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May 12, 2020

How Smart Grocery Shopping and Nutrient-Dense Meals Can Help You Get Through Perimenopause (and a Pandemic)

How Smart Grocery Shopping and Nutrient-Dense Meals Can Help You Get Through Perimenopause (and a Pandemic)

If perimenopause and a pandemic have one thing in common it’s that we want them both to be over. And if weeks of stay-at-home orders have seen you replace hot yoga with hot buttered bread, you’re in good company. But you might need a few tips for—and maybe a new approach to—getting back on track with healthier eating. 

In the third of a series of #curiechats, California-based dietician LeeAnn Weintraub talked about how a woman’s nutritional needs shift during her 40s and 50s and how to shop smarter and cook healthier during the pandemic and beyond. 

Eat and move to boost metabolism

It’s common for women in midlife to gain weight and try to lose it only to discover that their tried-and-true techniques aren’t so true anymore. And it can be disappointing and confusing to discover that what worked well for weight loss in our 20s and 30s is nothing more than spinning our wheels after 40.

Though the average amount of weight gained by menopausal women ranges just 2 to 5 pounds, shifting body composition and loss of muscle can make us feel flabby where we didn’t before. And dropping those pounds can seem as difficult as finding a coronavirus vaccine. 

Weintraub says one thing that her clients sometimes haven’t considered is how their activity level has dropped over time. Both everyday movements like chasing kids around and workouts can fall off after 40. “If that activity has gone down over the years, it can be harder to stay lean,” she says. “I like to recommend instead of cutting back on calories to focus on something that builds metabolism.”

That means daily exercise—however imperfect. Find what you enjoy, what’s convenient, and what fits into your day and do it. You don’t have to go to the gym and do the perfect 60-minute class, Weintraub says. Take a morning walk, dust off your inline skates, have a kitchen dance party before dinner. 

And combine that commitment with a second one: nutrient-dense eating.

For most women that means having a routine, planning meals, and shopping efficiently. Weintraub says you’ll be much better off if you don’t skip meals, eat snacks that include protein (a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts, hummus and vegetables, Greek yogurt, and berries), consume plenty of fiber, and forgo processed foods. 

Focus on the quality of food that you eat—not the quantity. It’s less about counting calories or carbs and more about eating whole foods and paying attention to how your body feels when you do. 

Shop smart, cook at home

In the last few weeks, we’ve all likely learned a few lessons about shopping strategically. When you know you won’t be dropping by the grocery after work to grab a single item or running out impulsively for a treat, you think more carefully about what food to buy before you hit the store and what you’re going to do with that food after you get it home. Weintraub advises that you organize your list by section of the store and write it on paper so you don’t have to touch your phone. 

She suggests staying stocked on: 

  • Whole grains, such as quinoa and farro 
  • Canned beans and vegetables
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Frozen fish and poultry 

Each week you can buy fresh eggs and produce. Tofu, she says, is also very economical. And if you have access to a farm box delivery during the week, that can be an excellent way to supplement pantry staples between grocery runs. 

Weekend batch cooking helps make meal prep during the workweek faster and less stressful, she says, adding that home-cooked meals nourish the body and the mind.

A few recipes to try

You don’t have to be a client to benefit from Weintraub’s expertise. Each week, the dietician posts easy, healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at familymealsinheels.com. They’re original creations made with popular flavors and accessible ingredients—and they’ve been tested by her own family. 

“Sometimes figuring out what for dinner is the hardest question,” she says. “I just want to inspire people with creative ideas. It doesn’t have to be Food Network-worthy, just something healthy and delicious.” 

Some examples from the site:

A Feta and green olive breakfast quesadilla takes your morning meal out of the box.

End sad desk lunches with pineapple tofu fried rice served in a hollowed-out pineapple half.

Sheet-pan chicken Caesar salad turns the heat up on greens at dinner.

Want the entire 30-minute chat on YouTube.

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Learn more about Weintraub at halfacup.com.