Menopause is a normal part of aging. This hormonal shift can contribute to physical changes like weight gain. But following a menopause diet plan that includes low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods can help support overall health and weight control as your body adjusts.
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Menopause is the transition where your period goes away due to a natural decrease in female reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). People assigned female at birth (AFAB) typically experience menopause between ages 45 and 55, and the entire transition can take seven or more years.
You may experience menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, pain during sex or a decrease in bone strength. Weight gain is also common because your fat cells change and your body starts to burn energy differently during this time, per the NIA.
Here's a menopause diet meal plan to help you manage your weight and feel your best.
Diet Tips for Menopausal Women
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you create your menopause diet plan.
1. Count Your Calories
Your body changes as you age, and so do your calorie needs. In your 50s, you need to eat about 200 fewer calories per day to maintain your weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Following a calorie-controlled diet can help you balance your intake for better weight control. And filling that diet with a variety of plant-based whole foods likewise helps support a healthy weight, as well as overall wellness, per the Mayo Clinic.
Eating smaller meals with regular snacks can also help you control your hunger throughout the day so you don't overeat, per the National Health Service.
How Many Calories Should You Eat?
If you're AFAB, this is your ideal daily caloric intake based on your activity level, per the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- Not physically active: 1,600 calories
- Moderately active: 1,800 calories
- Active: 2,000 to 2,200 calories
2. Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
A balanced diet should include whole foods from as many food groups as possible, especially plant-based options, per the Mayo Clinic. Whole foods are full of fiber, which can help maintain a healthy weight and support good digestion, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends people who are AFAB and ages 50 and older eat 22 grams of fiber every day. Here are some fiber-rich foods to munch on:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains like oats, whole-wheat bread and barley
- Legumes like beans, lentils and peas
- Nuts and seeds
3. Get Plenty of Protein
Protein is another important nutrient to include, as it can help offset age-related muscle loss, per the Mayo Clinic.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests people who are AFAB and ages 50 and older eat 5 to 6 ounce equivalents of protein per day. Ounce equivalents refer to what "counts" as an ounce of protein, per the USDA. Examples include an ounce of meat, poultry or fish; one egg; a tablespoon of peanut butter; a quarter cup of cooked beans and a half ounce of nuts or seeds.
- Soy products like tofu or tempeh
- Protein-rich grains like quinoa
- Dairy products like yogurt or cottage cheese
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean meats like chicken and turkey
- Fish like salmon and tuna
4. Don't Forget Omega-3s
Including healthy proteins in your meals can also supply you with more omega-3 fatty acids, which help support cognition, muscle and bone health as you age, according to June 2012 research in the British Journal of Nutrition. They can also lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and reduce your risk for heart disease, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).
Omega-3-rich foods include:
- Fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines
- Nuts and seeds like flax, chia seeds and walnuts
- Plant oils like flaxseed oil, soybean oil and canola oil
5. Consider Eating Phytoestrogens
Eating a balanced diet will naturally supply you with phytoestrogens, a plant-based compound that may act like a weak form of estrogen in the body, per April 2012 research in Nature.
A June 2016 review in JAMA found that phytoestrogens were linked to moderate decreases in menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness, which occur in part due to your body's decreased estrogen production. However, more research is needed to establish a strong relationship between the nutrient and menopause relief.
That said, natural sources of phytoestrogens are already a part of a healthy diet, including foods such as:
- Soy products like tofu and tempeh
- Seeds like flax and sesame
- Fruits and vegetables
Because the benefits of including phytoestrogen-rich foods in your diet are not clear, talk with your doctor before increasing your intake of these foods.
6. Remember to Hydrate
Older adults are at higher risk for dehydration, according to the Cleveland Clinic. As a result, don't forget to consistently drink plenty of water and other hydrating fluids like herbal tea.
For people AFAB, that means drinking about 11.5 cups of fluids per day, according to U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Though this guideline is from 2004, that's still widely recommended for daily hydration.
A tip to get enough fluid for your body? Divide your weight (in pounds) by two, then drink that amount in ounces of fluid every day.
Try these meals to get the nutrients you need to manage your weight and stay healthy during menopause.
You should make time for breakfast to give your brain and body the fuel they need to function well throughout the day, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Start your day off right with these breakfast options:
Like breakfast, lunch should also include whole foods and plant-based sources of fiber and protein. Here are some healthy recipes to include in your menopause diet plan to lose weight:
Close out your day with these nutritious dinner recipes:
Quell hunger between meals with a low-calorie, nutrient-rich snack. Here are some quick options, per the NIA:
- Fresh fruit
- Nonfat dairy products like yogurt
- Popcorn without butter
- Whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese or peanut butter
Supplements to Take
Some people going through menopause may benefit from certain supplements, per the NIA. However, the FDA does not require supplements to be proven safe or effective before they're sold, so there's no guarantee that any supplement you take is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
Talk to your doctor to determine which multivitamin for aging is best for you, and try to eat foods rich in the following supplemental nutrients.
- Calcium: Menopause — and aging in general — can contribute to weakening of your bones, per the Mayo Clinic. That's in part because your body absorbs less calcium. This puts people AFAB in particular at higher risk for osteoporosis, a condition where your bones become brittle. Support bone health by stocking your diet with good sources of calcium like dairy products, greens, tofu, beans, fish, nuts and seeds.
- Vitamin D: Pair calcium with vitamin D, which helps your body better absorb calcium, according to the NIA. Besides supplements, foods with vitamin D include mushrooms, milk and fish.
- Vitamin B: Your body likewise loses its ability to absorb as much vitamin B12 and B6 during menopause and as you age, per the Mayo Clinic. These vitamins are important for brain health and red blood cell function, so in addition to a pill, get your fill of foods high in vitamins B12 and B6, like fish, chicken breast, tofu, dairy products, potatoes and bananas.
How Much Should You Get?
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the following amounts of each nutrient per day for people AFAB that are ages 50 and older:
- Calcium: 1,200 milligrams (That's the equivalent of about 5 cups of milk or cottage cheese, per the Cleveland Clinic.)
- Vitamin D: 600 International Units (That's the equivalent of about 1 cup of mushrooms or one 4.5-ounce salmon fillet, per the ODS.)
- Vitamin B12: 2.4 micrograms (That's the equivalent of about 2 cups of 2 percent milk or one 3-ounce salmon fillet, per the ODS.)
- Vitamin B6: 1.5 milligrams (That's the equivalent of about four bananas or two 3-ounce tuna fillets, per the ODS.)
Foods to Avoid
There are also some foods to limit or skip altogether. Sugary sweets and alcohol can drive up your daily calorie intake without any nutritional benefit, according to the Mayo Clinic.
And unhealthy trans and saturated fats can increase your cholesterol, which puts you at higher risk for conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some foods to limit or avoid during menopause include:
- Processed foods with added sugar like soda, candy and baked goods
- High-fat dairy products like butter and cream
- Unhealthy fats in baked goods and fried foods
- Red meat
- Spicy food and caffeine, which can potentially exacerbate hot flashes
Other Tips for People Going Through Menopause
Your menopause diet plan isn't just about nutrition. Here are some other tips to keep in mind to stay healthy during this transition period:
Exercising regularly can help you manage your weight and feel your best mentally and physically as you age, according to the Mayo Clinic. Aim for about 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, like walking or biking, per the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
2. Find Support
Enlist the support of loved ones to help you stick to lifestyle changes like healthy eating and exercise, recommends the Mayo Clinic.
- National Institute on Aging: "What Is Menopause?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Facts about saturated fats"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Drink Up: Dehydration is an Often Overlooked Health Risk for Seniors"
- National Health Service: "Keeping your weight up in later life"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- Mayo Clinic: "3 diet changes women over 50 should make right now"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Do You Really Need to Eat Breakfast?"
- National Institute on Aging: "Sample Menus: Healthy Eating for Older Adults"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "What counts as an ounce in the Protein Foods Group?"
- JAMA: "Use of Plant-Based Therapies and Menopausal Symptoms"
- Nature: "Dietary intakes and food sources of phytoestrogens in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) 24-hour dietary recall cohort"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Omega 3 fatty acids in the elderly"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Increasing Calcium in Your Diet"
- FDA: "FDA 101: Dietary Supplements"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B12"
- National Institute on Aging: "Dietary Supplements for Older Adults"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin D"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B6"
- U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: "Report Sets Dietary Intake Levels for Water, Salt, and Potassium To Maintain Health and Reduce Chronic Disease Risk"
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acid