A. I like to go to the salad bar at my local deli and make a massive salad. I’ll mix up lettuce, tomatoes, onion, corn, avocado, chickpeas, feta cheese, dried cranberries, walnuts, and salmon. It’s delicious and packed with nutrients.
Connie Guttersen, PhD, RD, age 41, Napa Valley, California
Author of The Sonoma Diet, Guttersen is also an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America.
Q. Okay, Diet Doctor, how do you grocery shop?
A. I love farmers’ markets in spring and summer, but when I visit a regular grocery store, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I buy prepared foods I can doctor at home; for example, I get kebabs from the deli counter and flavor them with my own herbs and spices. I also explore the ethnic food aisles for interesting spices and marinades, such as wasabi, dried chilies, and miso. And I buy organic as much as possible. The soil is healthier, so you get better flavor and more nutrients.
Q. What’s your favorite snack?
A. Almonds. I eat them every day. They have fantastic anti-aging benefits because they’re loaded with vitamin E and monounsaturated fats, both of which protect against oxidation and inflammation in the body.
Q. What do you reach for when you’re too busy to cook?
A. I love bagged mini carrots, and all the nuts and cut fruit from Trader Joe’s. I also like Kashi products, particularly the whole-grain waffles and cereals.
Q. What mistake do you see over-40 women making with their diets?
A. Being too busy, and when that happens, eating poorly. Planning my meals and snacks ahead of time really helps me. That way, I know that I’m eating foods that will give me the stamina I need to tackle my day.
Q. Name your favorite food with anti-aging benefits.
A. Wine. More research shows that the resveratrol in red wine prevents oxidation in the body and may slow the aging process. I drink a glass of wine every single night.
Q. Is red meat really that bad?
A. I probably eat beef twice a week — a grilled flank steak, say. But I balance it out: Twice a week or so, I eat semivegetarian, like a quick whole-grain pasta tossed with sauteed veggies and beans. From an anti-aging point of view, it’s good to diversify the proteins in your diet because you’re exposing yourself to a wider variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Q. What’s it like to eat a restaurant meal with you?
A. I love dining out, and I like to order whatever the restaurant is famous for — I would never, ever ask a chef to alter a signature dish. But I also look around as I enter a restaurant: If the portions are huge, I’ll ask for a half order or suggest to the table that we share two or three plates and do tastings. It’s more fun than stuffing yourself.
Q. Is it important for over-40 women to take vitamins and supplements?
A. Since most of us are so busy, it’s not a bad idea to use them as extra insurance for those crazy days when we’re not getting everything we need from our food. I take a multivitamin for women because I feel that the extra iron, zinc, and magnesium help if I’m stressed out or lacking sleep. I’ll also take 600 milligrams of calcium if I’m not eating enough dairy.
Q. Is there a junk food you love?
A. Old-fashioned birthday cake, but it has to be made really, really well — with butter and no fake stuff. I’ll have a small slice on special occasions. I also love dark chocolate, but that’s healthy now!
Q. You’re the author of a famous diet book. Have you ever gained weight?
A. Of course! The book grew out of needing to lose weight after each of my pregnancies. I know I need to pay attention if the waistband of my pants starts to feel a little tight; that usually happens when I’m stressed, so in addition to being more aware of my diet, I’ll make a point to get more exercise and extra sleep.
Q. What’s your best piece of nutrition advice in five words or less?
A. Eat from plates, not packages.
Originally published in MORE magazine, May 2007.