Navigating menopause: Beyond cravings and comfort foods

You don’t need me to tell you; a lot of things change about how it feels to be you in the transition to menopause. Where once you were a three-straight-meals-a-day girl, now your cravings are through the roof and it feels like you are being drawn by a mysterious force to the snacks cupboard and don’t have the willpower to hold back.


It’s easy to think your body is sending you messages about what it wants, so you fall into the trap of indulging in heavy carbs, chocolates, and sweets, believing they satisfy your cravings, but…

Spoiler alert: what you crave during menopause is almost never what your body actually needs.

Not for steady energy through the day, not for weight loss, not for a good mood, not to help you sleep. This next bit is said with love, but stop kidding yourself! And, look, it’s not like eating any of that stuff is illegal or naughty or bad. All of that kind of language makes you either feel full of guilt if you do eat more of it than you “should” and it also makes you rebel against the so-called rules, keeping you stuck in a diet trap. 

Now, before you start feeling guilty about enjoying your favourite treats, let's set the record straight. There's no such thing as inherently good or bad food. Avocados won't save your life, and a croissant won't kill you (trust me, I had two last Sunday). Dull as that might sound when you really just want a shortcut, but it's all about balance and moderation.

Here's the deal – if you're relying on slimming clubs that advocate for unlimited carbs and constant snacking on sugary treats, it's time to reassess. That's not a sustainable or healthy approach, especially for women over 40. We deserve better.

So, what can you do to take charge of your health and the seemingly ever-expanding waistline during menopause? It's all about making strategic adjustments (those are the big things) and incorporating tactical, specific foods into your diet. 

Taking charge of your health during menopause

Here are some tips to get you started:

Focus on real food

Instead of reaching for processed snacks and sugary treats, prioritise whole, nutrient-dense foods. Think organic meats, wild fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, and loads of veggies. Do this at every meal and snack. 

Balance blood sugar

Menopause can wreak havoc on your insulin sensitivity, leading to symptoms like hot flushes and weight gain. Combat this by following a blood sugar-balancing diet, similar to the Mediterranean diet. Limit treats that spike your blood sugar and opt for foods that stabilise it like protein and fibre-filled fruit and veg. A great place to start is with a protein-rich breakfast - eggs, Greek yoghurt (full fat, authentic) with nuts, seeds and berries, a protein smoothie, and so on. 

That is the strategic work that will have the greatest effect on your experience of menopause. And, if you start the day with a decent, protein breakfast, I am pretty certain you won’t fancy eating till lunch. 

Incorporate phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that can help rebalance hormones during menopause. Include foods like soy, alfalfa, apples, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, lentils, oats, and turmeric in your diet to reap their benefits.

Make sure you are eating enough

If you are under-eating through the day, your body may start to protest by demanding you have after-dinner snacks. There are a couple of things that are unhelpful here - one is that we rarely snack on the ‘good stuff’ and the other is that snacking close to bedtime can mean you’re going to bed with food not properly digested. There are many important biological functions of sleep but none of them are digesting your dinner. 

You should never doubt the power of eating real food. 

In our medicalised world, many people are surprised how quickly they can improve how they feel about a whole range of menopause (and other woes) just by changing what they eat. But I urge you to try it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take HRT but, if you want to feel your best in perimenopause, menopause and beyond, you really will want to embrace diet and lifestyle changes. You really can improve many of the annoying symptoms of menopause by making some changes to what you eat. Food is more than just macronutrients and vitamins. It has been used for healing and curing for centuries.

So, let's ditch the guilt and embrace a real food approach to menopause nutrition. Your body will thank you for it!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Chelmsford, CM1
Written by Ailsa Hichens, Dip ION BANT Menopause Nutrition & Nutrigenomics Specialist
Chelmsford, CM1

Ailsa Hichens BA (Hons) Dip ION mBANT CNHC. Ailsa is a nutrition coach specialising in metabolic weight loss and hormone balance. She helps women reach their happy weight, get back in control of their health and create a life they love. Find out more, grab your free ebook, or book a free mini consult at food

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