Eating Healthy During Menopause: A Guide for Busy Women
Everyone keeps saying that menopausal women need to do things differently than when we were younger. We hear "Eat more protein, lift weights, reduce stress" - that's all well and good, but LIFE IS BUSY! Menopausal women have teenage/college-age kids, hectic jobs, and aging parents to juggle. And our bodies just keep changing in ways most of us aren't happy about no matter how much we reduce our food intake. How are we supposed to manage all this? It's no wonder we feel overwhelmed and confused.
Take a breath. Here are some food basics that we know will help:
Avoid having unhealthy food at your fingertips. It's too easy to grab the bag of chips when you're hungry, but if there isn't one, you'll find something else to eat.
Keep your pantry stocked so that you can make basic, healthy food without having to make another trip to the store (see suggested pantry below).
Have some go-to recipes. Repeating a meal or two every week is a simple hack that still allows enough variety in your diet that you won't get bored.
Consider a nightly theme - Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Breakfast for Dinner (BFD) Wednesday, Stir-Fry Thursday, Left-Over Friday, etc. - to help you organize your meal planning.
Use recipe apps or simply type the ingredients you have on-hand into a search engine to find recipes. For example, type "chicken corn weight watchers" into Google search and find Grilled Chicken, Corn, and Vegetable Salad, Chicken Corn Chowder, Cilantro-Marinated Chicken with Corn Salad, and Fiesta Chicken, to name a few.
Double recipes so that you have some leftovers. There's no need to make something new for every meal...and often, food tastes even better the next day. You can take last night's dinner for lunch today!
Choose a protein (eggs/lean meats/fish/beans) and a vegetable for each meal. Add a starch like noodles, breads, rice, etc. Eat fruits for desserts and snacks. Toss in a small treat every once in a while. Be generous with spices and seasonings - they add lots of flavor without extra calories.
Limit portion size. A good rule of thumb is that your meat portion should be the size and thickness of your palm and starch portions the size of your closed fist. You can eat as much veggies and fruits as you want - just don't add oils or sugars to them.
Cook things you want to eat but don't be afraid to try something new. Our palates change as we age, and, in this modern age, there is always something at the grocery store or farmer's market that we haven't ever tried.
Don't be too ambitious. Good habits start with small steps. Make one change a week and soon you won't even remember doing it any other way.
What should I have in my pantry?
Staples: Tuna, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, chicken stock or vegetable stock, unsweetened coconut milk, brown rice, one or two other grains (such as quinoa or bulgar), polenta, whole wheat pasta, canned beans (white, black, pinto, kidney, and cannellini beans, chickpeas), rice noodles, basmati or jasmine rice, panko bread crumbs, fruit jams and preserves, anchovies, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, pickled jalapenos. Spices and dried herbs: Kosher salt, red-pepper flakes, ground cayenne, curry powder, bay leaves, paprika, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, garlic powder, dried thyme, dried oregano, dried basil, chile powder, ground coriander, turmeric, smoked paprika, cardamom, za’atar, allspice, fennel seeds, cloves, nutmeg, dry mustard, garam masala, five-spice powder, sesame seeds.
Oils and vinegars: Olive oil, canola oil, red-wine vinegar, white vinegar or white-wine vinegar, sesame oil, sherry or balsamic vinegar, apple-cider vinegar, rice vinegar, mirin, non-stick spray. Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, granulated sugar, brown sugar. Condiments and sauces: Basic vinaigrette, mustard (yellow or Dijon), mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce, salsa, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hoisin, Thai red/green curry paste, fish sauce, harissa, Gochujang, miso, wasabi, tahini, and sriracha. Freezer: Fish fillets, lean meats and poultry (see below for options), shrimp, spinach, corn, peas, berries. Baking: All-purpose flour, cornmeal, old-fashioned oats, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, baking chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips, cocoa powder.
Produce: Garlic, onions, ginger, potatoes, scallions, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, lemons, limes, apples, oranges.
Dairy: Butter, cheeses (mozzarella, feta, blue), yogurt, cottage cheese.
Put these on your weekly grocery list:
Produce: Tomatoes, bell peppers, squash (yellow, zucchini, acorn, butternut, spaghetti), mushrooms, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, berries (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry), grapes, cherries, bananas, parsley, cilantro, fresh mint, fresh rosemary, fresh bay leaves. Dairy: Eggs, milk.
Grains: Whole wheat bread.
Choosing lean meats and poultry:
Beef: Round steaks and roasts (eye of round, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, tenderloin (filet mignon), chuck shoulder, arm roasts, 93-95% ground beef.
Pork: Pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
Poultry: Boneless skinless chicken breasts, turkey cutlets, ground chicken breasts, ground turkey breasts.
Deli: Turkey breast, roast beef, ham.
With a bit of planning and a full pantry, you can make eating healthy much simpler.
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