Why Your First Meal Of The Day Matters (more than ever) In Peri-menopause

I shared a post on social media on this topic recently and got quite a lot of questions, so I thought that I would share it in a blog post too.
One of the symptoms of peri-menopause you may not be aware of is how fluctuating hormones can also affect your ability to control your blood sugar balance as effectively.
The result of this can be an increase in symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, increased anxiety, food cravings, night waking, fatigue, poor concentration, and weight gain.
One of the ways that you can address this is by making sure that you have enough protein, healthy fats and fibre in your first meal of the day.
The first meal of the day is arguably the most important one as it can help to set your blood sugar control for the rest of the day.
Additional benefits are that a meal containing a balance of proteins, fats, and fibre can keep you feeling fuller for longer and help to prevent food cravings.
We also lose lean muscle mass as we age and this is accelerated during peri-menopause. This is one of the reasons regular exercise is so important in midlife. Protein helps you to build (and maintain) muscle mass.  
Healthy fats are essential to make hormones. A low-fat diet is definitely not one to follow in peri-menopause!

This is what happened to me…

My first real symptoms of peri-menopause started whilst on a family holiday to Greece a couple of years ago.
Out of nowhere I suddenly started getting hot flushes day and night, which badly disrupted my sleep. I felt anxious and irritable for most of the holiday.
Let’s just say it was not the idyllic break that I (or my family…) had been hoping for…
I had never had symptoms like this before…and the experience caught me completely by surprise.
The reason turned out to be the changes in my eating and drinking habits whilst on holiday…
I was still eating healthy foods but in the wrong combination.
The gorgeous fresh local fruits I was eating for breakfast, the local wine I was drinking wine in the evenings and the lovely sheep feta I was eating almost every day for lunch was not serving me well. 
How did I find this out? I bought a blood glucose monitor the type diabetics use to monitor their blood sugar levels and I tested myself on waking and an hour after each meal. My blood sugar was spiking too much and contributing to my symptoms.
What I wasn’t doing was balancing my meals with enough protein and healthy fats.

How much protein do you need?

To find out whether if you have enough protein and fat in your diet, I recommend that you start by using a free app such as MyFitnessPal. You can then make adjustments to your daily intake.

An easy way to calculate how much protein you need per day is 1g per kg of your body weight. You may need more if you are very active.

Some foods may also affect your blood sugar more than others, and dairy is one of those food groups for me. One of the best ways to find out what foods affect you is by monitoring your blood sugar levels after eating. 
Many women do not include enough protein in their meals, particularly at breakfast.
Eating enough protein and healthy fats for breakfast is one of the best ways that I know of managing hot flushes, night sweats, food cravings, night waking, fatigue, and concentration levels. It may not solve the problem completely, but in my experience, it has definitely helped me.

Not sure what foods contain protein and fats? Here is a list of a few

Protein Foods                                                                    Healthy Fat Foods 

Chicken and Turkey – 85g = 20g protein                   Extra virgin olive oil

1 Eggs  = 6g of protein                                                 Avocado/avocado oil

Meats = 85g = 20g protein                                          Coconut oil

Fish = 85g = 20g protein                                              Nuts/seeds & nut/seed butters

Tofu and tempeh = 170g = 18g protein                       Oily fish

Lentils =  1 cup = 18g protein                                       Olives

Nuts and seeds = 85g = 15g protein                           Ghee

Protein powders = vary, check packaging                  Grassfed butter

All weights and protein content are approximate.

Eggs, nuts and seeds and oily fish have both proteins and fats

To get you started here are 7 Protein and Healthy Fat Meals to Start Your Day 

Here are 7 meal examples of combining protein and healthy fats which you may like to try to see if they make a difference to your symptoms and your overall health.
  • 2-3 eggs (any way you like) with avocado and some green leafy vegetables
  • Smoked salmon or sardines https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/787004103632715071/ with freshly squeezed lemon and sauerkraut on seed crackers https://wp.me/paQJYE-q3
  • 100g roast chicken or turkey breast with olives, salad or veggies
  • Chia seed breakfast pudding with tahini and pumpkin seeds https://wp.me/paQJYE-hE
  • 170g tofu or tempeh seasoned & scrambled with green leafy veggies https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/787004103632714895/
  • Nut and seed granola https://wp.me/paQJYE-iG with Greek yoghurt and fresh berries
  • A smoothie with a portion of whey or pea protein powder https://wp.me/paQJYE-n

For more tips and advice on perimenopause and menopause join a growing group of like-minded women here

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