(Micro)Managing Menopause and Your Health

Published on: 06/19/2023
Busy bee on flower
I wish we could micromanage menopause, along with micromanaging other things and/or people in our lives (yes, I know we all try!). But as we have all experienced, it just does not work. However, if we put the work into managing our menopausal journeys (as delightful as they are🙃), we will get results! The key word is work, as when you put the true time, effort, and dedication into taking care of yourself, anything is possible. As challenging as it may be, it is possible to be healthy and weight happy despite the ever-changing hormones during perimenopause and menopause. Let’s dig into some of the facts here, as well as what exactly is this work I am speaking about 💪🏽:

  • Eat according to your body clock – when you are hungry, eat. When you are not hungry, there is no need to eat. When we strictly follow the no snacks-3-meals-a-day plan, we often eat when we are not hungry, and overeat as we let our hunger gauge power up while awaiting our next meal. Your hunger cues may encourage you to eat 2 meals a day plus 2-3 snacks, or 3 meals a day plus 1-3 snacks. It is different for everyone, and I know every day can be different, but finding your personal sweet spot is a key part of your journey. 
  • Focus on plants – a plant-based diet generally supplies you with a balance of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, all helping to reduce your blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, lower your risk for diabetes, and promote a healthy weight. It does not mean you have to give up all meat or go vegan. It does mean you may need to ADD more to your plate in the way of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. 
  • Contain the carbs – not zero carbs, but keep a close eye on how much, aiming for < 40% overall. This number has certainly gone up and down over the years, but it is an important part of your plate. When it comes to healthy aging and menopause, approximately 15-25% of your plate should be whole grain, healthy carbs. Choosing whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and bread, and starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and corn, provides us with the energy our bodies need for our cells, tissues, and organs to function. They also contain fiber, like fruits and veggies, with a load💩of benefits including regularity, meal satisfaction, decreases inflammation, nourishing gut bacteria, and helps to control craving. All are beneficial for overall weight management, heart health, gut health, and keeping our plates and minds happy😃.
  • Prompt the protein – consume protein regularly throughout the day to help keep you feeling fuller for longer, as well as provide you with nutrients to maintain healthy muscles and bones. However, often as we age, we are not consuming enough protein. As discussed here, we need more protein than the RDA suggests. Research shows the menopause transition is a vulnerable time for the loss of muscle mass. In a recent study, researchers found that compared to women in early perimenopause, those in late perimenopause had 10 percent less muscle mass in their arms and legs…yikes. Late perimenopausal and postmenopausal women were also more likely to have sarcopenia (involuntary muscle loss) than premenopausal or early perimenopausal women. If you currently do not lift weights, now is your time💪🏽. Weight lifting + eating more protein will help you preserve and build your muscles. Now I am not making any promises here, but the science states: maintaining lean body mass during the menopausal transition may be protective against the development of VMS (vasomotor symptoms = hot flashes & night sweats😓). So how much do you need? It is always an individualized number, but aiming for 20-30 grams of protein per meal and 10-15 grams per snack will get you on the right track.
  • Coping with calories – Coping is the word. Always the challenge and always individualized. Trial and error and working with a dietitian (that’s me, just saying☺️) is the best way to know your magic calorie number. A forever-changing formula, but when creating healthy meals with the amounts of nutrients mentioned, you can find your happy plate and happy place. 
  • Get moving, keep moving – physical activity (including lifting weights, per the above) helps you both mentally and physically as it helps to burn calories, maintain muscle and bone health, lower your risk for diabetes and cancer, reduce stress, and decrease depression and anxiety. There is no better medicine!

✨Finally, remember that you don’t have to strive for perfection, especially when you are just starting out. Taking small steps can ultimately lead to significant achievements. ✨

**In additional news, the WHO (World Health Organization) has put out a statement that I felt was important to share. They advise against all NonSugar Sweeteners (NSS) for weight control, unless you have pre-existing diabetes. This statement is based on the lack of science in the benefit of weight loss when using these products. They mention some possible safety issues, and suggest sticking with natural sugars (like fruit) or unsweetened beverages. I recently discussed the latest scientific news about NonSugar Sweeteners (NSS), stating pure Stevia should be okay, but we need more studies…What to do? When sweetening your beverages with a packet of something, 1 packet of sugar = 10 calories, 3 grams of carbohydrates (which is 3 grams of sugar). Really not a big deal if you use just one! Or skip it all together and start to lower your level of sweetness desired. It takes some time, but it is worth the effort.

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SUMMER STRAWBERRY SALAD WITH STRAWBERRY YOGURT DRESSING
“Strawberry fields forever”… is all I keep singing when making this recipe, as well as looking as the picture. It is such a delight of sweetness and summer – hard to get enough! What a great way to consume vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Just be sure to add your lean protein of choice on top! 

INGREDIENTS — dressing
½ cup fresh strawberries, washed and cored
¼  cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup nonfat Greek yogurt, plain
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

INGREDIENTS — salad
4-5 cups romaine, washed, dried and chopped into bite-size pieces (any favorite greens!)
½ cup fresh strawberries, washed and sliced thin
¼ cup roasted walnuts, chopped
¼ cup feta cheese (optional)
freshly ground pepper
Optional protein toppings for a main dish: grilled or blackened chicken, tofu, shrimp

PREPARATION
Place all of the dressing ingredients in a blender. Blend for about 30 seconds, or until smooth. If too thick, add another tablespoon of water at a time until desired consistency. Taste and add more ground pepper as desired. Set aside.

Place salad greens in medium salad bowl. Toss with 3-4 tablespoons of prepared dressing. Top with strawberries, walnuts, feta cheese, and protein. Drizzle with and additional 1–2 teaspoons dressing and freshly ground pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.


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SWEET AND SPICY TRUFFLE MARINADE 
The intense flavor and aroma of truffle oil brings a smile to your meal😀. Truffle oil is another good source of the antioxidants called polyphenols (just like strawberries), which help to prevent cardiovascular disease by helping to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels down. Smile and enjoy this delicious marinade with your favorite lean protein source. 

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½  Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot honey
2 Tablespoons fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons white truffle oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Protein options: 2 pounds of fresh fish, chicken tenderloins, tofu, or shrimp
Optional garnish: freshly ground pepper and basil

PREPARATION
Whisk together lemon juice through garlic in a small bowl. Remove 1 tablespoon and set aside. 
Place your protein of choice in a large sealable baggie. Add the rest of the marinade, seal, and shake well. Marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator or overnight,  turning frequently. 
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, depending on your protein. Cook for 5-7 minutes per side, flip, and continue cooking until cooked through and the desired doneness. Place on serving platter. Pour saved marinade on top, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and basil. Makes 6-8 servings.


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CHOCOLATE GRANOLA CRUNCH
This could be part of your breakfast, mid-afternoon snack, or dessert. It is fun to make, as you do you, adding any of your favorites. This granola is sweetened just a bit with maple syrup for a natural flavor boost. The chocolate certainly adds to the sweetness, not too mention balancing hormones. Hormonal changes from menopause, menstruation, pregnancy, etc, all cause a dip in our serotonin levels. Thankfully 🙏 chocolate increases serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter responsible for better mood, sleep, and reduction of anxiety.

INGREDIENTS
4 cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup pecans or walnuts (or your favorite nuts)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
⅓ cup canola oil
½  cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips (mini or chopped)

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 
In a large bowl, add oats, nuts, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix until well-combined. 
In a separate small bowl, whisk together canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Add mixture to the large bowl and stir until evenly combined. 
Spread the mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Stir one more time, turn oven off, and let the granola sit in the oven for another 5 minutes, or until all is lightly toasted and golden in color. Remove from the oven and slide the granola on the parchment paper onto the counter. Mix in the chocolate chips immediately, so they melt into the granola. Allow to cool completely. Add any desired additional toppings. Enjoy on top of your yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, or just a tasty snack! Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.


Once in a while you can get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right

Scarlet Begonias — The Grateful Dead

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With a longstanding dedication to healthy cooking and eating, I promote nutrition with a rebellious twist: the belief that perfection is not required for success on your wellness journey. 

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