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Five tips for looking and feeling your best after 50

Published in Women's Services, For the Health of It Author: Diane Giambruno, Registered Dietitian

Women over the age of 50 face unique nutrition challenges. What worked as a 30 year old, doesn’t work as well once menopause begins. 

Watch your calories.

A big hormonal change occurs around the age of 50, resulting in a decrease in estrogen and progesterone. This change lowers your metabolic rate and often brings on weight gain. 

How many calories should a woman over the age of 50 consume?

  • Inactive: 1,600 calories/day
  • Moderately active: 1,800 calories/day
  • Very active: 2,000 to 2,200 calories/day

As a comparison, a 30-year-old woman needs 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day

Increase your protein.

You also need more protein in your diet to maintain the same muscle mass as you did when younger. A woman over 50 needs about 0.45 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For a 150 pound woman, this means 67.5 grams of protein per day. For reference, one ounce of meat, 1 egg, ¼ cup of cottage cheese or 1 oz. of cheese has 7 grams of protein. 

Pay attention to calcium and vitamin D intake.

Bone loss is a concern for those over age 50. You can slow the rate of bone loss with weight-bearing exercise to help maintain bone density. But bone mass will still decline due to hormonal decreases, which is why it is important for you to pay attention to calcium and vitamin D intake.

  • If dairy products are tolerated, calcium requirements can be met 100 percent through diet. If not, supplements might be necessary. The recommendation for calcium for women over age 50 is 1,200 mg/day.
  • Because it can be difficult to get adequate vitamin D through diet alone, often supplements are needed. Vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium, and vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol is the best form to take. The current recommendation is 600 mg/day.

Include healthy fats in your diet.

Monounsaturated fats (nuts, avocados, olive and canola oil) and omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, flaxseed or chia seeds) guard against coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke. Fat also keeps your skin supple.

Watch your sodium intake.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans from 2010 recommends that women over 51 years of age should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily. This guideline includes the salt you add to food at the table, in cooking/baking and in processed foods/restaurant foods. One teaspoon of salt has 2,300 milligrams of sodium, so the first step should be to eliminate added salt. Label reading is important to learn sources of sodium from processed foods.

While some of life’s changes can be frustrating, with knowledge you can make better choices and the aging process can be less stressful.