By Jenna Birch
You’re all too familiar with what happens when your period hits: you get stomach cramps, your cravings go into overdrive and eating healthfully seems like a major test of willpower.
The good news is that making minor adjustments to your eating habits, even slightly, means you don’t have to cheat on your healthy-living regimen for one week each month. We have the low-down on what to eat on your period.
Here’s how to nosh right, right on through the worst wave of your menstrual cycle…
Focus on Lean Protein and Fibre
Loading up on lean protein and fibre can help your blood sugar remain stable, which will help offset your cravings, says registered dietitian Jaclyn London. She says this is especially important when cravings hit their peak during the afternoon hours – so try snacking on a pear with a tablespoon of almond butter (yummmm!) or an apple with a slice of cheese as a way to preempt that.
Strategise How You Eat
When you’re on your period, London suggests breaking up three square meals into smaller portions more frequently. “This will help reduce cravings – because you’re noshing more often – and deal with any nausea or cramps associated with getting your period,” she says. “You never want to be too hungry or too full because you’ll feel sick. You want to be at a ‘happy level’ of satiated.”
Beat Period Bloat by Sipping and Snacking Smart
Bloating is a nightmare for many women, and your level of bloat has to do with what you’re putting in your body. During your period especially, drink and eat frequently, but be smart. “No sugary fluids throughout the day, no carbonation, which both lead to more bloat,” says London. “We’re also looking for low-salt foods. Shop the periphery of the grocery store, and stick to whole foods – nuts, fruits, vegetable, whole grains – and no packaged goods, which are high in sodium.”
Get Enough Iron
Many women who are menstruating may lack iron, as they lose it through the blood they eliminate. “I’d say, too, from a cravings standpoint, iron cravings are big ones I see around that time of the month,” says London. “It’s why I hear many women say they’re craving meat like hamburgers.” To make sure you’re taking in enough, fill your diet with these great sources of iron – and make sure to add more spinach than usual to your pre-workout smoothie for extra oomph.
Opt for Caffeine
Caffeine should help alleviate the extra lethargy you may feel during your period and work to ease cramps – so starting your day with a cup of coffee is a perfect plan, says London. “Caffeine is actually a good idea for symptoms,” she says, recommending 300 to 400 milligrams in the morning. There’s another reason coffee is great: It has a high antioxidant profile. So go ahead and grab another cup. “A little more coffee than usual is fine,” says London. “Actually, it might be a good idea.”
And, if it’s just plain moods getting you down, here’s how to use your period power!