Q: I've always eaten a pretty balanced diet, and I regularly take walks for exercise. But over the past year or two I've been putting on weight. Is there a way to reverse this trend?
A: There is, but it'll take some work. Metabolism slows with age— particularly for women, as muscle mass diminishes and hormonal changes kick in.
Even if you've stuck to healthy habits all your life, you'll have to step up your efforts to keep pounds from creeping on. While cutting calories is the most obvious place to start, too-restrictive diets can backfire. So begin by replacing refined carbs (such as white bread and cheese crackers) with 100-percent whole grain versions, and spread servings of lean protein throughout the day—say, by enjoying an egg white omelet at breakfast, edamame in your salad at lunch, and grilled chicken at dinner. These two tweaks will help control appetite, keep blood sugar steady, and support muscle growth even as you trim your overall intake. To that end, bulk up recipes with vegetables and low-fat dairy, and whenever possible, season foods with herbs, spices, and citrus instead of high-calorie butter, oil, and sugar.
As for exercise, it's great that you already enjoy walking. Try increasing your distance, adding hills to your route, or venturing out more often to pare pounds. In addition, aim to do strength-building exercises two or three times a week to offset agerelated muscle loss.
Here's a a 20-minute home workout to get you started.