One of the stumbling blocks I often hear from women, is the challenge of adopting healthier eating within the confines of family life. Let's just say up front, it's not easy. Everyone has different preferences and tastes and it can be tricky to keep everyone happy. Trying to eat healthier can seem like an uphill task when you have to accommodate lots of different people in the family, but there are ways to make it happen!
In this post, I'll give you some food and recipe tips that can support your midlife health AND be easily blended into family life. As we have all been thrust together into lockdown once again and family meals are centre stage, I hope you'll find these tips useful and something you could work on building into your diet over time.
Tip: Aim to meal plan for the week, or a few days ahead at least. It will make blending new healthier recipes into your life that much easier. If you can sneak in a bit of batch cooking all the better.
1) Elevate your breakfast, Energise your Body: Start the day well with a light nutritious meal to kickstart your brain and energise your body. Your body will benefit so much more than if you had a couple of pieces of toast or a bar. Ideally, a light meal combining some protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates, avoiding too many refined carbohydrates with added sugar. I know many of you have little time in the morning and need a quick breakfast, but a little time spent cooking is well worth the effort, giving you a wonderful steady release of energy throughout the day. Try switching away from the standard boxed cereals/granola that normally contain a lot of sugar*
Eggs are a brilliant option providing fat and protein and are quick to make. Try them on seeded bread or make home-made beans on toast; Elevate your toast with some roasted tomatoes and mushrooms and a runny egg. Make your own granola or have oats with nuts, seeds and some flaxseeds. You could also opt for live natural yoghurt instead of milk to give some probiotics too.
2) Same Meals, More Plants: Adding more plants into your tried and tested family meals is a great way to elevate the nutrient value of your meal and get more fibre in your diet. Your gut needs a wide variety of plants to support the absorption of vital nutrients, playing a role in immune function and helping to balance your hormones. Plant proteins such as flaxseeds, lentils, beans and pulses also provide you with phytoestrogens, that help to balance your hormones and can manage hot flushes.
Beans, lentils and all kinds of vegetables can be added into family favourites such as lasagne, cottage pie, bolognese sauce, shepherds pie, curries and casseroles or in place of meat. If the kids don't like veg, this is a good way to hide them. Red lentils are great as they go translucent and will bulk out meals.
3) Ditch the processed desserts: Many convenience desserts contain a huge amount of hidden sugars and/or sweeteners, both of which mess with your gut (friendly bacteria doesn't like sugar very much), blood sugar levels and make you crave more sugar.* Low fat yoghurts can be particularly high in sugar, despite claiming to be 'healthy.'
Instead, opt for natural, unsweetened yoghurt and some fruit. Live yoghurt is great probiotic, which adds more good bacteria into your gut. You could top it with fruit, a sprinkle of nuts or seeds. Pistachios are really high in melatonin (your sleep hormone) and make a superb evening snack.
4) Swap your Spreads: Healthy fats are a must-have in your midlife diet, great for keeping you satiated, heart health and balancing hormones. Instead of spreading butter or margarine on your toast or sandwich, opt for a nut butter, mashed avocado or some hummus. You could even mash or blend up some butter beans or chickpeas and use that as a spread. Really easy to put in your sandwich or your potato and if the family don't like it they can opt out! Many margarines contained refined oils, which are best avoided. Avocado, hummus, nuts and beans are nutrient rich providing protein, fibre and vitamins/minerals.
5) Wrap it Up: Don't skip lunch if you're busy, it only moves you into that 'hangry' state where you'll later grab anything to quickly boost your energy levels. Wraps are a quick and versatile family option where you can add so many different variations to suit different family members. They are great for adding loads of goodies like spinach, salad, beans, hummus, tuna, lean protein. Make sure you go for a wholegrain or seeded wrap if possible.
6) Don't ditch the carbs, Opt for Whole-grains: There seems to be a fear of carbohydrates these days, but not all carbs are created equally. Oats, brown rice, and multigrain breads are complex carbohydrates and a primary source of energy. They also provide B vitamins and magnesium, both important for energy. Magnesium also helps to calm the nervous system and support the endocrine system, which manages the body's response to stress. These foods should be pretty easy to include in your diet. I'm sure a lot of you already do this. They key is to switch away from white refined carbohydrates, which has been stripped of the goodness (the grain) where you get most of your nutrients. So go for the whole-grain option.
7) Healthy Snacks: Give your snack cupboard an overhaul. You want to make all your calories count in your midlife years, so swap the crisps and opt for nuts & seeds (Unsalted) that will boost your energy and provide you with vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre and healthy fats. They are an all round super star for midlife women's health. Oat-based snacks are also a good one, supporting heart and brain health. It's easy to make oat slices that can be enjoyed for the family. Just watch the added sugar content.
8) Oily Fish for lunch: If the family doesn't like oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, then add them to your lunch a couple of days a week. This is a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which as an anti-inflammatory, supports joint, bone, brain and heart health. All areas of our health we need to support during midlife. Baked salmon parcels are easy and quick to prepare for one or more. Go for wild salmon, as farmed salmon contains a lot of chemicals. Tins of Wild Red Salmon are an economical option or you can get frozen wild salmon in most supermarkets.
9) Make your own Salad Dressing: You can easily make your own salad dressing. Use extra virgin olive oil as the base as it's one of the least processed oils and is rich in antioxidants, brilliant for health and brain health. Keeping the brain healthy is not often given much thought, but as we age, we need think of our cognitive health as well. It helps to protect against diseases such as dementia. There are hundreds of salad dressing recipes online made with extra virgin olive oil. I quite like Jamie Oliver's jam jar dressings here.
10) Grab a Smoothie: If you are short on time, smoothies are a super quick way to recharge your energy as a meal or snack. Plus a good way to get in a wide range of nutrients, especially those all important dark greens, such as spinach - another good source of magnesium. Opt for a blender that combines all the parts of the fruit/veg so you get the fibre too.
If you spend very little time in the kitchen, bear in mind this may well be holding your health back. Nothing changes, if nothing changes, as the saying goes, so if you want to nourish your body and feel healthier, you will probably need to be make some amends to your cooking lifestyle.
*Aim to reduce sugar consumption as much as possible. Simple sugars, found in cakes, biscuits and many processed foods, enter the blood stream quickly causing a spike in blood glucose, followed swiftly by a low in our blood glucose levels. These highs and lows make us feel pretty awful, leading to anxiety and mood swings. If we continuously eat this way it can be the precursor to health problems down the line. The goal should be to keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel. This is essential for good health in midlife, helping you to feel energised and keeping your hormonal changes in check.
If you're keen to make changes to your health and would like a helping hand, book in a free discovery call with me and I'll show you the way....