Nutritionist and former chef, Caitlin Rogers, believes women need to rethink their diets when they turn 50. While most women understand the correlation between nutrition and good health, many fail to realize that as they age, their nutritional needs will also change. What may have been good food choices for someone in their 20s, 30s and 40s, those food choices may not provide them with the essential nutrients they need after the age of 50.
First, the hormonal changes that occur around this age have a profound impact on nutrition. For starters, there’s a decrease in our basal metabolic rate (a fact we are all well acquainted with!) and we just can’t consume as many calories as we once did and maintain our weight. AND it only gets worse with every passing year, becoming more significant in our 60s and 70s…sad but true. For a great article on what happens after menopause and why it’s so difficult to lose weight read Why Postmenopausal Women Can’t Lose Weight.
As the director of dining and nutrition services for nearly 300 assisted living communities (Sunrise Senior Living), Caitlin knows first-hand how nutrition needs change as we age. On the flip side of needing fewer calories, we do need more protein. At age 25, we need 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. At 50 and beyond, women may need up to .5 grams of protein per pound to maintain the same muscle mass.
We will continue to steadily lose muscle mass as we age so in addition to good nutrition there needs to be a real focus on strength training to maintain that muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn – that’s enough reason to start hitting the gym today!
Another big factor that affects diet in menopausal and post-menopausal women is bone loss. Caitlin says calcium needed increases 20%. You go from requiring 1000 mg of calcium to 1200 mg. Weight-bearing exercise will certainly help to maintain bone density but it is still going to decline due to hormonal decreases.
While dairy is a good source of calcium, many women as they move into their 60s develop intolerance to dairy making it even more difficult to meet their calcium needs. Fortunately sources such as almond milk offer an excellent alternative to milk and milk products. Other good sources of calcium are collard greens, broccoli, kale, edamame, bok choy, figs, oranges, sardines, canned salmon, white beans, okra, tofu, and almonds.
Caitlin also stresses portion size. One of the biggest problems for all Americans, male/female, old and young alike, is we simply eat too much. She recommends we determine the calorie goal for our age/height/weight and spread our calories as follows:
Carbs – 40% (½ of carbs should be whole grains)
Fats – 30%
Protein – 40%