The Menopause Diet

The Menopause Diet

The Menopause is a completely natural part of ageing.  For many of us, it comes with life-changing symptoms that feel completely out of our control.

Even for the lucky few who breeze through this stage of their life (I actually don’t know anyone who has – do you?!) the biological process our bodies go through leads to a decline in oestrogen levels. Reduced levels of oestrogen, along with other changes related to ageing, can increase your risk of long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis.

(And you thought it was just about hot flushes, getting fat and moody!)

Though the symptoms of menopause can be challenging (to say the least!), the menopause is a great opportunity to re-think your overall health. Try new things and introduce some new healthy habits. Establishing a new approach to your current diet and exercise programme could actually give you a health boost!.

Who knows, the next stage of your life maybe your happiest and healthiest!.

Eating well during the menopause can not only help you to manage symptoms, but it can also help you to avoid the weight gain too.  If you establish healthy eating habits during this time, you really can set yourself in good stead for strong bones, healthy heart, great skin and plenty of energy, well into later life.

So, here’s some tips to try for eating well during the menopause and beyond!

SKIP SUGAR

Sugar can trigger a sharp rise in blood glucose levels, followed by an inevitable crash.  As well as affecting your mood and energy levels, these highs and lows can make the body convert excess calories into fat that’s stored around the tummy area.

Try to curb any sugar cravings by eating at regular intervals throughout the day and swap refined carbs such as white bread and pasta for wholegrain alternatives.

PROTEIN POWER

As oestrogen levels decline, the body starts to store more fat and at the same time loses bone density and muscle mass.  Increasing your protein intake will not only help your body hold on to muscle, but it will fill you up for longer, helping combat weight gain.

Protein sources include fish, poultry, eggs, red meat well as vegetable proteins such as chickpeas, lentils and tofu.

FILL UP ON FIBRE

Fibre can also help suppress cravings and prevent weight gain. There is also strong evidence to suggest eating a fibre-rich diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and bowel cancer.

Find it in green vegetables, wholegrains, lentils and beans.

BOOST YOUR BONE STRENGTH

As your bone mass begins to decline, Calcium and vitamin D are the 2 main nutrients to include in your diet to help protect your bone strength. 

Dairy, egg yolks, kale, spinach and cabbage are all great sources of calcium, but you need to include Vitamin D to be able to absorb it properly.  You can get vitamin D from oily fish, red meat, eggs, mushrooms and fortified breakfast cereals. The bodies primary source of Vitamin D comes from the sun’s UV rays, so it may help to take a supplement during the winter months.

GOOD FATS

Healthy fats help the body produce hormones, which is essential once you’ve reached the Menopause. It’s a good idea to avoid a low-fat diet at this time in life. Along with hormone production, omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits and prevent cognitive decline. Research also suggests may help reduce hot flushes and night sweats (Amen!)

Healthy fats are found in avocado, oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, olive oil, nuts and seeds.

HAPPY VITAMINS

B-complex vitamins have also been shown to boost brain health and regulate mood.  They are essential for the production of serotonin – the happy hormone! (And we all need some of that following sleepless night!)

Sources of B-complex vitamins can be found in meat, fish, dairy products, yeast and fortified cereals.

GUT HEALTH

Gut health is very important when it comes to our mood as up to 90% of serotonin (that happy hormone again!) is produced in the gut.  Eating a diet rich in probiotic and prebiotic foods helps keep the friendly bacteria that lives in your gut happy too!

Probiotics can be found in fermented foods – yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, sourdough bread and some cheeses.

Prebiotic food sources include fibre-rich foods like whole-grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

HORMONE HELPERS

Phytoestrogens and Isoflavones (yes, I know they sound complicated, but they’re definitely worth knowing about so keep reading!) have been found to improve menopausal symptoms in some cases as they mimic oestrogen.

Soy, tofu, linseed, dried fruit, and cruciferous vegetables all contain the plan compound which may help increase oestrogen levels.

MIGHTY MAGNESIUM

Magnesium helps the body deal with stress, strengthens bones and improves sleep.  People who a eat a lot of meat, dairy and processed foods or those who consume lots of coffee or alcohol may have very low levels.

Good food sources of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts and whole-grains.  However, if your sleep is affected badly, it may be worth taking a supplement to help menopausal symptoms.

Many Health issues can be helped massively by the foods you eat, so it really is worth trying to change your diet accordingly to see if it helps you too (before you turn to the gin!) 

Minimising the Christmas Diet Damage

Minimising the Christmas Diet Damage

Keeping on track with staying healthy, fit and not piling on the pounds over Christmas is a challenge in itself as there are sooo many temptations!

Whether it’s a party invite, another meal out or the extra tins of biscuits and chocolates that find their way into the office over the festive period, there seems to be food everywhere! We all want to have fun at Christmas, but no one wants to put on weight. So how do you manage to minimise the damage that the festive season can cause to your diet?

  1. Have a Healthy breakfast

Eating a good breakfast will set you up for the day and hopefully encourage you to continue to eat healthily for the rest of the day.  Go for a healthy breakfast such as porridge, wholegrain toast, eggs and avocado or Greek yoghurt with fruit.  Having a filling breakfast means you’re less likely to over indulge later on in the day.

  1. Keep moving

You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym but staying active can help combat those extra calories.  Go for a walk, get on the dance floor, do a short blast of a home workout.  Exercise will not only burn calories, but it’s a great stress buster too, plus sometimes going for a walk is a good excuse to get out of the house for a bit of peace and quiet!

  1. Think before you eat

We all love a few festive treats, but do you really need to eat all the mince pies ‘Just because it’s Christmas?’.  You don’t need to deny yourself everything, but make sure that you’re really enjoying what you’re eating and not scoffing it just because it’s there!

  1. Food Plan in advance

You don’t have to overfill your fridge with huge amounts of festive food and end up eating it all just so it doesn’t go to waste.  Plan your meals over the holidays and only buy what you’re going to eat.

  1. Sleep well

Missing out on your sleep can also lead to weight gain.  When you are tired, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite.  Try if at all possible, to stick to set bed and wake up times.  Sleep plays a huge role in keeping your body fit and healthy and it’s vital to get plenty if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight.  Don’t underestimate it’s importance.

  1. Eat before you go out

Have a healthy meal before you go out to parties so you won’t arrive hungry.  If there’s a buffet table – sit as far away from it as you can!.  Let’s be honest, there’s very rarely an appetising healthy option on the buffet table and you don’t want to end up stuffing your face with sausage rolls!  Having a pre-drinks healthy meal will also mean you’ll be less likely to stop off at the take-away for a kebab on your way home.

  1. Watch your drinks

Alcoholic drinks and cocktails contain lots of hidden calories and you may be drinking more than usual this over Christmas.  Try to stick to the low-calorie mixers with your spirits and maybe drink water between each alcoholic drink – it will cut down on the hangover too!

  1. Don’t pick at food

When there’s food everywhere, it’s all too easy to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that, thinking it’s not going to make that much difference.  But it adds up over the day.  Keep mindful of those little bits and try to avoid snacking, unless its healthy food.

  1. Enjoy the Christmas feast

If you eat healthily most of the time and you’re keeping up with your usual workouts, you can let go a bit on Christmas day! One unhealthy meal won’t make you fat just as one healthy meal won’t make you slim – it’s all about BALANCE.  But if you really want to avoid too many extra calories on the day itself, fill up on the healthy options such as vegetables and lean turkey so you won’t feel the need to over-eat the more indulgent treats.

  1. Learn to say No

If you don’t really want to eat something, SAY NO!.  Never mind if Auntie Brenda’s spent hours making the cake, or if your sister-in-law keeps topping up your glass of wine.  You really don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to.  Once you get used to saying no, it’s easier than you think.

  1. Know when it’s over

The festive season ends on 1st January.  Draw a line under whatever happened to the diet over Christmas (if it all went pear shaped) and get back to those healthy habits.  The longer you leave it, the harder it will be!

Un-processing your Diet

Un-processing your Diet

Recent studies have found that people who eat more processed food, consume about 500 more calories per day than those that eat wholefoods.  Why? Because processed foods provide limited nutrients and are not as filling, so you tend to eat more to feel full and an extra 500 calories per day, can lead to quite a significant weight gain!

It’s quite a big challenge to switch to an entirely whole-foods diet overnight. But you can start to make healthier choices most of the time by making some small, sustainable changes to “unprocess” your diet.

What are Processed foods?

Most packaged foods such as crisps, sweets, chocolate bars and biscuits are considered ultra-processed along with fast food, most take-out food and packaged bakery items, refined grains such as white rice, sugary cereals and white bread also are processed.  However, foods such as canned or frozen vegetables, whole-grain bread and rice, are considered less processed because they are closer to their original forms (and have more nutritional value).

Here are six practical tips to help you make nutritional improvements that will improve your energy, health and fitness, by switching from a processed to wholefood diet, increasing your fibre and protein intake and making you feel fuller without going over your calorie requirements.

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to foods high in nutrients, fruits and vegetables can’t be beat. They contain fibre (which will make you feel full) and they also aid digestion.

  • Batch chop and prep salad and veg so it’s ready to go.
  • Add a side salad to your meal.
  • Snack on raw vegetables.

2. Avoid sugary drinks.

Fizzy drinks, alcohol, smoothies and canned coffee drinks often contain a surprising amount of sugar and calories. For example, a Costa caramel latte contains a whopping 34g sugar and 331 calories!

  • opt for tea or black coffee in coffee shops.
  • Choose spirits rather than beer or wine.
  • Read labels on smoothies/canned drinks.

3. Read labels.

In most cases food packaging does not give an accurate representation of a food’s nutritional value no matter what the claim on the front of the pack says! so it’s best to look at the nutritional label on the back of the item and check:

  • Serving size.
  • Amount of added sugar.
  • Ingredient list (keeping in mind that ingredients are listed by quantity, with highest listed first).

4. Skip convenience foods when possible.

There are a lot of foods that although marketed as healthy (such as bars or snacks) are often full of sugar and lack fibre and protein. Carry your own snacks to avoid temptation!

  • Nuts or seeds (portioned) and an apple.
  • Chopped veg with hummus.
  • Greek yogurt with fruit.

5. Eat mindfully at restaurants.

Eating out can feel like an occasion to indulge, but if you’re eating out regularly, learning to make healthy choices is essential.

  • If eating out is an infrequent occurrence, order what you love, but stop eating when your full.
  • You don’t have to go for all 3 courses!
  • If eating out is a common occurrence choose a protein and vegetable meal with whole grains as often as possible. Such as:
    • Sandwich on whole-grain bread with salad.
    • Fish, Chicken or Steak served with veg.
    • Salad (dressing on the side).

Small and sustainable changes are much easier and more beneficial in the long run when it comes to improving nutrition, rather than trying to make too many big changes all at once but to see a change you’ve got to make a change!