One gloomy day last year I was driving home from the Ards Peninsula, when I was stricken by such a hunger that I pulled into the McDonald’s in Newtownards. At the drive-thru I was ordered hot chocolate and a cheeseburger and when I heard a familiar voice on Radio Four. It belonged to my friend, Professor Louise Mallinder, renowned for her work on Amnesty and International Law. They say that comparison is the thief of joy, and so indeed it was, as I sat there, chowing down ultra-processed meat and plastic-y cheese while listening to Louise articulate the challenges to the Good Friday Agreement posed by Brexit. (Incidentally, Louise hasn’t touched meat since childhood.) ‘That’s my friend, being clever,’ I thought. ‘And here’s me not even managing to feed myself properly.’
Note to self: you can’t have hardly any breakfast, a custard cream for break and a portion of chips from the school canteen and expect to feel replete (or even human.)
I should know better. At school I won the prize for A-Level Home Economics (HE). This was a big silver teapot, which my teacher asked if I could ‘accidentally’ knock off the mantlepiece, so they would have to find a decent cup instead. HE, you see, was not just about making tea, as the teapot implied. No, at A-level we learnt about the chemical composition of carbs, proteins and fat molecules; we learnt that lack of Vit C leads to scurvy and Vit D leads to rickets. Why did I then think that proteins were mainly the reserve of gym bunnies or body builders?
I assumed, because I eat meat, cheese, and even the odd yogurt, that I was getting enough. I was wrong. Peri-menopausal women should be boosting their intake to 120g a day AT LEAST, so that’s 40g roughly per meal.
I’ve consulted Google to make you all a handy table here so you too can consider your own intake:
|One chicken thigh
|One chicken breast
|Halloumi (100g, roughly half a pack)
|Normal pot of yogurt
|2 slices of ham
It was Dr Jo-Anne Colgan who put me right about all of this. I visited her Rosetta Clinic for acupuncture, and in our initial consultation I told her how listless and lethargic I often felt. After three sessions and taking on board her dietary advice, I have notably more energy, am much less creaky and DEFINITELY less cranky as a result. Jo-Anne’s specific areas of interest are matters relating to menopause and supporting busy women who are juggling work, family, friends and social life, perhaps neglecting their own needs along the way.
She advised me that ladies of a certain age need to be sprinkling flaxseed and pecans on their porridge, bulking up their veg curries with lentils and paneer, and eating a high protein yogurt with their lunches. (I can recommend pots of Arla dessert which pack a mighty 20g and are available in Sainsburys. Lidl also do a good selection.) If you’re struggling to reach your daily target you can buy a packet of whey in Holland and Barrett and whizz some into a smoothie.(I can heartily recommend Soul Food on the Ormeau Road if you fancy a veggie grill with eggs and halloumi for a high-protein fix.) Green peas and spinach have the highest proportion of protein according to this site, and I was delighted to read this because I love both and they are super quick to prepare.
So as the festive season approaches, might I suggest upping your protein to steel yourself for the busyness ahead. You probably all have a lot more wit than I do, but I often rely heavily on the resuscitating properties of coffee and Kitkats. I never manage to lose any weight, because I still consume empty calories. It’s not a good way to live, and I’m glad I spoke to Jo-Anne and have made some changes. Hopefully I won’t feel so starved that I have to resort to a crappy McDonalds for sustenance any time soon.