The best diet for women over 40 is one that considers both caloric and nutritional requirements. Knowing which foods work best for you and your needs will help you to create an amazing body that lasts a lifetime.
Here's how to build a great diet.
Why Whole Foods are Best
Eating whole foods is the best weight loss and healthy eating strategy for numerous reasons.
Whole foods are loaded with nutrients as they haven’t been processed, or altered in any way. They are the foods you find in nature.
Whole foods are free from added sugars, preservatives, other fillers, and are usually lower in calories (and higher in fiber) than processed foods.
Examples of whole or minimally processed foods to include in the best diet for women over 40 are:
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Organic meat, chicken, poultry, fish, or seafood
- Extra virgin olive oil, avocados, and other healthy fats
- Low-fat dairy foods or calcium-rich substitutes
Because whole foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients, these foods maximize energy during weight loss.
They also prevent nutrient deficiencies that can take a toll on your health.
What Makes Weight Loss Over 40 Work?
There are numerous key components of the best diet for women over 40.
When broken down into individual parts, planning weight loss meals and menus can feel like a breeze. An effective weight loss diet over 40 includes:
#1 The Right Number of Calories
Planning a weight loss diet for women over 40 involves controlling your calorie intake.
Increased age is associated with lower calorie requirements, as metabolism tends to slow down the older you are.
To maintain a healthy weight, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 suggest women over 40 eat the following number of calories based on how active they are:
- Age 41-50: 1,800-2,200 calories
- Age 51-60: 1,600-2,200 calories
- Age 61 and older: 1,600-2,000 calories
If weight loss is your goal, subtract 500-1,000 calories from your usual intake.
For many women, this means eating just 1,200-1,500 calories per day (up to 1,800 calories for women who weigh more or are very active).
To follow a reduced-calorie diet for weight loss, aim to eat about:
- 3 meals containing about 300-350 calories each
- 2-3 snacks containing 200-250 calories each
#2 Lots of Vegetables
There are three main categories of vegetables. Starchy vegetables are rich carbohydrates and sometimes protein too, and non-starchy vegetables are much lower in calories and carbs.
Aim to fill half of each plate with non-starchy vegetables during weight loss and one-fourth of your plate with starchy foods. Examples of the various types of vegetables include:
Non-Starchy Veggies: lettuce, spinach, other leafy greens, cabbage, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Protein-Rich Starchy Vegetables: peas, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, and other legumes.
Other Starchy Veggies: corn, yams, squash, and sweet potatoes.
All vegetables are loaded with fiber, which enhances weight loss by boosting satiety and keeping you full longer.
Protein foods aid in weight loss because they increase satiety, help your body burn extra calories, and enhance muscle maintenance during weight loss.
Fill one-fourth of your plate with nutritious protein foods like organic lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, eggs, tofu, and seitan.
Limit red meat and steer clear of processed meats like bacon, sausage, ham, cold cut meats, and hot dogs.
#4 Calcium-Rich Foods
Foods rich in calcium are crucial for maximizing bone health in women, and many of these foods are loaded with vitamin D and protein.
Aim to consume 2-3 servings of dairy foods or calcium-rich substitutes daily.
Examples include low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, reduced-fat cheese, almond milk, soy milk, other plant milk, and vegan yogurts (such as soy or almond milk yogurt).
#5 Protein Shakes
Protein shakes make excellent meal replacements or satiating snacks during weight loss, and are usually good sources of calcium.
To create your own homemade protein shake mix together whey, casein, egg, or plant-based protein powder with water or milk.
Add in fruit or nut butter if you desire, blend it with ice, and enjoy!
#6 Heart-Healthy Fats
Nutritious fats are an important part of the best diet for women over 40.
These fats increase satiety, maximize brain health, and help keep your hair, skin, and nails healthy.
Choose a heart-healthy fat at each meal and snack to complete weight loss meal plans for women over 40.
Examples include avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butter, olive oil, other plant oils, olives, fatty fish or fish oil, and hummus.
Dip fruit in nut butter, cook with olive oil, dip veggie sticks in hummus, add avocados to salads and sandwiches, snack on nuts between meals, top yogurt or cottage cheese with seeds, and take a fish oil supplement if your doctor recommends it.
#7 No Processed Foods
Cutting back on processed foods aids in weight loss over 40 and can improve your overall health and wellness.
Processed foods are often loaded with added sugar or sodium, and contain less fiber than many whole foods.
Examples of foods to avoid when following the best weight loss diet for women over 40 include sweets, sugary drinks, potato chips, processed meats (hot dogs, regular bacon, ham, etc.), white rice, white bread, regular pasta, fried foods, baked goods, and pizza.
#8 No Alcohol
Mixing alcohol with sugary drinks or other mixers further boosts its calorie content, and these calories don’t nourish your body.
Steer clear of alcoholic drinks if you can or limit them as much as possible for effective weight loss in women over 40.
Choose water, coffee, and green tea instead.
Some of the most effective short-term weight loss diets are difficult to maintain for life.
When weight loss is your goal, choose a well-balanced diet you can continue indefinitely.
Losing weight at a slower pace of 1-2 pounds per week might not sound desirable, but this rate of weight loss is most effective for long-term success vs. a temporary quick fix.
#10 Gender-Specific Components
What works for weight loss in men might not necessarily be right for women.
While the concept is the same, women over 40 have unique nutritional and weight loss needs compared with men and younger women.
The best weight loss diet for women over 40 is something that's specifically designed for women in this age category.
Do Popular Weight Loss Diets Work?
You might have heard about some popular weight loss diets, many of which are effective in the short term. But fad diets aren’t always sustainable for life, especially if they’re very restrictive or drastically reduce certain food groups.
Examples of some popular weight loss diets include:
#1 Low-Carb Diets
Low-carb diets help reduce your overall calorie intake for weight loss, especially when you limit or avoid added sugars, sugary drinks, and refined grains (white bread, white rice, baked goods, etc.).
But drastically cutting carbs can drain your energy and is often difficult to maintain long term.
Cutting unhealthy carbs is an excellent weight loss strategy, but keep nutritious carbohydrates in your diet.
Examples include legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Doing so makes it easier to adhere to a weight loss diet, and helps prevent nutrient deficiencies.
#2 Intermittent Fasting
Studies show that intermittent fasting decreases fat mass and aids in weight loss, as it helps reduce your overall calorie intake.
Intermittent fasting occurs when you fast, or don’t eat, for specified time periods.
For example, you might skip a meal, only eating during an 8-hour window each day, or eat just fruits and vegetables with the exception of a larger meal at dinner time.
You may also consider intermittent calorie restriction by eating just 800 calories 2-3 days per week.
Avoid all-day fasts to prevent negative side effects of fasting, such as fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
#3 Low-Fat Diets
Like low-carb diets, low-fat diets help reduce your overall calorie intake for weight loss.
That's because fat contains 9 calories per gram and carbs and protein each provide 4 calories in each gram.
While low-fat diets can be effective for dropping weight, they may not be as satisfying as other weight loss diets because fat helps boost satiety.
Everybody is different but you may prefer a well-balanced diet vs. low-fat or low-carb dieting for weight loss.
#4 Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
Cutting out meat or other animal-based foods is an effective way to cut calories when weight loss over 40 is your goal.
Studies show that switching from a standard American diet to a vegetarian diet, especially a vegan (entirely plant-based) meal plan, works for weight loss in overweight adults.
But if you choose a vegan diet for weight loss, carefully plan menus to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Taking dietary supplements can help.
#5 Ketogenic Diets
Following a ketogenic diet is another effective weight loss strategy, especially short term.
But studies show that while weight loss using ketogenic diets usually peaks at about five months, the diet is difficult to sustain long term.
Keto diets are high in dietary fat, low in protein, and very low in carbohydrates.
They often boost satiety and help your body burn fat as fuel, but can lead to fatigue and nutrient deficiencies over time.
#6 Paleo Diets
Paleo diets are loaded with nutritious, whole foods that aid in weight loss.
These diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats, fish, and plant oils – but lack grains, legumes, potatoes, and dairy foods.
They are low in sodium and free from added sugar and highly processed foods.
But because Paleo diets are restrictive, they can be difficult for some people to maintain indefinitely.
#7 Very Low-Calorie Diets
Very low-calorie diets (VLCDs) contain just 500-800 calories (or less) daily and can lead to drastic weight loss of 3-5 pounds per week. VLCDs can lower your risk of obesity-related health problems, but require medical supervision.
That's because while very low-calorie diets are effective for weight loss, they aren’t sustainable long term because of difficulty with adherence, possible side effects, and the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
Ask your doctor is a short-term VLCD is right for you.
#8 Meal Replacement Diets
Using meal replacement shakes or bars can help you cut calories for weight loss, especially if you’re always on the go.
But while replacing meals with shakes or bars is an effective weight loss strategy, avoid substituting every meal with supplements.
Some ready-to-drink protein shakes and bars are loaded with sugar and other additives, so be careful which ones you choose.
We recently launched an amazing new formula of SuperFuel, which includes additional nutrients and less than 1g of sugar per serving.
Homemade protein smoothies containing protein powder, plant milk, and fruit or nut butter work well!
What is the Best Diet for Women Over 40?
The best weight loss diet for women over 40 is well-balanced, sustainable for a lifetime, and specifically designed for women’s unique nutritional needs.
The Fit Mother Project 30X (FM30X) is a comprehensive weight loss plan created for women ages 35+ who lead busy lives but want to take control of their health. FM30X offers the following key components:
- Meal and menu plans
- Custom workout plans
- Motivational support
- Q & A access with health experts
- Fit mom social media support
- Healthy recipes
- Weekly newsletters
- Nutrition education
- Much more
Studies show that social support enhances weight loss, but friends and family might not have the qualifications necessary to help you.
Let the Fit Mother Project health and medical experts lead you through a journey toward a healthier, happier lifestyle you can maintain indefinitely.
Workouts are just as important as a healthy diet for weight loss because getting lean boosts your metabolism and re-shapes your body to one you're proud to show off. FM30X gives you with the fat-burning workouts necessary to get leaner, not just lighter when you don't have hours to spend at the gym.
When you’re ready to give FM30X a try, sign up for the FREE Fit Mom Jumpstart Kit. In it you’ll receive a FREE weight loss meal plan, FREE fat-burning workout, FREE email coaching support, and private fit mom Facebook group access.
Give it a try risk-free to achieve the body weight and figure you've been striving for!
Erin Coleman, R.D.
Writer, The Fit Mother Project
Erin is a registered dietitian who earned a nutritional science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she worked as a health educator for the department of internal medicine.
Her published work appears on hundreds of health, fitness, nutrition, and medical websites – including doctors’ offices, rehab centers, urgent care clinics, and hospitals.