Healthy Eating for Midlife, from the Experts

MORE magazine gathered four nutrition experts — all midlife women and respected researchers. Over salad, pasta, and, yes, dessert, they shared their secrets on how to eat for optimum health.

By Carla Rohlfing Levy

AL: "But I look at some breakfast cereals and I’m appalled. They look like crushed-up vitamin pills with sugar. With whole foods, you don’t have to deal with that. I like to go to Trader Joe’s for the dried cherries. Not the bing, but the sour—"

MW: "I love the sour ones."

AL: "—and put them in just as I’m cooking oatmeal. Let them soak, and it’s so good. But I admit, I use white rice on weekdays — even with just one child at home, who has swim practice and other activities, I simply don’t have that flexibility timewise to make brown rice. I compromise there, it’s just reality. Once we’re empty-nesters, brown rice it will be!"

MW: "For a while I became a vegetarian, to decrease my intake of fat and cholesterol and to increase my intake of fiber, micronutrients, and phytochemicals. It changed the way I look at food. I am also big on the DASH diet — it has a great Web site that talks about getting 10 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That’s really just five or six cups, so I think about how my day will go in order to fit that in. You have to plan it out."

AL, SM (in unison): "I plan, too."

MW: "The decision point is when you go food shopping, because if you don’t have it at home you won’t eat it. It doesn’t take time to make better decisions. It does take determination to make better decisions."

SM: "I agree totally. If I buy Coke, it’s gone the next day. If I don’t, nobody misses it."

AL: "I go to the market about once a week, and I tend to buy the same things — vegetables, fruit, salad stuff, low-fat dairy, and I maintain a stash of fish and poultry in the freezer."

MORE: For so many women, food is this problem. But for you all, cooking and eating sound like sources of pleasure.

MW: "Cooking brings family together. It’s creative."

MORE: And you make the time to cook every day?

All: "Yes!"

AL: "It’s like a ritual, and you get what you want and it really tastes good. Also, it makes life easier. You can control portion size — a higher proportion of vegetables to meat, for instance. It’s helped me stay the same size. I hate clothes shopping, and keep some outfits for 15 years."

MORE: Is there a benefit to eating more nutritiously even if you are overweight?

MW: "Even if you don’t lose weight, all the data has been encouraging that eating healthier has a big impact on your risk factors and how you feel. You’re much better off than a woman who is not eating well and who is at the same weight or lighter. I would like to lose 10 or 15 pounds, but it’s hard to do. My diet, however, is healthy."

SM: "I have had several friends go on high-protein diets to lose weight. But the next time you see them, they’re right back where they were before."

MW: "I’ve talked to people who have been on high-protein diets for years, and they’re afraid if they don’t stay on it, they’ll gain all the weight back. They don’t check their cholesterol levels."

SM: "What keeps me in line is having a scale in the bathroom. I’ll check every so often, and if I gain two pounds, I cut back."

MW: "You use the scale. I use how my clothes feel."

SM: "I just had salad for lunch because my scale told me I should. I travel a lot, and with all these business lunches, it’s very difficult."

MW: "I think about choice — if I say I can’t have this or that, it’s restrictive. I make eating a positive choice."

MORE: Shouldn’t we all?(Experts exit as the photography team and writer attack the leftover four-cheese pasta, bread, and dessert. But we’ll make up for it later, right?)

Tips for Healthy Eating

Here are the top five tips we took away from our lunchtime chat:

1. Hit the storesAll the experts shop regularly for fresh produce, lean proteins, and fresh whole grains. If good stuff is in your kitchen, it will be on your plate.

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