Food Glorious Food, Healthy Food Makeover, Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Taking a Healthy and Positive Approach to Eating North of Forty and Fifty-plus

Although life north of forty and fifty plus has changed in a more positive way for us as women, many of us still struggle with the changes our bodies go through in the three stages of menopause. According to Johnson Memorial Health, the three stages are:

  1. Perimenopause– The earliest stage of menopause usually happens 3 to 5 years before full menopause occurs. During this time, estrogen, and progesterone levels drop.
  2. Menopause– The technical definition of menopause is not having your period for 12 months or more without having other health issues like illness, surgery, or pregnancy. At this time, the ovaries cease to make estrogen and progesterone.
  3. Post-menopause– When a full year has passed after your last period, you are officially in post-menopause. Over a period of years, your shifting hormones will settle into a more stable balance. Hot flashes and other menopause symptoms will likely reduce significantly.

Besides hot flashes, many women find themselves battling weight issues. For some women, hormone fluctuations make it harder to lose weight, and it can feel like you’ve lost control over your weight regardless of what you eat. There is always something shiny and new when it comes to the world of dieting and diet fads. At one time the grapefruit diet and cabbage diet were the rages. Then there was the Scarsdale diet that focused on protein and the villainization of carbohydrates, which resulted in weight loss but raised cholesterol levels and caused gout in some people.  Here in the US, we have the proliferation of diet plans from Nutrisystem and Jennie Craig, diets where you buy the food you eat, and then there’s WW formerly known as Weight Watchers. WW uses a system of points for each food. Servings of food are assigned points based on four criteria: calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. Every Weight Watchers member gets assigned a daily and weekly point goal based on their height, weight, age, and gender. One of the latest entries for weight loss is Noom, which uses psychology to design a program to change eating habits. Members are coached virtually by psychologists whose goal is to help unlearn bad habits to form a healthy relationship with food. Dieting in America is a multi-billion dollar industry. Where it doesn’t seem to be a billion-dollar industry is in Europe.

People in countries like France, Italy, and Spain consume a lot of butter, pasta, cheese, and more, but they also have lower cases of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, just to name a few issues that are very common in the US. What is their secret?  Well, there really is no secret. Europeans eat an abundance of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, bread, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, extra virgin olive oil, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. They also eat beef, lamb, game, and pork. What is most notable is the smaller portion sizes, and if they do snack, they don’t go for a bag of chips, choosing fresh bread, cheese, fruit, or nuts.

Since there’s so much going on in our lives, one of that the best ways to address this issue is to make a change gradually. Our bodies have been evolving since we were in utero, if we embrace this as something that happens incrementally, it can help with our health goals.  We’ll share recipes that touch on facets of the Mediterranean diet (Italy, Spain, Greece), and the French diet full-fat cheese and yogurt, butter, bread, fresh fruits, and vegetables (often grilled or sautéed), small portions of meat (fish or chicken than red meat), wine, and dark chocolate.

Naturally, before beginning any lifestyle diet change, check with your doctor so the two of you can work together for a healthier you.

We begin with Baba Ganoush which is usually served as an appetizer. It’s a spread made chiefly of eggplant, tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon. There are a lot of variations of this eggplant spread. This recipe comes from the Mediterranean Dish Blog by Suzy, who has a number of wonderful recipes to try. The link to her site and social media platforms is below the recipe.

Baba Ganoush by Mediterranean Dish 

2 pounds Italian eggplants (about 2 small-to-medium eggplants*)

2 medium cloves of garlic, pressed or minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice, more if necessary

¼ cup tahini

⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the eggplant and garnish

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish

¾ teaspoon salt, to taste

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch of smoked paprika, for garnish

Serving suggestions: warmed or toasted pita wedges, carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, etc.

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the eggplant from sticking to the pan. Halve the eggplants lengthwise and brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil. Place them in the prepared pan with the halved sides down.

Roast the eggplant until the interior is very tender throughout and the skin is collapsing, about 35 to 40 minutes (this might take longer if you are using 1 large eggplant). Set the eggplant aside to cool for a few minutes. Flip the eggplants over and scoop out the flesh with a large spoon, leaving the skin behind.

Place a mesh strainer over a mixing bowl, then transfer the flesh to the strainer and discard the skins. Pick out any stray bits of eggplant skin and discard them. You want to remove as much moisture from the eggplant here as possible, so let the eggplant rest for a few minutes and shake/stir the eggplant to release some more moisture.

Discard all of the eggplant drippings, drain and wipe out the bowl, and dump the eggplant into the bowl. Add the garlic and lemon juice to the eggplant and stir vigorously with a fork until the eggplant breaks down. Add the tahini to the bowl and stir until it’s incorporated. While stirring, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Continue stirring until the mixture is pale and creamy, and use your fork to break up any particularly long strings of eggplant.

Stir in the parsley, salt, and cumin. Season to taste with more salt (I usually add another ¼ teaspoon) and more lemon juice, if you’d like a more tart flavor.

Transfer the baba ganoush to a serving bowl and lightly drizzle olive oil on top. Lastly, sprinkle parsley and smoked paprika on top. Serve.

 

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Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

North of Forty & Fifty-plus Body Positivity and Health

The face of aging has changed in so many ways. Not only are people living longer, they are looking younger and more fit than ever. In the last decade, the top of the box office, Nielsen’s, and streaming music and television shows starred actors who were north of forty and fifty plus. Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Angela Bassett, Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, and Jennifer Lopez were just a few of the names lighting the marquees. By the same token, the pressure was on for women who are north of forty and fifty to follow their footsteps with their own body beautiful.

All of the names in Hollywood have the big advantage that staying fit is a part of their job. They have access to personal trainers, gyms, chefs, and child care that the average working mother doesn’t have. Halle Berry deserves every accolade she receives for looking as wonderful as she does, she worked hard for it. Most of us are working hard to provide for our families while trying to carve out time to get a workout in.

Then came 2020. It was the year it seemed that Murphy’s Law came to life. Whatever could go wrong, or went left in a hurry. The pandemic changed our lives in an instant. As sections of industries around the country closed, those of us who were deemed non-essential workers found ourselves either working from home or furloughed and on unemployment through no fault of our own. Conversely, essential workers in healthcare, grocery stores, supermarkets, liquor stores, and communication/media company workers were put under enormous pressure. It wasn’t easy for anyone.

Life/work/school

With little known about the Covid-19 in the beginning, it became clear that we had to do all we could to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. Many of us had a daily routine that included working out at a gym or in local parks. When those places weren’t available, we had to make a change to working out at home. Only now, not only did we have to try to get a workout in at home, those of us who were able to were now working from home. Moreover, if you were a parent, grandparent, or guardian of children in daycare, elementary, or secondary school, the kids were home. Schools were closed and you were faced with trying to figure out how to work from home, keep young kids busy, while trying to keep elementary and secondary school age children on task with remote learning.  It was going to be a long spring.

Then I noticed something I am sure you did too, people discovered their kitchens. I don’t think I have ever so many pictures of banana bread online in my life. I’m a lifelong baker and foodie, I can go through twenty-five pounds of flour and sugar like most people go through a five-pound bag. When I found myself finding staples like all-purpose flour, sugar, and yeast sold out in grocery stores and online, people were getting jiggy in the kitchen in record numbers.

There is definitely something calming about being in the kitchen that bakers and cooks have known all long. When life seems like it’s out of control, going into the kitchen and making something from a recipe or freestyling, it gives you a sense of control over something and it’s straightforward.  Personally, I enjoy knowing what is going into what I eat. I can adjust or adapt recipes to accommodate low-sugar, low-sodium, or gluten-free diets.  However, I suspect that many of the kitchens weren’t turning out diet food.  People turned to comfort food.

Soon not only did we have binge-worthy food, there was binge-worthy series on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Max and more. There was a bit of cache in being a couch potato and it beat watching the news with endless reports or cases increasing, and uncertainty as the virus began to spread beyond the two coasts to the rest of the country. No one had seen anything like this in over one hundred years. So, if you needed a moment and some chips, that’s what you did.

Now, it’s 2021 and things are beginning to slowly get better. Many states have allowed gyms to open for socially distanced workouts. Some schools are back to in-person learning, and others seem to have gotten in the swing with hybrid and fully remote learning too.  All of that notwithstanding, many of us are still working from home and it’s time to figure out how we can carve out the time to take care of ourselves and like what we see in the mirror.

Make your workout personally

There’s no reason that you can’t maintain your curves, while eating properly, and trying an at-home exercise plan. If you didn’t belong to a gym, don’t fret. You don’t have to run out and join a gym. You have a choice.

These are just a few of the most popular workout apps according to Techradar

  • Peloton. They are best known for its spin and sessions, led live by professional coaches, and these are all present and correct in the app. There’s also a lot more on offer though, including plenty of workouts you follow with minimal equipment or none at all. If you have a Peloton bike or any of their equipment, the app subscription comes with it.  You can take part in their workouts without the equipment, just check on the site to determine the price range and if it fits in your budget.
  • Fitbit: Workouts in Fitbit Coach are led by professional, enthusiastic instructors (you choose yours before beginning the fitness test), who guide you through each movement with clear video instructions. The first time you launch the app, you’ll be prompted to sign up for a Fitbit account (or log in with your existing one), then run through an eight-minute fitness test. After that, you’ll be able to get stuck in properly, and take your pick from a range of programs designed with different goals in mind. You can sign up for Fitbit Coach Premium, which offers more workouts.

If these types of workouts aren’t your style, there are a number of workouts that can be done from home anytime. There’s Beach Body, Jillian Michael’s and more. Check out the gallery for these apps on Prevention https://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/g25357974/best-workout-apps/?slide=1

The next thing is something I am not going to push super hard. I know it’s better for us to weigh less to reduce our risk with Covid-19 and many other conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and more. It’s easier to approach healthy eating day-by-day. Personally, I’ve always managed to fake myself out when I add planners and notebooks to the mix, which is sort of funny since I use both for my professional life as an agent and author. However, if it works for you, use whatever tools you need to stay on track.

As important as taking care of your physical body is, your emotional and spiritual health is also an essential part of being healthy and body positive.  Here’s a few easy things you can do

  • Stay in touch with family and friends, through Facetime, Zoom, or just go analog and give them a call. Talking, laughing, and even crying, helps to relieve stress and has even been shown to aid in lowering blood press pressure.
  • Enjoy a little me time. Go to a salon, get a massage or a mani-pedi. Check the guidelines at your favorite place, mask up, and get pampered.
Taking time for you

Do all you can to maintain a positive and healthy outlook on life. Aging is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to be rote, boring, or even too exciting for words. It just has to be authentic for you. If you’re the type who likes to sky dive and live on the edge, there are ways to keep your day exciting. If you prefer a laid-back life of reading, writing, and watching your favorite programs, then do that. There’s no right or wrong way. Enjoy your life.

It goes without saying that healthy eating is important, but taste is important, and so are occasional treats. As a bonus, I have included a recipe that I found from Half Baked Harvest’s Tieghan that I adapted for different dietary requirements. You will see the substitutions in parentheses for:

  • Vegan/Vegetarian
  • Gluten-free
  • Low sugar
  • Sugar-free

Lemon Blueberry Scones with Lemon poppy seed glaze by Tieghan adapted by me

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend flour, sorghum, sweet rice, or brown rice flour) (For more fiber 2 cups all-purpose flour plus ½ cup white whole wheat flour) 

2 tablespoons granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar, finely pulsed) 

1 tablespoon baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, grated on a box grater just like cheese 1 stick (vegan butter)

1 egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or egg replacer)

3/4 cup buttermilk + more for brushing ( ¾ cup soy, rice, almond plus 2 teaspoons apple cider or lemon juice, let stand for 5 minutes)

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

zest of 1/2 a lemon

LEMON POPPY SEED GLAZE

1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more if needed (Organic confectioner’s sugar or Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute)

2 tablespoons butter, melted (vegan butter)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice + reserve the zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

1-2 tablespoons poppy seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and toss with the flour. Add the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Mix until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Fold in the blueberries and lemon zest.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and then pat into 1-inch-thick square. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Place pieces, about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Brush each piece with buttermilk.

Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let the scones cool slightly and then drizzle with the lemon poppy seed glaze (see below). Serve warm with butter.

LEMON POPPY SEED GLAZE

In a bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, butter, lemon juice, and vanilla, adding water if needed to thin slightly or more sugar if needed to thicken. Stir in the zest of 1/2 a lemon and the poppy seeds. Drizzle the glaze over the scones.