PMS Food Cravings

cupcakesFull disclosure: This blog was drafted in writer’s head on a walk to coffee shop for decaf skim latte to avoid office birthday cake temptation!

As rational women, here is what we know.  We know that diet is critical to mitigating PMS symptoms.  By eating small meals throughout the day to avoid extreme hunger and by choosing vegetables and lean protein, we can fill our bodies with the food it needs to maintain balanced blood sugar and avoid food cravings.

But food cravings are powerful and fluctuating hormones can sometimes be hard to overcome.  During our PMS days, stress hormone, cortisol, can spike and feel-good hormone, serotonin, drops.  What temporarily boosts serotonin? Carbohydrates boost serotonin.  And the problem is that we crave the most fat and sugar filled carbohydrates during stressful and emotional times of the month.

We asked for coping strategies from a sampling of women and here are their answers.

  • Taking a walk and sipping on a warm beverage are two coping strategies. Both light exercise and caffeine can provide a boost.  If you are stressed out, go easy on the caffeine because you really don’t need a boost, you need the Zen affect of sipping something warm and soothing.   A dusting of chocolate or cinnamon to the top of a latte or cappuccino provides a dessert type flavor to the coffee, satisfying a sweet tooth for some.
  • Chew gum. Sugarless grape bubble gum was the respondent’s choice for a sweet pick me up, but mint or bubble gum flavors are also fine.
  • Have a conversation with yourself to understand the craving. Ask yourself if you are really hungry or are you bored?  Are you eating your emotions and is there something else you could do instead (take a walk, pick up your knitting, write in a journal) to work through the emotions?
  • Make a satisfying substitution. One respondent said that she eats a few dark chocolate covered almonds versus a candy bar and rationalizes it by saying that the almonds are healthier than a candy bar from the vending machine.  Plus, it satisfies the craving for chocolate.

Here is a little secret that most women don’t know, your metabolism revs up during your PMS days.  It is Mother Nature’s little offset for those PMS food cravings!  Try to bust through cravings by distracting yourself or substituting a healthier option, but forgive yourself and move on if you find yourself in a miserable mood finishing a bag of chips.

A Healthy Diet & PMS

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We spend a lot of time on the GirlU Blog talking about the importance of a healthy diet to help mitigate symptoms of PMS because, let’s face it, you are what you eat and what you eat matters.

Here is how a balanced diet can help with an assist from Epicurious.com and some easy recipes for one dinner!  The delicious GirlU dinner menu is Jamaican Jerk Salmon with Mango, Pineapple Salsa with sides of Sautéed Spinach and Brown Rice.

Will this dinner “cure” you of your PMS symptoms? Probably not.  One salmon dinner can’t stop the hormonal fluctuations going on inside you!  But, will a steady habit of good food choices help you maintain better balance of important vitamins, minerals and nutrients and ease hormonal fluctuations? Probably!

Look at the major ingredients from these recipes as examples of why good food choices matter.

  • Salmon                Omega-3 Fatty Acids to help ease bloating
  • Mango                  Vitamin A for clear, glowing skin
  • Pineapple            Bromelain is muscle relaxing and Manganese reduces irritability, decreases menstrual flow
  • Black Beans        Fiber alleviates water retention
  • Spinach                Iron helps keep blood sugar in check, which keeps emotions in check and Magnesium reduces stress, lifts mood, helps regulate serotonin, fights bloating
  • Brown Rice          Vitamin B6 helps alleviate mood swings and fatigue

Each of these foods has many other important vitamins and minerals in them that do other important things to support health in other parts of your body.

Add a tall glass of cucumber-infused water and you will have added quercetin, which helps fight bloating, and treat yourself to a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate squares for dessert  and you will have added antioxidants.

Cheers to making good food choices!

Beat Winter with These Healthy Crockpot Recipes!

Want to eat something healthy, warm, and easy, but just don’t have the time to put a decent meal together? Enter the ever versatile crockpot! Crockpots, or slow cookers, can solve your mealtime woes by helping you to prepare something great in advance—with very little effort!—so that you can munch on something fantastic when you get home from work or school in the evening. Just put some ingredients in a pre-warmed crockpot, let it simmer all day, and come home to deliciousness! Plus, crockpot recipes make for easy-to-store leftovers.

We’ve put together the 5 healthy, filling crockpot recipes below to get you started on your culinary adventure.

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Mixed Bean Chili from Culinary Adventures in the Kitchen.

Mixed Bean Chili

Most chili recipes include beans, but what happens when you make beans the starring attraction? This fantastic medley of healthy mixed bean goodness, that’s what! This one’s vegan as well.

 

Indian Style Curried Eggplant

Indian Style Curried Eggplant from Veggie Wonder.

Indian Style Curried Eggplant

Indian cuisine has a fantastic mixture of unusual spices and flavors, but people often get scared off because it seems so complicated, not to mention time-consuming. Don’t worry! This curry is simple, healthy, and delicious.

 

Slow cooker chicken fajitas

Slow-cooked chicken fajitas from Barefeet in the Kitchen.

Not-So-Slow Cooked Chili Chicken Fajitas

Mexican food works well in the crock pot, too, and it’s pretty simple to make it a healthy option. While most crock pot recipes require you to set something up to cook pretty much all day, this one is a whole lot quicker.

 

Slow cooker jambalaya

A yummy jambalaya from Cooking Bride.

Hearty Slow Cooker Jambalaya

Cajun-style cooking is spicy and includes a diverse mix of ingredients…and with a crockpot, it’s easy, too! This jambalaya recipe will help you get your seafood on without agonizing over complicated, time-consuming recipes.

 

Salsa chicken in a wrap

A versatile salsa chicken from Bodybuilding.com

Easy Salsa Chicken

The folks at Bodybuilding.com have put together this easy-to-follow video that details an easy chicken recipe you can do just about anything with. Eat it as a wrap, with rice, or however you like!

Crockpot recipes were made for those of us who want to eat well but are too busy to spend hours in the kitchen. Let your slow cooker do the work for you!

If you’ve tried one of the above recipes—or a different one—please share your experience with us! You can find GirlU on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Fight PMS with These 3 Smoothies!

Smoothies are a great way to get the nutrition you need quickly and easily. But sometimes they can taste a bit…blah.

Not these smoothies!

Specially concocted to help soothe common PMS symptoms, these three PMS smoothie recipes will get you feeling better in no time. Check them out and let us know what you think in the comments!

 

Smoothie for headaches

Who has a Headache?...Not Me! (vitamin and mineral blend)

The vitamin riboflavin is great for treating headaches, and it just so happens spinach provides 32% of your recommended daily dose! Almond milk, mangoes, and kale also contain riboflavin.

 

1 cup of vanilla almond milk

1/2 cup of mango juice

Handful of organic baby kale

Handful of organic spinach

 

 

Superwoman Immunity (lots of B vitamin blend)Superwoman smoothie

A recent study showed that diets rich in vitamin B can prevent or alleviate PMS symptoms. And we’re talking diets here, not supplements. So try this smoothie to get your vitamin B game on!

 

1/2 cup of Kefir, plain

1/2 cup of water

1 whole orange; cut in pieces

1 apple, cut in pieces

1 banana

 

 

PMS smoothiePMS Be Gone! (all foods high in natural l-tryptophan)

Keep those chocolate cravings in check with this yummy—and healthy—alternative! This smoothie also contains sources of natural l-tyrptophan, a mood enhancer.

 

1 serving of chocolate protein (use real chocolate)

1.5 cups of soy milk

2-3 dates (cut in pieces first)

handful of slivered almonds

The Best GirlU Blogs of 2014

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Here's a look back at our best blog posts of 2014!

On the last day of 2014, we thought we’d take a look back at some of our most popular blog posts here at GirlU. If you’re looking for smart ways to deal with PMS symptoms, we’ve got you covered!

#5: 5 Tips for Dealing with Menstrual Cramps—Naturally!  Cramps are a pain—and then some! We reviewed some ways to deal with them that don’t necessarily involve popping pills. Simple lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress and making healthier food choices, can really make a difference!

#4: What to Do About Sore Breasts During Your Period  As with cramps, we pointed out quite a few natural solutions for dealing with sore breasts. The trick is to take a look at what habits are likely causing them and form a plan of action. In addition to the usual culprits, such as diet and exercise, breast soreness can be conquered with relaxation techniques and a properly fitted, supportive bra.

#3: Your PMS Survival Kit  We had so much fun throwing our Pampering Gift Basket Giveaway! In addition, we took a look at what might go into a PMS survival kit to keep you feeling good when your period’s got you down. Thanks to everyone who chimed in with their thoughts!

#2: Period Mythbusters  There are a lot of myths about periods and PMS out there, whether it’s rumors from your friends or things you read online. We focused on some of the biggest misconceptions about periods, including cycle length, whether or not to swim, and getting pregnant.

And the #1 most popular GirlU blog post for 2014:  What to Wear on Your Period Feeling crummy during that time of month shouldn’t mean you have to feel less than stylish! We put together some great options for work-appropriate wear that’s high on comfort as well as fashion.

We’ve enjoyed sharing our blog with you this year! Stay tuned in 2015 for more awesome tips and tricks for living uninterrupted!

12 Days of Period Health

Christmas fruit, nuts, and cookies covered in snow

In honor of the 12 days of Christmas: 12 tips for period health!
Image: Shutterstock

Did you know the 12 days of Christmas actually start on Christmas? That means after the usual festivities, you’ve got another set of days to celebrate! In the spirit of the traditional song, here are 12 tips for optimal period health as we see the year out.

On the first day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of movement. Sitting for long periods of time can be bad for your back, not to mention your overall health. And if you’re already feeling down that time of month, why make things harder on yourself? Take a break and move!

On the second day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of hydration. It’s no joke trying to get in the recommended 8 cups a day, but optimal water intake is essential for your health, not to mention curbing the worst PMS and period symptoms.

On the third day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of looking fabulous while exercising. You know exercise is important for alleviating cramps and other symptoms, but why not look fantastic while you’re at it?

On the fourth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of cutting back on caffeine and sweets. We’re not saying you have to give them up entirely—especially around the holidays!—but you’ll definitely have fewer PMS symptoms if you make a special effort to keep to the carrots rather than the cake during that time of the month.

On the fifth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of plenty of sleep. Being on your period can make you extra sleepy, so make sure you go to bed and get up at the same time every day to regulate your circadian rhythm.

On the sixth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of motivation. This one can be especially tough during winter, so make sure you reach out and get the support you need to keep up those healthy habits and keep away the PMS symptoms!

On the seventh day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a healthy breakfast. Don’t skip it! Starting the day with a healthy meal will keep your metabolism in gear and give you energy for the rest of the day—especially important during that time of the month.

On the eighth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of Love Uninterrupted. Check in with yourself and your partner about expectations hopes for your relationship so you’re starting off the year in a great place to weather the inevitable ups and downs. Don’t have a partner? Make sure your friends, family, and other loved ones know how you feel!

On the ninth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a walk outside. Get in a solid dose of daily sunlight and exercise, and watch your mood soar!

On the tenth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a soothing yoga session. Relax and alleviate period cramps and other symptoms at the same time with a gentle yoga routine.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a supportive bra. Nothing beats sore breasts like a bra that’s well-fitted and meant to last!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a month’s supply of GirlU! The compact is super chic, but the best part is beating the PMS symptoms…for good!

7 Fall Fitness Tips

Woman jogging through fall leaves

Check out these 7 tips for jumpstarting your fall workout!
Image: Shutterstock

Sure, the weather’s getting colder, but it’s actually a great time to get out there and work on your fitness routine. Whereas New Year’s resolutions often fade after the party, starting a new workout plan in fall allows you to create good habits for the holiday season. And if you’re in school—or your kids are—you probably think of September as the beginning of the year anyway!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get started with your fall workout:

  1. Work with the weather. Get inspired by gorgeous fall leaves by walking, running, biking, or skating in the park. And if you’re lucky enough to live near a beach or lake, your options for kayaking and canoeing are wider than ever, since those areas tend to be less crowded during the fall.
  1. Learn something new. School isn’t the only thing that starts in the fall! Gyms often start new classes around this time of year, which means great introductory sales. Plus, if you’re learning something new, you’ll likely start off slowly with burning calories and build up as you become more comfortable with the new routine. By that time, it’ll be warm weather again—just when you want to be toning up for swimsuit season.
  1. Focus on you. Wellness is about more than just your body. Consider working on other areas, too: take up meditation or yoga, learn a new language, take an art class. Expand your horizons.
  1. Give it time. The amount of time it takes your body to get used to a new workout varies, but many experts agree that three to six weeks is about right. So if you feel like giving up right away…don’t! Commit to your routine (with modifications as you need them) for the best results. Make your life easier by choosing something that’s fun and convenient—a nearby walk, a video you can do at home, or a gym class that’s on the way home from work or school.
  1. Don’t be scared of the dark! Fall usually means it gets darker earlier, so if you’re going to be outside, make sure to wear light-colored clothing, a reflective vest, and/or lights so cars can see you.
  1. Layers are your friends. The experts recommend three layers to keep you warm and dry. The layer closest to your skin should be clothing with wicking capabilities, often called DriFIT. This awesome fabric wicks moisture away from your skin, which keeps you from having to deal with being wet and cold. Over that, you should have a layer to keep you warm, and on the outside, a layer to deal with the elements—a windbreaker or raincoat, for example.
  1. Motivate yourself! Remember why you’re doing this workout. Are you trying to lose weight? Tone up? Get ready for a 5k? Everyone has different reasons, and you’re more likely to stick with a routine that means something to you.

Don’t let fall pass you by! It’s a great time to take stock of your workout and enjoy the best parts of the season.

4 Reasons You Gain Weight During Your Period—And What to Do About It

Woman's feet in colorful socks on  scale

Weight gain during your period is common, but there are a bunch of small, easy things you can do.
Image: Shutterstock

Weight gain during your period is common—most women gain anywhere from one to ten pounds leading up to and during menstruation. But why does the weight gain happen…and what can you do about it?

Basically, it all comes down to the fluctuation of hormones and the changes happening in your body.  Some common reasons for weight gain:

  • Water retention. Bowel problems and the natural drop of progesterone during your period seem to be the most common reasons for this.
  • Bloating. This could be caused by increased gas in the intestine or just more inactivity than usual (sometimes it’s hard to keep the exercise regular when you’re not feeling your best!).
  • Food cravings and overeating. With sugar levels fluctuating, period cravings may begin affecting what—and how much—you eat, which can lead to weight gain.
  • Decrease in magnesium. The magnesium levels in your body tend to go down just before your period, which causes insulin levels to rise. That’s why you crave sugar, which can lead to reaching for an extra candy bar…and gaining a few pounds in the process.

So that’s the bad news. Now…what can you do about it?

It’s important to note that period weight gain is often temporary. Particularly when you’re younger, you’re likely to lose the weight again right after your period without having to switch up your diet or exercise much.  As you get closer to menopause, however, the weight gain can get worse—as much as 15 pounds or more—and harder to lose.  So here are a few tips on stopping that weight gain in its tracks:

  • Reduce sodium intake. Yes, it’s hard to cut out the fast food when you’ve got the craving, but too much sodium can cause water retention and weight gain. So you’re better off cutting back on the salt as much as possible.
  • Reduce bloating. We’ve got some great tips on how to do that over here.
  • Increase your magnesium and calcium intake. Cooked spinach, black beans, and pumpkin seeds are all good sources of magnesium. Keeping an eye on your calcium intake by drinking milk and eating leafy green veggies can help prevent water retention. You can also look into taking a nutritional supplement.
  • Try yoga. The exercises can be soothing while still keeping you active. Depending on how you feel, there may be certain poses you need to avoid, but it’s worth giving it a try with these yoga poses for menstruation.

Weight gain during your period is no fun, but it’s not necessarily something to worry about. Just keep these tips in mind, and stay as active as you can, and you’ll find maintaining your ideal weight much more easily.

Quick and Healthy Breakfast Ideas to Prepare Before Bed

overnight oats in a glass jar

A quick, easy breakfast you can prepare in advance! Image: Shutterstock

Overnight Oats

Overnight oats have become a pretty “trendy” breakfast meal – and we understand why! Overnight oats can be prepared a few nights in advance and eaten the next day.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup organic oats
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 banana
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Pinch of cinnamon

Directions

  • Mix oats, milk, chia seeds, cinnamon, and vanilla together. Put this mixture in a jar in the fridge overnight.
  • In the morning, add the peanut butter, banana, and any other fruit. We love adding fresh raspberries, strawberries, blueberries – or any other kind of berry. Enjoy!

Depending on your preferences, the peanut butter and vanilla can be substituted for ½ cup of nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt. We recommend playing around with ingredients to find what you love!

 

Omelet muffins

Easy and customizable omelet muffins.
Image: Shutterstock

Omelet Muffins

Omelet muffins are a healthy and easy breakfast idea you can make on Sunday and enjoy all week. They are very customizable and can be made with tons of different veggie, meat, and cheese options. You’ll need a muffin tin to make these adorable and healthy breakfast bites.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs (for a larger muffin pan use 10)
  • ¼-1/2 cup milk
  • Any veggies, meats, or cheeses. Combine any of the following:
    • Tomatoes
    • Green onions
    • Spinach
    • Zucchini
    • Onions
    • Bell pepper
    • Diced ham
    • Diced bacon
    • Diced sausage
    • Cheddar cheese
    • Mozzarella cheese

Directions

  • Whisk together the eggs and milk. Add in any spices you’d like (pepper, salt, parsley, etc.)
  • Fill the muffin tin about 1/3 full of your veggies, meat, and cheeses.
  • Fill the muffin tin (almost) the rest of the way with the egg mixture.

Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

 

Fruit and yogurt parfaits with extra fruit and spoons

Fruit and yogurt parfaits use just a few ingredients that lead to deliciousness!
Image: Shutterstock

Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits

Fruit and yogurt parfaits are an easy, healthy, and yummy breakfast alternative. They can be customized with your favorite fruit and yogurt.

Ingredients

  • ½ vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt (or any yogurt of your choice)
  • Chopped berries (strawberries, blueberries etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup granola
  • Optional: Cinnamon, coconut flakes

 Directions

  • The night before, add yogurt, chia seeds, and cut up berries to a jar.
  • In the morning mix in the granola, and enjoy!

 

zucchini muffins

Make some on the weekend and enjoy all week!
Image: Shutterstock

Zucchini and Banana Muffins (recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart)

Zucchini and banana muffins are an easy breakfast you can make on Sunday and eat all week!

Ingredients

  • Muffin tin
  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup ground flaxseeds
  • 1 cup light-brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cup coarsely grated zucchini
  • ½ cup mashed ripe banana
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowel, combine flour, brown sugar, flaxseed, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add banana and zucchini. In a small bowl, whisk the milk, egg, and vanilla together. Combine.
  • Divide batter in muffin cups. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

We hope these recipes make your busy life a bit more simple and healthy in the mornings! Let us know if you make any of these in the comments below!

 

Sleepytime Snacks

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Tummy grumbling before bedtime? Steer clear of tempting processed foods while finishing up a late-night TV show, and try one of these! They all have 5-HTP, or oxitriptan, a neurotransmitter associated with aiding weight loss and regulating sleep patterns. Note: we’re talking sleepytime snacks here, not meals, so watch the portions!

1. Cherries. Fresh and dried cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, the chemical that controls the body's internal clock to regulate sleep. Researchers who tested tart cherries found that they contain high levels of melatonin. Eat them an hour before bedtime or before a plane trip to help you catch your much-needed and much-deserved beauty rest.

2. Bananas. Bananas are an excellent source of both potassium and magnesium, which are natural muscle relaxants. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin (a neurotransmitter that helps you snooze.)

3. Toast. Carbohydrate-rich foods trigger insulin production, which induces sleep by speeding up the release of tryptophan and serotonin to relax you and send you to sleep. A piece of whole wheat toast is the perfect snack to satisfy your stomach and help you catch some z’s.

4. Oatmeal. Like toast, a bowl of oatmeal will trigger a rise in blood sugar, activating insulin production and the release of sleep-inducing brain chemicals. Oats themselves are also rich in nature’s best sleep aid, melatonin.

5. Warm milk. Like bananas, milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which turns to 5-HTP and releases serotonin. It's also high in calcium, which also promotes sleep.

Sleep is such an important part of overall health and wellness, and you know you will toss and turn if you go to bed hungry, so choose one of these snacks to quiet a talking tummy.  Sweet dreams!