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The nutritious way to long life, vitality and peak performance

Staying slim

No, it’s not your imagination: Achieving and maintaining your goal weight does get harder as the years go by. For one thing, your body needs about 10 percent fewer calories each decade after age 50; for another, the composition of your body changes, with lean tissue decreasing and the proportion of fat increasing. The result? If you don’t cut back on your daily calorie intake, you’ll gain. Here are a few painless ways to help you achieve a realistic, comfortable—and healthy—weight:

  1. Practice portion control. Maybe it’s not what you’re eating but how much you’re eating that’s your downfall. Practice weighing and measuring portions until you’re able to eyeball a serving and know it’s about right.
  2. Get moving. You don’t have to be an athlete or a graceful dancer to burn calories. Take the stairs whenever you can. Stroll around the block. Plant some flowers. Walk to the corner store. Remember, every little bit counts.
  3. Trim the fat. Choose lean meats; substitute ground turkey or chicken for beef. Bake, broil or steam rather than fry. Remove skin from poultry and use low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
  4. Eat mini meals. At least five of them, in fact! Distribute calories among three meals and two snacks a day. Refueling your body at least every five waking hours prevents it from kicking into “starvation mode” (that’s when it preserves calories in preparation for a famine) and stokes your metabolism instead.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a no-fail food formula, a sort of dietary magic bullet that would keep us healthy and vibrant from birth to old age?

While there’s no universal plan that fits everyone’s needs, nutritional guidelines can go a long way toward helping your system function at its peak well into your later years.

  1. Make fruit and veggies the centerpiece of your diet. Unfortunately, many people eat fewer fresh fruits and vegetables as they get older. Yet they’re the best sources of vitamins A, C and E—antioxidants that help fight cancer. Fiber-rich fruits and veggies also keep your digestive system running smoothly. If you prefer frozen or canned vegetables, opt for the plain varieties. And steer clear of fruits canned in syrup.
  2. Keep your body hydrated. Often called the overlooked nutrient, water is essential for the workings of each cell. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
  3. Bone up on the benefits of calcium. It’s normal for our bones to lose minerals as we age, but those who lose too many too quickly can develop osteoporosis, or brittle-bone disease. Eating calcium-rich foods like low-fat or nonfat dairy products is a good way to keep bones strong. Other sources of calcium include canned salmon with bones and green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale and mustard greens.
  4. If you’ve got a special-needs diet, follow it! Certain conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol call for special diets. While the dietary changes your doctor may have recommended might seem difficult, remember the potential reward: a longer, more vital life. Don’t forget to ask your doctor about how any medications you’re on may affect your nutrition.

© 2014 Dowden Health Media