Wouldn’t it be great if you could just snap your fingers and know you’d never gain weight as you grow older? Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen. Exercise, cutting calories and smart eating are mandatory if you want to sail through your later years without putting on extra pounds.

The good news is, unless you are obese or have health issues, you don’t necessarily have to embark on special diets to keep extra weight at bay. All you have to do is choose your foods wisely. Ideally, you should make smart eating decisions before you put anything in your mouth.

Follow these recommendations from Larry Tucker, PhD, an obesity researcher and professor in the department of exercise sciences at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. They will help you avoid the numerous temptations we all face every day, from the birthday cake at the office party to the Sunday brunch with the in-laws.

• Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high-fiber foods.

• Eat plant-based proteins. These are generally lower in saturated fat than meat-based proteins. Beans, lentils, dried peas, nuts, tofu and the grain, quinoa, are excellent protein sources.

• Don’t drink your calories. Drinking even one sugar-sweetened soda a day can increase the risk of developing higher blood pressure and cholesterol. As an example, swigging a 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew SuperNova delivers 290 calories and 76 grams of sugar. Quench your thirst with water instead.

• Two-thirds of your dinner plate should consist of vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots.

• Resist the urge to fill your pantry and kitchen counter with starchy, fatty and refined foods. If you don’t buy them, you won’t eat them.

• Reserve the cookie, piece of pie or slice of cake for special occasions or as a reward. As a side benefit, you may also find you’re saving money because processed food products are often more expensive than fresh, unrefined foods.

• Stop eating when you feel mildly satisfied but not yet full. If you need to loosen a belt buckle after a meal, you’re over-stuffed.

• Record what you eat. Even lean people underestimate how much they consume by 10 to 15 percent. It has been proven that keeping a food diary can lead to weight loss. 

• If you’re sad, excited or depressed, take a walk rather than bingeing on high-fat foods. Emotional eating can quickly pull in the pounds.

• Weigh yourself regularly to hold yourself accountable and monitor your progress.

• Walk or do some other form of aerobic exercise, such as swimming or biking, each day. Not only does this help maintain weight, but in combination with smart food choices it can promote weight loss. Besides, exercise improves digestion, enhances cardiovascular health and can help achy joints weather the storms of pain and discomfort.