rather than a diet that’s low in fat. That’s why the best diets for women include a source of healthy fat at each meal and snack. This could be two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, two tablespoons of raw nuts or seeds, or half an avocado. Check out the seven signs you’re not getting enough healthy fats.
Choosing the right fat is also key to staying healthy. Aging is associated with increased cholesterol, triglycerides, fat mass, and BMI. While fiber plays a part in reducing cholesterol levels, the types of fat you eat can also keep you healthy as you age. We’re talking beautiful, glowing skin, shiny hair and more! The key is to focus on unsaturated fats, particularly anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
If you replace the saturated fats in your diet—think butter, red meat—with unsaturated fats, research suggests it can lower your cardiovascular risk, and omega-3s are especially known for their heart-healthy benefits. One study found that omega-3s are also helpful in stimulating muscle protein synthesis to preserve muscle mass as you age.
Seafood sources of omega-3s such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and fish oil supplements provide forms of omega-3s known as EPA and DHA, the types that your body can use most easily (and the types with plenty of research backing). Plant sources like walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds provide ALA omega-3s. ALA must be converted to EPA and DHA in your body through a process that isn’t super efficient, so plant-based sources should be supplemented with fish! Eating at least two servings of omega-3-rich fish every week covers you for your daily recommendation of 500-1,000 mg. If you don’t like fish, here are some omega-3-rich foods you can eat instead.
Get lean proteins spaced throughout the day
Getting enough protein is key to keeping your metabolism revved up and helping fill you up so you don’t deal with cravings as often. That means you can lose weight or maintain your weight without being constantly hungry. Protein-rich foods are among the top foods to eat to lose weight. For the best diet approach, make sure each meal and snack includes sources of protein such as chicken, fish, lean pork or beef, tofu, tempeh, beans, and lentils, or dairy products like milk, cottage cheese, and plain yogurt.
One study found that premenopausal women who ate 30 percent of their calories from protein (half of which was from dairy foods) for 16 weeks lost more fat and gained more muscle than those who ate a lower protein diet. That result continues with age, as other studies have found that people who eat more protein lose less muscle as they get older. That’s key to preventing your metabolism from slowing down. It’s all about maintaining your muscle mass and even building more muscle with resistance exercise and getting enough protein.
Protein timing is also key. Many women tend to get most of their protein at dinner and very little earlier in the day. Are you having cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, salad for lunch and then a big piece of chicken or steak at dinner? Your body can only use about 30 grams of protein at a time, so you want to evenly distribute protein sources throughout the day.
To meet the 30 gram mark at each meal, try having an omelette at breakfast, 3/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese at snacks, add a palm-sized serving of fish, chicken or tofu to your salad and keep the dinner portion of protein foods palm-sized too. Here are 35 ways nutritionists sneak more protein into their diet.