Menopausal with teens?
After last week’s column I had a lot of people reach out about nutrition for their teens.
Two people in particular were extra keen for help as they were going through menopause with teenagers in the house.
Having several family members ride the hormonal rollercoaster together is an absolutely horrible idea. Yet it’s becoming increasingly normal as women start having children a little later. Very few people look ahead to a clash of teens versus menopause when they plan a family and even for those who do plan, Mother Nature/fate/God (whatever you believe in!) might throw in a plot twist anyway. You can plan it all you like!
So, whether you are living with some wonderful but moody teens or going through menopause – and especially if you are experiencing both – this column is for you.
Ultimately these are hormone balancing steps that will work equally well for a teen as they will for a woman in menopause. I will say, that for menopausal women there are a few extra steps we can layer on top – but more on that next week. Meanwhile, have fun with these tips and good luck!
Protein at breakfast
Including protein at breakfast is a great idea for sustained energy through the day. As grumpy or groggy as a menopausal mum or teen might be, most people feel better with breakfast – especially with a morning of classes ahead of them. Eggs are an amazing option as they provide some healthy, brain-boosting nutrients, so scrambled eggs or an omelette work perfectly. For something faster or on-the-go, a smoothie with a scoop of pumpkin seeds and a teaspoon or two of nut butter would be perfect. If you want to add protein powder, avoid soy protein isolate or whey (if it isn’t grass-fed whey). My favourite protein powder is the Garden of Life organic, vegan sport protein (Miles Market) and you will just need one scoop. That’s still 15g of protein which is plenty.
I want to say healthy snacks, but I also want to be realistic – especially when it comes to the kids. By balanced, I mean we’re looking for snacks that combine both carbs (for energy) and protein (for endurance, growth and hormone support). Healthy examples would be fruit (carbs) with nuts (protein) or carrots (carbs) with hummus (protein) or organic Greek yoghurt (carbs and protein) with berries (extra carbs) and ground seeds (extra protein). However, if the carbs are more likely to be cookies or even candy, then it’s still worth noting the value of adding protein to a snack. Protein slows the release of sugar from the carbs meaning two things: 1) sustained energy and 2) less risk of a sugar “crash” (which feels crappy and leads to cravings for more junk). So as an example, even if the snack is cookies or chocolate, persuade your teen to have some nuts first. Peanuts are probably the least healthy, so try experimenting with almonds, pistachios, macadamias, walnuts and Brazils.
Avoid refined sugar and caffeine
Sugar just provides short-term energy, often leaving you feeling cranky and tired. Sugar highs (and the corresponding sugar lows) can also contribute to unbalanced hormones and anxiety. Sugar also provides empty calories, meaning that although calorie needs may be fulfilled, nutrition needs aren’t met. This often results in low B vitamins. As B vitamins are necessary for supporting the nervous system, a low B intake can result in further anxiety and even apathy and depression. The solution? Eat wholefood carbs (wholegrain cereals/crackers/toast, oats, fruit, beans and lentils) instead of sugary carbs. These are slow-release and provide a natural source of B vitamins. Note that caffeine often triggers blood sugar level imbalance (triggering anxiety and hormonal problems) as well as depleting the body of B vitamins further if drunk in any large quantity. So if you thrive on four cups of coffee, or have a teen that is addicted to energy drinks, we need to think again. Try having the Nuun electrolytes instead (pick a caffeine-free option) which are good for a hydrating pick-me-up.
Include zinc-rich foods
Zinc is an essential nutrient for growth and hormone support and is often deficient in teens and menopausal women. Deficiency commonly manifests in white spots on nails and/or skin problems. You can supplement but I always suggest seeing a professional (and definitely take zinc supplements with food). You can also just ensure lots of zinc in the diet: pumpkin seeds (add to muffins, granola, granola bars, salads etc), oats, shrimp, grass-fed beef/lamb, eggs.
Bump up the Omega 3
Omega 3 is essential for nervous system support and balanced hormones. Most of us, especially those who eat a lot of grain, end up with way too much Omega 6 compared with our Omega 3 intake. You can boost Omega 3 by buying “Omega 3 eggs” (chickens are fed flax seed, which in itself is high in Omega 3) and providing pumpkin seeds, flax/chia seeds, walnuts and wild salmon.
So many teens and women I know underhydrate. If drinking plain water is a struggle, then increase fluids by using Nuun electrolyte tables (as above), Spindrift, La Croix or Waterloo sparkling waters. For teens, you can get leverage by explaining that even a small amount of dehydration is connected to poor concentration (affecting learning) and diminished sports performance.
If you have a teen that’s on the birth control pill, or a teen that regularly takes antibiotics, then do make sure they are getting a good quality probiotic too. Probiotics are important for digestive health, which has a knock on impact on skin health (especially acne) and even the immune system too.
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