A Diet for Any Decade; Fancy Davina McCall's Trim 40-Something Pins or Sharon Stone's Age-Defying Abs? Follow Our Customised Diet to Make the Best of Your Body, Whatever Your Age

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Byline: Caroline Jones

Our metabolism and body changes so much as we get older that what kept you trim in your 20s is unlikely to help you shed pounds in your 50s, according to the latest research.

"There isn't a one-size-fits-all plan that works for life unfortunately," says nutritionist Linda Foster. "Because the way our bodies process food changes pretty much every decade."

And not only does a weight-loss diet have to be tailored to suit our age, our body's nutritional needs vary over the years too.

During child-bearing years, for example, iron and folic acid are vital. But after the menopause getting enough omega-3 fats and calcium can become more important.

So we've created a diet blueprint for each decade, including specific diet rules and foods for your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

Follow it to hold back the years and make the best of your body - whatever decade you're in.

the decade diet

This basic low GI, low-fat diet will work whatever your age. Follow the decade-specific advice on the right to super-charge your results...

Breakfasts

Poached egg on wholemeal toast with two grilled tomatoes.

Wholegrain cereal (Weetabix or porridge)with semi-skimmed milk, topped with handful ofalmonds and grated apple.

Two slices wholemeal toast with peanut butter.

Two pancakes madewith semi-skimmed milk, one egg and wholemeal flour, cooked fat free in a non-stick pan. Fat-free yoghurt, a tsp honey and strawberries or raspberries.

Smoothie made from semi-skimmed milk, a handfulstrawberries and1/2 banana.

Lunches

Grilled chicken with lemon and herb couscous.

Cheesy baked potato: top with cottage cheese, fresh mango and tbsp of grated cheddar, plus banana.

Tuna salad wrap: wholemeal pitta, tsp low-fat mayo, lettuce, tomato, 6oz can tuna, plus apple and glass fruit juice.

Sushi: 3 California rolls, cup of misosoup plus two slices of fresh pineapple.

Tomato and lentil soup: 1/2 can with granary roll, pot of low-fat yoghurt.

Dinners

Tuna kebabs: Alternate tuna steak chunks on skewer with nectarineand red pepper. Grill and serve broccoli and asparagus.

Small lean-grilled steak served with roasted red pepper, courgette and butternut squash.

Veggie chilli: kidney beans, mushrooms, carrots, red pepper, tomatoes. Serve with brown rice.

Stir-fried chicken with vegetables, soy sauce and egg noodles.

Mozzarella cod: baked cod with basil leaves, tomato and tspcheese, served with steamed veg.

Snacks

Any piece of fruit.

Handful of olives.

Two oatcakes with 1/2 sliced avocado.

Low-fat plain yoghurt.

Two chopped carrot with 2tbsp hummus.

Handful mixed nuts.

Read on to find out how to tailor the decade diet to your age group:

YOUR 20s Celebrity body idol:

Cheryl Cole, 26

The shape you're in:

Although you should have plenty of energy at this age, you may find that since leaving college and going to work you've gone from active to being moresedentary and put on a few pounds as a result. But don't even think about a crash diet as this is also the key time for eating a well-balanced diet, building bone strength to stand you in good stead as you age. However, this doesn't mean having no fun - copy Cheryl and follow the 80:20 rule: be healthy most of the time and indulge the other 20 per cent.

Your food rules

As well as following a basic diet plan you should...

Make fast food healthier:

Researchers at Brown University Medical School in the USA found that 20-somethings eat 25 percent more fast-food meals than they did in their teens. So start making healthier picks. Nandos grilled chicken is low-fat, as are Thai stir-fries or tomato-based curries. Make them even healthier with speedy additions from your kitchen such as microwave brown rice and frozen veggies. …