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50+: Live Better, Longer

Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know

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By Katherine Tweed
WebMD Feature

Keeping a healthy weight is a worthwhile goal at any age. And as you get older, it can get trickier.

You might not be burning calories the way you did when you were younger, but you can still take off the extra pounds.

The golden rules of weight loss still apply:

  • Burn more calories than you eat or drink.
  • Eat more veggies, fruits, whole grains, fish, beans, and low-fat or fat-free dairy; and keep meat and poultry lean.
  • Limit empty calories, like sugars and foods that offer little or no nutritional value.
  • Avoid fad diets, because the results don't last.

There are some other things you need to do if you’re over 60 and you want to lose weight.

1. Stay Strong

With age, you lose muscle mass. Offset that by doing strength training. You can use weight machines at a gym, lighter weights you hold in your hands, or your own body weight for resistance (yoga or Pilates, for instance). Keeping your muscle mass is key to burning more calories, says Joanna Li, RD, a nutritionist at Foodtrainers in New York.

2. Eat More Protein

Because you’re at risk for losing muscle mass, make sure your diet includes about one gram of protein to every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. “Protein also keeps you full for longer, so that helps with weight loss efforts,” Li says. She recommends wild salmon, whole eggs, organic whey protein powder, and grass-fed beef.

3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Drink plenty of water, because sometimes thirst masks itself as hunger. As you get older, you may not be as quick to notice when you're thirsty, Li says. She recommends getting 64 ounces of water a day. You can drink it or get part of it from foods that are naturally rich in water, such as cucumbers and tomatoes. If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough water, check your urine: It should be pale yellow.

4. Outsmart Your Metabolism

Eat more small meals and snacks, and don’t go much longer than 3 hours without eating. “Because your metabolism is already slow, if you’re starving yourself, it just gets slower,” Li says.

You may need fewer calories than you did when you were younger. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian about that. “If you’re eating the same way you did when you were 25, you’re definitely going to be gaining," Li says.

Reviewed on July 29, 2014

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