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There is no shortage of strategies for getting the flatter stomach that you are looking for when you hit the age of 40. But many weight loss plans can be completely overwhelming, setting you up for failure rather than success.

Most diets ask you too much, too soon. They are so difficult and restrictive that they will force you to quit before you see results. “If you can’t diet for the long term, your results won’t last for the long term,” says a registered dietitian-nutritionist. Sandy Younan Brikho, MDA, RDN, owner of The Dish on Nutrition.

Brikho says one of the biggest mistakes dieters make is trying to make too many lifestyle changes at the same time, which can be overwhelming, especially when you’re already very busy. “The biggest recommendation I can make is focus on just one small change you want to make, master it by making it a new habit, and then pick your next small change,” she says. “That’s the secret to long term results that last.”

In other words, as you face the New Year, don’t bite more than you can chew. Choose one of the following eating habits recommended by dietitians and stick to it before returning to the buffet. (And wash off these tips with drinking habits to avoid for a lean tummy after 40.)

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Many weight loss experts recommend eating five or six small meals and snacks a day. The idea is to keep your hunger at bay to avoid overeating. But switching to six meals a day can be difficult if you currently only eat twice. “I recommend starting small, adding a snack, and then gradually another meal,” says Brikho. “Success is easier because you make small changes over time. Eating more frequently throughout the day will increase your metabolism, which will help you lose weight and eventually get a flatter stomach.”

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Lentil salad
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These starches are said to be “resistant” because they pass through your small intestine without being digested. They are fermented by beneficial bacteria living in your gut. “The byproducts of this fermentation process help improve insulin response and reduce fat storage around the waist,” says a registered dietitian and gut health expert. Kara Landau, RD, founder of Uplift Food.

Some types of resistant starches include legumes and lentils, raw bananas and potatoes, seeds, nuts, and grains. “Eating foods rich in resistant starch daily will help you get results in a short time, and it’s as easy as enjoying oats overnight in the morning, snacking on cashews, or adding legumes.” and lentils in salads or soups for a light evening meal, ”says Landau.

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Often times, what you add to your diet is more important than what you subtract when your goal is a flatter stomach. Colorado Nutritionist Janet Coleman, Dt.t., a Consumer Mag dietitian, recommends adding these three low-calorie foods to your diet every day.

1. Cucumber is high in water and low in calories. “Use it as a bread or rice substitute with your meals,” Coleman explains.

2. Berries are rich in antioxidants that help fight free radical damage while improving cell health. “The berries contain vitamins B6, C, and E, which provide anti-aging benefits, prevent heart disease and boost cognitive function,” she says.

3. Leafy vegetables Like spinach, kale and lettuce contain a lot of fiber which helps in removing excess water from the body, thus reducing the bloating effect on our body, explains Colman. A meta-analysis of studies published in the journal Nutrients have shown that increased consumption of fruits like berries and vegetables, including green leafy ones, was associated with long-term weight loss.

chicken, asparagus and tomatoes
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At each meal, cover half of your plate with vegetables. This simple habit “will help increase your fullness, avoid overeating, encourage portion control, and help you get the nutrients you need,” says Brikho. Give it a try. “By doing this, you won’t be tempted to overeat high-calorie foods and you will lose weight.”

Tomato salad, avocado, arugula, radish, seeds on a bowl
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“As we age, body fat, especially in the belly area, tends to increase as our lean muscle mass and bone mineral density decrease,” says a registered dietitian. Mehak Naeem, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Candida diet. “The best dietary habit to adopt in your 40s is to eat more plant-based foods because they are a good source of micronutrients, protein and healthy fats,” says Naeem. “Try to consume fats of plant and marine origin, limiting animal sources.”

It’s a habit that all dieticians approve of. The previous habit of eating a lot of plants will help you reach the recommended daily allowance of 25 to 30 grams, which few Americans reach, according to a recent analysis of food questionnaires from more than 14,600 American adults. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey between 2013 and 2018 showed that only 5% of men and 9% of women meet these daily dietary fiber requirements.

“Consuming a high-fiber diet can help you achieve a flatter stomach in your 40s and beyond, as it keeps you feeling full for longer, thus preventing you from overeating,” says Landau. “It also supports gut health to reduce bloating and keep things moving along the digestive tract.” Read on for more eating habits for good gut health.

And for even more tips, read the following: