When it comes to eating, there are certain rules we need to pay even MORE attention to after we hit the 50+ mark. As we age, we know keeping our weight in check is important. But additionally, doing whatever we can to quell inflammation is really critical so we can reduce our needs for medication, manage blood sugars and cholesterol, and minimize joint pain, memory loss, and digestive issues.
Based on our own experiences and the data we’ve gathered from counseling hundreds of women , we’ve narrowed it down to 5 rules – and refer to them as the 5 P’s of successful healthy eating.
Let’s dive in! You can listen here or read below the video.
You often hear us talk about eating the rainbow. You know, working in more colorful plant based foods to upgrade your health to the next level.
The reason behind this is due not only to the fiber found in plant based foods, but something known as polyphenols. Polyphenols are a class of compounds found in many plant foods that includes flavonoids, phenolic acids, and lignans.
There are more than 8,000 different types of polyphenols that have been identified so far. Some popular polyphenols you may have heard of are EGCG in green tea and resveratrol in foods like red grapes and red wine.
Most polyphenols work as antioxidants in the body, meaning they can combat environmental harm such as UV damage and pollution. In addition to their antioxidant activity, polyphenols have many other health benefits.
Studies strongly suggest that diets rich in polyphenols demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects in the body and can offer protection against the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and even dementia.
Polyphenols are also phenomenal food for your microbiome. Your good gut bugs don’t only feast on fiber, but colorful plant foods too! And these good guys are our best friends in terms of helping us create and absorb vitamins and minerals, quell inflammation, nourish our colon cells, improve mood, and so much more.
The pace at which you eat makes such a huge difference in your weight and overall health. Slowing down your pace is a huge foundational skill that we constantly work on with clients.
Why is this so important?
When you slow down, you are more likely to eat less. Research suggests that it gives our digestive hormones a chance to communicate with our brains to let our brains know when we are full. When we eat too fast, we don’t give enough time to allow this to happen.
Additionally, slower eating = more chewing. Chewing is such a vital part of the digestive process. As we get older our bodies don’t produce as many digestive enzymes to help break down the food, so we need to do what we can to help break down the food.
We tend to see many more digestive issues and reflux in women after midlife. We have worked with clients who improved digestive issues like reflux and bloating, just by slowing it down. Plus, when you digest food better, you absorb it better and are able to feed your cells with the nutrients they need.
It also gives your body a chance to get into what is called rest and digest mode. When you are rushing or stressed, that triggers your “fight or flight” response. In fight or flight, our bodies are equipped to take on an emergency. But in order to do that, body systems including digestion shut down in an effort to give energy to handle the emergency. Not good 🙁
Another bonus of slower eating is that it gives you a chance to enjoy the food more! How often do you finish eating something and think, where did it go? When you eat slower, you chew more, relax more and enjoy more.
When you start to become more aware of your eating pace, you will notice how quickly people around you eat. Do not discount the impact this can make on your healthy eating plan!
3): PROPER PROTEIN
As we age, our protein needs increase. During menopause, the natural decline in estrogen levels causes a loss of muscle mass and strength. A good dose of protein has been shown to help prevent the muscle loss that occurs with aging. If you don’t get enough protein, your body will break down its own muscle tissue, making matters worse.
Protein has also been shown to boost weight loss and maintain long term steady blood sugar levels. Protein is also filling which helps with satiety. It’s especially helpful if you are prone to cravings.
Aim for at least 15 and up to 25 grams/meal. Sourcing is key. Look for a variety of quality protein sources from foods such as pastured chicken, turkey, and eggs, 100% grass fed beef, and plant based foods such as beans, lentils, tofu/tempeh, quality protein powder, nuts and seeds.
4): PARE DOWN SUGAR AND PROCESSED FOOD
This one is pretty obvious but we can’t ignore how important it is to be rooting out excess sugar and cutting way back on processed foods.
Not only do these two culprits make it MUCH harder to lose or control your weight, they also increase your risk for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.
Several studies have found that chemicals in processed foods can promote early insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. These are things that are more important than ever to be paying attention to as we enter into or midlife years and beyond.
Processed foods are made for convenience and long shelf life, and real nutrition gets short-changed in the methods and chemicals used to create these foods. When we ingest too many of these chemicals they put a drain on our metabolism because our bodies don’t know how to process them. They are found in foods such as chips, cookies, breakfast cereals, microwave meals, most breads, sugary drinks, and many cheeses.
As far as sugar, there are the obvious sweets like cake, cookies, candy and ice cream, but you have to be a sleuth to root out where hidden sources are, such as yogurts, cereals, granola bars and ketchup – look at the labels and search for different ways sugar is listed.
Put anything back that has more than 4 grams per serving, which equals one teaspoon. Aim for no more than 4-5 teaspoons ADDED tsp per day.
Oh, and be sure to watch for health halo! Many yogurts and granolas give the idea of being healthy, but can come packed with sugar. Even dairy free ice creams or sorbets can have lots of sugar that you need to take into account. More on sugar here.
5): PLATE MAKOVER/PORTIONS
Adjusting your plate size can make a big difference in portion control. Plate sizes have grown so much over the years, but we have found that when we use a smaller plate, we eat less. It’s as simple as that.
So how do you create a plate makeover?
Lets start with the obvious . . . use a smaller plate. Even with healthy food, it is possible to get too much of a good thing.
When the plate is smaller, we put less food on it and it looks more full giving the illusion of having more. Give it a try and if you finish what’s on your plate and feel that you need more, well then go back and get a little more (we suggest only 20%).
The other part of our plate makeover is about what goes ON your plate.
It is very common to have the protein take up the largest part of the plate, along with a starch, and then many people add a side of veggies. But we suggest changing that around.
Make the non starchy veggies the super stars that take up at least half of your plate (remember your rainbow and polyphenols)? Then add your protein for a quarter of the plate, and the other quarter goes to your starch or starchier veggie like sweet potatoes or peas on the remaining part of the plate.
We go into this in more detail with examples and recipes in our PM Meal Mastery program, where we help women take the guesswork out of what to eat to support your body, brain, bones and of course metabolism during these years of change without spending hours in the kitchen or feeling deprived, hungry, or cranky.
So there are our 5 rules for healthy eating! Let us know in the comments which of these you are currently practicing, and which one you are going to start working on. We’d love to hear from you 🙂