Eating out can feel like a minefield in your menopausal years as we are usually watching our waistline as well as our weight. It may sound like it is the same thing but in your menopausal years it is different.

We can become sensitive to stress and carbs through the menopause. Which means the ratio of carbs, protein and fibre in your meals can have an impact on your waistline.

Metabolic Effect use burner types to indicate sensitivity to carbs. You can take their free quiz here.

They use a calculation called Hormonal Carbs (HC) using the basic info on food labels. This helps us make informed choices for our foods and match up sensitivity to carbs with the foods we eat.

This means we need to look at two different aspects for food selection. Calories and Hormonal Carbs.

Let’s start with calories

Our weight corresponds to the number of calories we consume compared to how many calories we expend. In the U.K., we are told that the ‘average’ women need 2000 calories. However, you are not average and neither am I!

We can calculate the number of calories we need using Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). However, you need to decide on your activity levels, which is subjective and can be a challenge. You can calculate your BMR here.

I find it useful to also use my FItBit, which calculates my calories burned for each day and I use an average of the two, being aware of low energy days as well as days when I have gone to the gym and been very active.

For me, my daily BMR calculation including my activity levels is 2040. The calories I burn on a daily basis according to my FitBit can range from 1622 to 2145 in a week. This is a significant difference, and can highlight the difference in activity and/or energy level, or simply the lifestyle changes we have from one day to the next. However, it gives me a context. I would aim for 1900 a day for an active day. If I knew I would be eating out then I would allocate a third of my calories  for dinner, my calculation for dinner would be 633, including drinks etc.

Some restaurants will list the calories for their products on their website, which is useful to manage your choices. Most of us are not a walking encyclopaedia for calorie content in foods!

Hormonal Carbs (HC)
This is a simple calculation. For the serving, you are planning to eat, subtract protein and fibre values from total carbs value. We are aiming for a low figure. If you did the burner quiz, it will tell you how much you should aim for. You can find an HC calculator on my website here

This makes eating out easier as we now have our BMR, so we have a context of how many calories we want to consume, and we have an easy way of checking the Hormonal Carbs (HC) amount in the food.

We ate out at Pizza Express at the start of the week which was impromptu visit as the movie finished later than expect. They have some on their nutritional online, and on their menus.

Salads are usually considered the healthy option. They had two salads I was interested in, Nicoise Salad and Leggera Super Food Salad.

                                        Calories              HC
Leggera Super Food         461                  21
Nicoise Salad                     897                -10

Both items need tweaking for me:

  • Super foods salad was too high in HC at 21, there was an option to add chicken but does not give any information on that. Calories was fine though
  • Nicoise Salad was too high in calories at 897, but had an HC of -10 which was perfect. The challenge would be leaving a third of the salad, which is a struggle for those of us who were brought up to clear their plates.

Pizza Leggera is another tempting option, Pizza and salad! My two possibilities would be:

                                              Calories          HC
Pollo ad Astra Leggera            486               14
Padana Leggera                      488               52

My choice next time would be the Nicoise Salad option and leaving some on my plate. If it was an occasional cheat meal  I would have the Pollo ad Astra Leggera. Because who doesn’t love pizza!

On a side note, the salt intake was under 6g was most dishes, apart from the ones that would obviously be salty. Take-away and restaurant foods can be notorious for high salt content, so I was pleased to see the levels whilst still high for a singe meal, where not exceeding daily limits.

You may be thinking that Pizza is not very healthy and I should focus on healthier option. However, we do not live in isolation; my husband likes pizza, maybe your other half does to. It may not be my preference but we need to know how to eat healthy for us in varied restaurants and settings that may not always be our choice.

Healthy eating can happen anywhere, it is useful to work out what healthy for you means. And also to enjoy your food and eating out!


Samantha Valand is the author of “The Menopause Diaries: A practical guide to healthy eating and exercising in your menopausal years”. You can find out more about her book here.