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What Are The Best Diet Plans For Women Over 40?


By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

best diet plans for women

Trying to find the best diet plans for women is no easy task, as there is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there.

Not to mention it seems like a new fad diet comes out every week!

Believe it or not, the best diet plans for women vary based on weight management goals, lifestyle habits, and food preferences.

A variety of diet plans for women over 40 are available to choose from, so knowing more about each will get you headed in the right direction.

Here's what you need to know.

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Weight Loss Calorie Needs for Women

The best diet plans for women seeking weight loss are ones that are lower in calories, but still rich in essential nutrients.

Many women need about 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day to lose weight safely, suggests the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Another way to determine your weight loss calorie needs is by subtracting 500 to 750 calories from your usual intake to lose about 1 to 1 ½ pounds per week.

Many adult women require 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day to maintain their current weights.

Various reduced-calorie meal plans can help you reach your goal weight in no time.

What is a good rate of weight loss per week? Find out the ideal and average weight loss per week for women!


Low-Carbohydrate Meal Plans

Low-carbohydrate diets are often effective for women seeking weight loss, fat loss, and chronic disease risk reduction.

A low-carb diet is a top contender for one of the best diet plans for women for many reasons.

What Constitutes a Low-Carb Diet?

Many low-carb diets provide just 20 to 60 grams of total carbs daily, which is significantly lower than the 130 grams of daily carbs recommended by the Institute of Medicine.

But, a study published in Obesity, Science, and Practice found that low-carb diets (containing fewer than 40 grams of carbs daily) are more effective for weight loss than low-fat meal plans over 12 months.

Why Low-Carb Diets Work

You might be wondering why low-carb diets are usually effective for shedding pounds.

One reason is that carbs hold on to water within the body, which can cause increased fluid retention.

Cutting back on carbs helps reduce your overall calorie intake.

Extra protein and fat, which replace carbs in low-carb diets, tend to keep you fuller longer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While eating just 500 fewer calories daily can lead to a 1-pound per week rate of weight loss, reducing carbs may help you shed pounds at an accelerated rate.

Some of the weight you’ll lose, at least initially, might be excess fluid — but ultimately you should reach your goal weight using lower-carb meal planning strategies.

Heart-Healthy Benefits

In addition to the weight loss perks low-carb diets provide, you can reap additional health and wellness benefits by going low carb.

The Harvard School of Public Health says low-carb diets are effective for lowering triglyceride levels, boosting HDL cholesterol (the good, protective cholesterol), and reducing heart disease risks.

What are the worst carbs to eat? Here are the most important carbs to avoid for weight loss!


Are There Drawbacks of Low Carb Diets?

While reducing carbohydrates is an effective weight loss strategy, drawbacks may exist when drastically cutting carbs.

Possible side effects from low-carb diets include bad breath, headaches, weakness, fatigue, muscle cramps, constipation, diarrhea, and a skin rash.

Nutrient deficiencies may also happen if you cut back on too many healthy carb-rich foods.

Using Low-Carb Diets Safely

Fortunately, you don’t have to drastically cut carbs to follow lower-carb meal plans and reap weight-loss benefits.

Cut out the unhealthy carbs (white bread, white rice, sugary cereals, sweets, sugary drinks, chips, and processed foods) to achieve maximum weight loss results.

Instead, get your carbohydrates from high-fiber selections — such as vegetables (especially non-starchy vegetables), fruits, low-fat milk or yogurt, soy products, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Replace some of your usual carbs with healthy protein foods (grilled chicken breast, fish, seafood, eggs, tofu, other soy products, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy foods) — and healthy fats like oils, olives, nut butter, and avocados.

Even if you reduce carbs to 130 grams daily, which is the Institute of Medicine’s carbohydrate RDA, you’ll still likely shed pounds as many Americans eat more carbs than this on a daily basis.

Yale University provides a complete list of the carbohydrate content in some of your favorite foods, to give you a better idea of how to manage healthy low-carb meal planning for weight loss.

These 7 principles of nutrition are always true, no matter what your diet consists of. Find out what you SHOULDN’T be eating.


Reduced-Calorie USDA Meal Plan

Using a reduced-calorie U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meal plan is another safe, effective way for many women to shed pounds.

USDA meal plans are well balanced — providing the right mix of carbs, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

USDA eating plans work well for any healthy weight management program; simply alter your calorie allotment based on body weight goals.

Sample 1,200-Calorie USDA Meal Plan

Using the USDA 1,200-calorie plan is a good match if you’re seeking the best diet plan for women over 40.

This meal plan allows you 1 1/2 cups of vegetables, 1 cup of fruit, 4 servings of grains, 2 1/2 servings of dairy foods (or plant-based, calcium-rich dairy alternatives), 3 portions of protein foods, 4 servings of oils, and 100 extra calories each day.

USDA Portion Sizes

Portion sizes when using USDA meal plans are as follows:

  • 1 serving of vegetables = 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables, 1 cup of vegetable juice, or 2 cups of leafy greens
  • 1 serving of fruit = 1 cup of fresh fruit, 1 cup of fruit juice, or 1/2 cup of dried fruit
  • 1 serving (1 ounce) of grains = 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of brown rice or quinoa, 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup of cooked whole-grain pasta, or 1 cup of ready-to-eat whole-grain cereal
  • 1 serving of dairy = 1 cup of low-fat milk or soy milk, 1 cup protein-fortified almond milk, 1 cup of yogurt or soy yogurt, or 1 slice of low-fat cheese
  • 1 serving (1 ounce) of protein foods = 1 ounce of lean meat, fish or poultry, 1 egg, 1/4 cup of tofu, 1/4 cup of cooked dried beans, 1/2 ounce of nuts, or 1/2 of a veggie burger
  • 1 serving (1 teaspoon) of oils = 1 teaspoon of plant-based oils, 1 tablespoon of Italian dressing, 1 1/2 teaspoons of nut butter, 1/3 ounce of nuts or seeds, or 1/6th of an avocado

If 1,200 calorie-plans aren’t quite the right fit for your weight-loss calorie needs, USDA plans also include a well-balanced 1,000-calorie, 1,400-calorie, and 1,600-calorie options.

Your daily calorie expenditure and usual intake determine which plan you should go with.

Make sure you're eating right — learn how to read nutrition information on another level!


Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

A Mediterranean-style meal plan isn’t just heart-healthy, it helps you shed unwanted pounds and meet your goal weight.

A Mediterranean diet is another top contender for one of the best diet plans for women over 40.

It focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish (this is a main source of protein), some poultry, eggs, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.

When choosing a Mediterranean-style meal plan you’ll limit (or avoid entirely) red meat, and include some dairy foods and red wine if you’d like to.

Benefits of Mediterranean Diets

Mediterranean diets are just as effective as low-carb diets for weight loss — and more effective than low-fat diets when it comes to shedding pounds, says a study published in The American Journal of Medicine.

Mediterranean plans also lower your risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, says Mayo Clinic.

Because of the many benefits, Mediterranean-style diets offer for healthy weight management and overall health, the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 provide Mediterranean-style eating plans for adult men and women at different calorie allotments.

1,200-Calorie Mediterranean Meal Plan

The USDA 1,200-calorie Mediterranean meal plan for weight loss is very similar to the USDA reduced-calorie, U.S.-style eating pattern.

It consists of eating 1-1/2 cups of vegetables, 1 cup of fruit, 4 ounces of grains, 2-1/2 cups of dairy foods (or plant-based dairy alternatives), 3 ounces of protein foods, 4 teaspoons of oils, and 100 extra calories each day.

The main difference between reduced-calorie U.S.-style eating patterns and Mediterranean plans are you’ll get the majority of your oils from olive oil, and most of your protein from fish (instead of chicken or lean red meat) when doing the Mediterranean plan.

Here are 4 actionable ways you can eat healthier TODAY!


Vegetarian Meal Plan

Vegetarian diets are a safe bet when seeking the best diet plans for women over 40.

Many women who switch to vegetarian (or vegan) diets reduce calories without even thinking about it, as calories from meat and other animal foods can add up quickly.

A study published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine found that study subjects consuming vegetarian diets for 18 weeks lost significantly more weight than those following non-vegetarian meal plans, and vegan dieters lost the most weight of any group.

Benefits of Vegetarian Diets

Vegetarian dieting provides you with numerous health and wellness benefits, in addition to healthy weight management.

A study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that vegetarian and vegan dieting significantly reduced body mass index (BMI), LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol, total cholesterol, blood glucose levels, heart disease risks, and cancer risks in study subjects.

Researchers who conducted this study say going vegan is the best diet plan for women when it comes to cancer prevention.

1,200-Calorie Vegetarian Meal Plan

The USDA provides a 1,200-calorie vegetarian weight loss meal plan, which is a good pick if you’re seeking the best diet plan for women.

This vegetarian eating pattern includes 1-1/2 cups of vegetables, 1 cup of fruit, 4 ounces of grains, 2-1/2 cups of dairy foods or calcium-rich alternatives, 1-1/2 ounces of protein foods (eggs, legumes, tofu, other soy foods, seitan, nuts or seeds), 4 teaspoons of oils, and 170 extra calories each day.

You may require additional calories (choose a 1,400-calorie or 1,600-calorie plan, for example) if you’re hungry on a 1,200-calorie diet or are very active during your weight loss journey.

In this classic Fit Father Project video, Dr. A reveals THE TRUTH about carnivore and vegan diets! (Be sure to check out parts 2 and 3, too!)


Other Weight Loss Strategies for Women

In addition to picking low-carb, well-balanced reduced-calorie, Mediterranean, or vegetarian (including vegan) weight loss plans for women, a few other tips and tricks can help you shed pounds.

Calorie Counting

While calorie counting can be tedious and isn’t for everybody, it can be quite effective for weight loss.

Simply choose a calorie-counting app you’re most comfortable with, and aim to keep food intake between 1,200 and 1,500 calories each day for women (1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for men).

These tools can analyze your diet for carbohydrate, protein, fiber, fat, vitamin, and mineral content to determine if you’re meeting daily nutritional needs during weight loss.

MyPlate Portion Control

USDA MyPlate is a simple but effective way to control portions and is a contender for the best diet plan for women who don’t want the muss and fuss of complicated weight loss programs.

MyPlate uses the following simple meal planning strategies:

  • Fill 1/2 your plate with fruits and vegetables (mainly vegetables)
  • Fill 1/4 your plate with healthy proteins (tofu, fish, grilled chicken, eggs, or dried beans)
  • Fill 1/4 your plate with healthy whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, or whole-grain pasta)

Organized Weight Loss Programs

Many women achieve weight loss success by following organized diet programs.

In fact, a study published in The American Journal of Men’s Health found that more women than men join structured weight loss programs and follow special diets.

Women who join reputable online diet programs can reap numerous benefits.

These women often receive customized meal and menu plans based on individualized needs and food preferences, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Many organized programs offer social support, individualized expert recommendations, and health coaching sessions — which improve the odds of long-term weight loss success.

Watch this video to choose the best weight loss diet plan for women and start succeeding today!


The Best Diet Plans for Women: Which is Right for You?

Whether you choose a low-carb plan, reduced-calorie USDA diet, Mediterranean-style eating pattern, or vegetarian weight loss plan, reducing your calorie intake is the key to success.

The best diet plan for women is one that’s attainable long term — and takes into account food preferences, activity level, metabolism, initial body weight, and lifestyle habits.

Regardless of which weight loss plan you pick, joining an organized program gives you the support and expert advice needed to boost the odds of shedding pounds and keeping lost weight off.

With the right weight loss program in hand, any weight loss goal is possible!

If you’re interested in a proven and completely laid out “done-for-you” weight loss meal plan & workout routine designed for you as a busy woman, check out FM30X.

Want to get a quick taste of what's in store? try the FREE Fit Mom 3-Day Weight Loss Jumpstart today!


Let us show you how you can start losing weight this week! We'll email you our free meal plan & workout + email coaching.



Erin Coleman

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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If you’re a busy mom who wants to finally lose weight, get healthy, and actually keep the pounds off for good, this is the simple program you’ll love sticking to…

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on the best diet plans for women.

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Our Fit Mother Project Team’s deepest commitment is to helping you live healthier for both yourself and your family. And when it comes to online content, integrity and trust is everything. That’s why our Fit Mother Project staff-writers are all trained professionals in the field of health and wellness (registered dieticians, licensed personal trainers, and licensed physicians) – see the full team here. We rigorously run all of our articles through a rigorous editorial process to ensure the accuracy, simplicity, and utility of the information. And we aren’t just a team of “academics” sitting in an ivory tower. We are real people – with jobs, responsibilities, and families – working hard in the trenches and testing our tips & methods out to make sure you can stay healthy for family.

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