A. Even though fewer calories are better as you age because your muscle mass decreases and body fat increases, women get paranoid and cut their calories too drastically. If you’re active, 2,000 a day is fine. Just get the best food you can 80 percent of the time, and don’t get caught up in the rest. In my opinion, having fun is just as important as eating a healthy diet. So go ahead and have a drink, a sweet, or even fried food a few times a week.
Q. What’s your favorite anti-aging eating technique?
A. I try a new food or spice every week, which keeps me from getting bored and also introduces more nutrients into my diet. It’s easy: Try a tropical fruit instead of an apple, or an exotic variety rather than something routine, like black rice in place of brown.
Maye Musk, MS, RD, age 59, New York City
After two decades as a nutrition counselor in her native South Africa and in Canada, Musk is in private practice in New York City.
Q. How much do you worry about the number on the scale?
A. I weigh less than I did as a teenager, but it’s hard work at any age. These days, I find I have to eat much less when I want to lose weight. My weight usually creeps up after I’ve been eating french fries and cheese toast during visits with my grandchildren, and my strategy is to do everything perfectly for a week to get those pounds off. That means no desserts, no refined carbs like white bread or white pasta, and no alcohol. It’s hard because I have an active social life, and there’s nothing worse than going to a Champagne-and-chocolate party and feeling deprived, sulking because I’m forcing myself to drink water. I hate it, but it works.
Q. What do you eat after a long day?
A. Cereal, half a banana, and one percent milk — it’s easy and satisfies my ever-present sweet tooth. I eat fortified, high-fiber types like Total and Cracklin’ Oat Bran, so I know I’m getting plenty of vitamins and minerals. Sometimes I’ll throw in dried cranberries, dried cherries, and nuts and seeds to add even more phytonutrients and good fats, both of which are anti-aging.
Q. Do you have any favorite anti-aging foods?
A. A lot of seafood — I eat at least two servings a week — and good fats like avocado and olive oil. I also think that looking young means staying in the right weight range. Women look older when they are overweight or too thin.
Q. Are there any so-called bad foods that over-40 women can relax about?
A. Red meat. It is one of my favorite foods and packed with iron, which so many women lack. Just be sensible about how much you eat: I’ll go to a steak house, take home two-thirds of a steak and eat it for two more meals.
Q. How about caffeine?
A. Not a big deal. You’re talking to someone who drinks two cups of coffee, two teas, and two diet sodas before four in the afternoon. Then I drink decaf. I rarely drink plain water, because I don’t like it; I only drink it after I work out or when I’m really thirsty.
Q. Do you use butter and other saturated fats?
A. That’s where I draw the line. I’ve had a stick of butter in the fridge for months. Instead, I use the new soft margarine-like spreads, like Benecol and Take Control. They are fortified with plant stanol esters, which help keep my cholesterol in check.
Q. Are there any packaged foods that you love?
A. I like low-fat microwave butter-flavor popcorn made by Healthy Choice or Orville Redenbacher, and I love veggie burgers and portion-controlled cereal in small boxes. My favorites have at least four grams of fiber per serving.
Q. Do you exercise?
A. I hate to go to the gym, so I get it over with first thing in the morning and ride the bike. It’s how I read the paper. Living in New York, I also walk everywhere — at least an hour a day.
Q. Describe an anti-aging meal you enjoy regularly.