The age range of 40 to 50 years puts you right in the middle of middle age adulthood. If your diet in earlier years was less than healthy, you may be experiencing some of its consequences. In addition, your body may be going through changes typical of the aging process. Nutritionally speaking, this is a good time to get your diet in order. You can do much to correct past mistakes and prevent future problems by creating meal plans appropriate for your age and nutritional requirements.
To promote good health and reduce the risk of developing age-related diseases, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommend meal plans that follow the basic food groups, match calorie intake with energy needs and limit saturated fats, added sugar, salt and alcohol. You can accomplish this, says the CNPP, by following a general diet plan such as the USDA Food Guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, also called the DASH diet, if you have concerns about high blood pressure.
Unless you have a medical condition that requires a special diet or your doctor provides alternate recommendations, you can follow general dietary guidelines for adults, usually defined in a category that includes ages 31 to 50 years. Calorie requirements depend on your level of physical activity and range from 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day if you are female and 2,200 to 3,000 calories each day if you are male.
If you follow the USDA Food Guide, this means meal plans that feature whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Total fat consumption will comprise no more than 30 percent of the calories you consume each day, and this diet limits saturated and trans fats to less than 10 percent of your total fat consumption.
If you follow the DASH diet, in addition to following meal plan features similar to the USDA Food Guide, you also reduce dietary sodium intake to between 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams each day.
To illustrate a sample USDA Food Guide meal plan, the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library starts by stating that a 40-year-old female performing 30 to 60 minutes of walking, jogging, biking or aerobic exercise each day requires 2,000 calories per day and a male requires 2,600 calories.
A sample meal plan for women includes 6 oz. of grains, half of which should be whole grains, 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of milk, 5.5 oz. of meat and/or beans, 6 tsp. of oils and 265 calories of sugars and fats.
A sample meal plan for men includes 9 oz. of grains, half of which should be whole grains, 3.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of milk, 6.5 oz. of meat and/or beans, 8 tsp. of oils and 410 calories of sugars and fats.
The CNPP strongly recommends getting the nutrients you need from food sources rather than from a vitamin supplement. Food sources provide greater value, says the CNPP, because they not only provide essential vitamins and minerals, but also substances such as carotenoids, flavonoids and isoflavones, and protease inhibitors that protect your health.