White woman with brown hair holding bell peppers smiling in a kitchen

Nutrition Tips For Women Over 40

Dec 14, 2022

Delia and I recently asked Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN, a celebrated women’s health coach & registered dietitian and Founder of BZ Nutrition, to take part in a Q&A (Delia is and always has been an extraordinarily clean eater and a vegetarian, so this conversation is a natural one for her to discuss). I really liked how Brigitte, the nutritionist, answered Delia’s questions, and decided to ask Brigitte if she could participate in a Q&A geared towards women over 40 and beyond. My questions are always, “What is ahead for us” and “How can we best prepare and prevent health issues, skin issues, body and hair changes, etc.” Happily for us, Brigitte obliged, and I think it made for an informative experience! Read our first interview with Brigitte about how to feel good in your body here.

Hi Alison + Delia! I am thrilled to sit back down with you and The Style That Binds community!! Let’s discuss nutrition and well-being in our wiser years!

What do you recommend for women who are perimenopausal, menopausal and post-menopausal that is different from the advice you give women in earlier years?

The key foundations for all women, no matter our age, is fiber. Fiber plays a huge role with our hormones throughout our entire lives. So, for women who are in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s: focus on fiber. That means eating 8+ cups of vegetables daily (both cooked and raw count), 1-2 cups of fruit, and add in 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax seed into your day (I use it in my oatmeal, yogurt, salad dressings, or stir-frys).

Two other key nutrition must-haves at each meal are: good quality fats and good quality protein. Every Single Meal. By quality fats I mean: olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts, and seeds. I recommend all my clients in their 40’s and up, take a fish oil/omega-3 supplement. For my clients in their 50’s, adding in an evening primrose oil supplement can be very helpful with menopausal symptoms. *With all supplements, please speak directly to a dietitian or physician beforehand if you are already taking any medications, to confirm that there won’t be any unwanted drug interactions.  

By good quality proteins I mean: legumes (make at least 1 mean a day based on these plant-proteins), nut-butter, plain Greek yogurt, eggs, white meat poultry, fish (especially salmon) and seafood. Avoid the processed meats like deli meats, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, faux-meat products (yes, this means the beyond burger ☺)

Can nutrition and exercise really help a woman fight the “midlife tummy”, or is it simply something to accept and move on? I know “belly fat” is more dangerous than the fat women store in their hips for example.

Great question! Yes, typically “belly fat” is more dangerous, but the “midlife tummy” is not exactly the same thing. As we head into menopause, all women will have a little more around the middle section – it is a natural part of life. That said, the amount matters, an expected amount is about 5 pounds or less. If you are feeling uncomfortable with it, or it is more than a 5 pound weight gain, ABSOLUTELY there is something you can do about it! 

First, ask yourself how much fiber are you getting in? Are you hitting those 8+ cups of veggies a day? Is there a good protein alongside the fiber? A great way to be more mindful of this is to keep a food journal for 1-2 weeks and see what you notice. Are you not eating as much veg as you think? Are you skipping meals more that you realized? A food journal is a great tool to help bring awareness to your lifestyle habits. Weight loss comes from awareness, not restriction. So – first, let’s build that awareness. 

When it comes to exercise, our bodies pick and choose where we lose weight from…we (sadly) cannot. So, find a workout that you enjoy doing, or at least enjoy more than others. Remember that long walks count! Spinning, Pilates, yoga, HIIT, running, tennis, swimming…literally anything that gets you excited to move will work. Weight loss is 80% what and how you eat, and 20% working out. Have fun with your movement, have awareness with your food, and practice radical self-compassion through it all. 

Any advice on how to be gentle with ourselves, and step up our routine at the same goal? We are tired! 

I feel you! Working with a dietitian is a total game changer when it comes to routine shifts. I have to know you and your day, so that I (or another dietitian) can truly customize a routine that works for YOU. What feels supportive and nourishing for you may be very different than what is supportive and nourishing for your best friend or client. Everyone’s version of a “stepped up routine” is going to be different too. We are all our own special snowflakes. ☺

What I can say that is universal, is that if you can prioritize sleep at night, that is a great way to be gentle (because what is kinder than letting someone sleep?) and deeply restorative for our energy and lowering stress. So work backwards, what time do you need to wake up and what is 8 hours earlier than that? That is the new bedtime goal. 

Do you have easy recipes for healthy meals? If so, where can we find them?

I do have a few of my favorite recipes on my website, bznutritionny.com – but for my VIP clients I offer them exclusive recipes that match their health goals. Keeping it super simple, delicious, and nourishing. I also love easy-to-follow cookbooks like this one from Jessica Seinfeld and anything from the Cooking Light website.

Our skin gets more fragile, dry and thin as we age. Can drinking water help? Any other tips for skincare through nutrition as we age?

Absolutely, water can help, water is the ultimate elixir for all aspects of our health, inside and out. Drink up! Taking a Fish oil/omega-3 supplement will also help. And you can add in collagen powder too. This is the one that I use. (*The Style That Binds Us also loves this collagen!) You can mix it into your coffee or tea, add it to your yogurt or oatmeal in the morning, or just mix it into a glass of water.

What about joint pain? You mentioned turmeric in the last Q&A on the blog. Do you recommend for older women too? 

Yes, turmeric is great for all humans at all life stages. Cook with it or take it as a supplement. I do have a great recipe on my site for a delicious turmeric latte, click here to try it! Ginger is a wonderful food that helps reduce inflammation that is causing joint pain. Again, you can cook with it (add it to teas, veggie sautés, soups and salad dressings) and take it as a supplement 500-1,000mg daily.

I know 7-8 hours of sleep is imperative, but this is harder to achieve as we get older for some reason. Do you have any specific suggestions for us?

I totally understand that. What is actually making it hard is going to be unique and different for each person, so working with someone one-on-one is going is best so your dietitian can trouble shoot better patterns for your sleep routine. It all comes down to personalization.

That said, I am always reminding my clients that if you are not making your health a priority, then who is? We make it an absolute priority to stop whatever it is we are doing and leave for the airport so that we don’t miss our flight. We have to bring that priority-energy to our sleep. Of course, there will be nights when it doesn’t happen as planned and that is ok! As long as those are outliers, you’re moving in the right direction. 

Let’s discuss stress. How can we fight the physiological effects of stress on our bodies? How serious is stress on our mental and physical well-being?

The stress-factor plays a huge role in all things well-being. A deeply meaningful way to combat stress is to fill your meals with the right stuff. The right stuff being vegetables, legumes, whole grains, quality fats and quality proteins. These foods full of micro-nutrients (like antioxidants, vitamins, minerals) that fight stress, calm our moods, help to build stress-resiliency, and reduce the signs and symptoms of stress on your bodies – inside and out. Also, reducing our intake of alcohol, sodas, white-flour based products also help improve the way we respond to stress – mentally and physically. 

For women above 50, aside from their diet the 2 main areas I focus on with them is 1- creating space for a movement activity you love, because exercise is a key factor in lowering stress. And 2- a self-care tool kit that you are tapping into on a regular basis – at least twice a week. An Epsom salt bath, a dry brush, meditation, journaling, being in nature, walking, laughing with your best friend, EFT tapping, solo dance parties…all forms of self-care that work really well.

What are your thoughts on Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Everyone is different and needs a sustainable and enjoyable way to reach and maintain their goals. If you are already doing IF and it is both sustainable and enjoyable for you, then great – keep it up.

If you are considering trying it, then my question would be – what are your health goals? What is your health history? There is far more research to support a lifestyle that includes eating consistently throughout the day to be the healthiest lifestyle and the most conducive to long-term weight loss. And not an intermittent fasting approach. Personally, I do not recommend IF to any of my clients. I focus on women’s health and IF can have a negative effect on our hormone balance, and we are definitely trying to balance our hormones as we get older and into our menopausal shift. Certain medical history can be triggered as well by IF. So, it is a hard-pass in my practice. 

Any tips for handling the holidays?

‘Tis the season of parties, pies, and food-pushers! It’s fun and stressful all at the same time. I actually just led a 90-minute masterclass, Festive + Focused, sharing my all my juicy tips and tricks to enjoy a delicious and vibrant season, without derailing your weight goals. You can access the replay here if want to check it out along with my 3-day replenish menu and bounce-back tip sheet.

Where can people find you? Can you give a short rundown of what it looks like to work with you?

Sending me an email at brigitte@bznutritionny.com or following me in Instagram @brigittezeitlinrd are perfect ways to find me and stay in touch! I would LOVE to connect more with the incredible The Style That Binds Us community! You can learn more about me and my work on my website, bznutritionny.com.

I help woman feel great in their bodies by creating a practical, effective, nourishing approach that works for them. I believe that taking care of yourself and enjoying the foods you love should go hand-in-hand and I teach women exactly how to do that in either my VIP 1-1 container or inside my group programs.  My programs are all a combination of coaching, support, accountability, and motivation. The specific number of coaching calls and level of support varies between programs – and I would love to connect with anyone who is feeling the pull for support to see which program would be the best fit for you. 

Alison Bruhn

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