Many women dread the menopause but there's really no need as diet and lifestyle changes can make a big difference. You might experience hot flushes, mood swings, dry skin, weight gain and osteoporosis but what you eat can make a difference to these menopause symptoms. So we've devised a diet that will help you lose weight, to help combat the effects of the menopause and boost your intake of calcium, which can minimise your risk of osteoporosis.
Why have I put on weight?
The reason many women put on weight during the menopause is because as we get older our metabolism slows down, which means the body takes longer to burn off calories. Plus, our digestion changes and can become sluggish, which some nutritionists believe leads to IBS, allergies, weight gain, lack of energy and other digestive problems.
The other reason for weight gain during the menopause is because the body slows down, and in some cases stops, the production of oestrogen. Scientist don't quite fully understand the relationship between fat and oestrogen but they know it can contribute to weight gain.
Nutritionists and doctors know that what you eat can affect your mood and there's a lot of evidence that suggests certain foods such as tofu and fresh fruit and vegetables that contain anti-oxidents can reduce the symptoms of the menopause. So, this diet involves lots of these foods, plus it's a low-fat, high-fibre diet to help lose weight and improve digestion - another common problem that comes with age and the menopause. The diet has a lot of calcium-rich foods too, which is
needed for bone health.
Is there anything else I can do?
Yes, lifestyle changes can really help. Weight-bearing exercise, such as doing weights in the gym or using your own body weight, to do exercises, such as press-ups, can help strengthen the bones, and as levels of oestrogen drop, bones get weaker. This sort of exercise also tones muscles and the more toned your muscles are, the more fat you'll burn.
Many women find that yoga also helps with the menopause because not only is it good for the bones and muscles, the breathing exercises can help minimise hot flushes, anxiety and mood swings. Plus, yoga is very relaxing, which is important because feeling stressed and depressed can be common symptoms of the menopause and make all the other symptoms worse - and lead to weight gain too.
It's so easy, just three regular meals and one or two snacks a day. Try to stay away from booze, caffeine and spicy foods as these can make hot flushes worse. You may also need to experiment a little with foods that you don't normally eat such as tofu, soya milk and nuts and seeds.
Drink plenty of water, aim for 6-8 glasses a day - you may find this
gives you more energy and helps to flush out any urinary infections,
such as cystitis, which is a common side-effect of the menopause.
Choose from any of these snacks - you can have two a day:
- A handful of red grapes or blueberries
- A handful of dried cranberries, dried apricots or dried figs
- A handful of almonds, peanuts or walnuts
- An apple, banana or an orange
- Two oatcakes, any variety
- A small pot of low-fat fruit yogurt - soya yogurt is best but if you can't get it or you don't like it, don't worry
- A small pot of low-fat fruit fromage frais
- A small bowl of home-made fruit salad (pictured: Anthony Worrall-Thompson's herby fruit salad)
Choose from one of these breakfasts each day:
- A bowl of porridge made with soya milk or semi-skimmed milk, sweetened with a teaspoon of honey or a pinch of salt
- A large slice of melon with fresh berries and flaked almonds
- Two slices of wholegrain toast with low-fat margarine and either Marmite or low-fat soft cheese
- Grilled oily fish of your choice (mackerel, haddock, salmon, sardines, pilchards) with grilled tomatoes and mushrooms
- A bowl of wholegrain cereal with soya milk or semi-skimmed milk
- Soya yogurt or low-fat plain yogurt with a tablespoon of muesli and a tablespoon of dried fruit
- A poached egg on a wholemeal bagel or on a thick slice of wholegrain toast
Choose from one of these lunches each day:
- Avocado salad with crispy bacon
- Couscous salad, mix couscous with any choice of chopped veg or try our couscous, chickpea and salmon salad
- Jacket potato with tuna, baked beans, cottage cheese or vegetarian soya mince
- Wholemeal pitta filled with chicken, tuna or low-fat cheese and salad
- A small two-egg omlette with fresh chopped vegetables of your choice
- Cauliflower cheese soup
- Pasta salad with a handful of seeds and marinated tofu - you can find
Choose from one of these dinners each day:
- Grilled, seared or poached salmon or tuna with mashed potatoes and peas
- Sesame and honey chicken with a green salad
- Braised lamb with mixed beans and pulses - we've got an easy recipe for Lamb and bean casserole
- Stir-fried tofu with green vegetables - have a go at our Sesame and chilli tofu with mangetout
- Roasted vegetables with pasta or rice mixed with chopped chicken or ham or egg if you're a vegetarian
- Instead of a Chinese takeaway, try this easy noodles with tofu
- Roast beef with cranberries, roast potatoes, carrots and green beans with almonds
More info on the menopause
How much do you know about the menopause? Take our quiz
- Your menopause questions answered
- Your tips and stories of the menopause