To help women in all phases of menopause – including perimenopause – avoid unwanted weight gain, a Texas-based obstetrician-gynecologist created the Galveston diet. Perimenopause occurs during the six to 10 years in a woman’s life before her last menstrual period, says Dr. Mary Claire Haver, the physician who created the diet.
When a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months, she’s considered to be in menopause – assuming there is no other cause, like pregnancy. The average age for menopause is 51. Unwanted weight gain is one of the symptoms of perimenopause.
The Galveston diet eating regimen is similar to the Mediterranean diet in that it emphasizes the consumption of whole foods, but it also recommends intermittent fasting.
What Is the Galveston Diet?
“The diet emphasizes limiting intake of processed foods that contain added sugars and artificial ingredients, including colors and flavoring,” says Lana Nasrallah, manager of clinical nutrition at UNC Health, a not-for-profit integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina and based in Chapel Hill.
There are three components, or phases, of the Galveston diet:
The Galveston diet doesn’t focus on counting calories. Rather, it recommends that its adherents – Haver calls them “students” – adopt intermittent fasting, an eating regimen in which all calories are consumed within a particular window of time each day. It recommends the 16:8 approach, in which all calories are consumed within an eight-hour window each day. Haver, who is based in Galveston, Texas, says most of the people who subscribe to the diet adhere to this approach.
Haver believes the Galveston diet is the only eating regimen designed to help perimenopausal women to avoid gaining weight.
Galveston Diet Costs
The diet has three different levels, Haver says. The basic level costs $59, a one-time fee that doesn’t require an ongoing subscription. At the basic level, you get access to all of the diet’s course material, which provides a step-by-step plan to begin using the Galveston diet lifestyle.
Next, at the gold level, for a one-time $99 fee you get lifetime access to the Galveston diet program, a recipe collection, an exercise program and daily motivational reflections. Finally, for $199, you can get access to everything in the basic and gold levels, including coaching for a month. You have an option to pay for a subscription to continue the coaching.
As of late June, about 80,000 people are signed up for the Galveston diet, Haver says. Many family members of perimenopausal or menopausal women who’ve signed up for the Galveston diet have also benefitted by following it and have lost weight, she says, noting that women tend to be in charge of cooking in the household.
Galveston Diet Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons to the Galveston diet, says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia.
Galveston diet pros
The pros of the Galveston diet include:
An emphasis on whole, healthy foods. The foods the Galveston diet emphasizes are very similar to the ones in the Mediterranean diet, which is rated the top diet overall by U.S. News’ team of experts.
Limited intake of unhealthy foods. The Galveston diet recommends limiting or avoiding alcohol, fried foods, refined grains and cooking oils that may cause inflammation, such as canola and vegetable oils. Collectively, consuming excessive amounts of these foods are associated with diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases.
The diet’s designed to fight inflammation. The Galveston diet eating regimen, including limiting sugary and processed foods as well as intermittent fasting, is designed to fight inflammation in the body, Haver says. Research suggests that inflammation is associated with a number of health problems.
For example, research published in 2019 in the journal Nature Medicine suggests that social, environmental and lifestyle factors can lead to systemic chronic inflammation. In turn, such inflammation is can lead to an array of health problems, including:
It can be effective for weight loss and management. By limiting the intake of added sugars, fried food and processed foods, and the hours in which Galveston diet students can consume their calories, the eating regimen “seems to help people lose stubborn pounds gained in their perimenopausal years,” says Lisa D. Ellis, a registered dietitian in private practice in Manhattan and White Plains, New York. She’s also a certified eating disorder registered dietitian and a licensed clinical social worker.
Weight loss in turn can lower blood sugar levels for some people – thereby lowering the risk of diabetes – and lower blood pressure.
Galveston Diet Cons
The cons of the Galveston diet include:
The restrictive nature of the diet may cause overeating. Intermittent fasting may help some people lose weight, but it could trigger overeating after periods of restriction, Ellis says.
The diet can be expensive. The Galveston eating regimen encourages grass-fed protein sources, like beef. Such food items are costlier than non-grass-fed options.
The Galveston diet may be difficult to follow in the long run. The Galveston diet is a low-carbohydrate eating regimen, and some people find low-carb diets restrictive, Jones says. Such individuals may have difficulty staying with the diet long-term.
It may be a challenge to get enough fiber on the Galveston diet. The Galveston diet is a low-carb eating plan, and may not provide enough fiber, Jones says. “When you cut back on carbs, you can reduce your fiber intake,” she says. “Including lower-carb, fiber-rich foods like non-starchy vegetables, avocados and berries is important when following a low-carb eating regimen like the Galveston diet.”
A lack of scientific research. To date, there are no peer-reviewed studies evaluating the effectiveness of the Galveston diet, Haver acknowledges.
Health Benefits of the Galveston Diet
One of the health benefits of the Galveston diet is that it emphasizes consuming healthy, nutrient-dense foods that research suggests can reduce inflammation in the body, says Sharon Collison, clinical instructor of nutrition in the department of behavioral health and nutrition at the University of Delaware.
In terms of recommended foods, the Galveston diet parallels the Mediterranean diet. “Science consistently supports the Mediterranean diet as the best (eating regimen) for disease prevention and overall health,” she says.
The Galveston diet also recommends limiting the consumption of processed and sugary foods. Consuming too much of such foods can lead to weight gain and increased risk for chronic diseases, like cancer, diabetes and obesity.
Health Risks of the Galveston Diet
Research suggests intermittent fasting provides an array of health benefits but could also be disadvantageous for some people.
A study published in 2019 in the journal Nutrients suggests that intermittent fasting “reduces many risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease” and therefore the occurrence of such disease. Intermittent fasting is also beneficial for the prevention of hypertension, researchers wrote.
However, intermittent could be dangerous for individuals in certain groups, including:
Intermittent fasting can pose health risks for some individuals, such as people with diabetes, Collison says. “The time window for eating each day is too limiting for some people,” she says. “What if you have diabetes and your blood sugar drops?” She notes that individuals with diabetes may need to eat outside the window of time intermittent fasting calls for.
In a phone interview, Haver acknowledges that intermittent fasting may not work for everyone. For example, some people have work schedules that make maintaining the 16:8 regimen every day difficult. To avoid spikes in their blood sugar, people with diabetes may need to eat more often than the intermittent regimen calls for. Students can adapt the intermittent fasting approach to their schedule and needs, Haver says.
Collison says she thinks people should pay attention to their hunger and fullness cues, and intermittent fasting “goes completely against that. Most people are awake at least 14 hours a day,” she says. “Telling someone they’re not allowed to eat when they’re getting hunger signals can be very damaging, especially for people who have disordered eating. Their relationship with food is not great, so putting all these restrictions into place and not letting people honor their feelings of hunger goes against what is good for one’s mental and physical health.”
She also notes that many high-functioning athletes need a higher level of calories than usual when they are training, which can be a challenge if they have to adhere to intermittent fasting.
Can I Lose Weight on the Galveston Diet?
Yes, you can “absolutely” lose weight on the Galveston diet if you follow its food and intermittent fasting guidelines, Collison says. But staying with the diet in the long run could have health trade-offs, she says.
For example, adhering to intermittent fasting may cut down on overeating at night. “Overeating at night is not good,” Collison says. “But not eating at all is also not good as it doesn’t promote a healthy relationship with foods.”
Galveston Diet Foods: What Can I Eat?
Foods recommended by the Galveston diet include:
- Healthy fats.
- Lean proteins (meat, poultry and fish).
- Whole grains.
The Galveston diet also recommends limiting the intake of:
- Cooking oils that may cause inflammation (canola oil and vegetable oil).
- Fried foods.
- Refined flours and grains.
How to Get Started on the Galveston Diet
Keep in mind that the Galveston diet includes three pillars, or phases:
- Intermittent fasting.
- Elimination of inflammatory foods.
- Fuel refocus.
Before incorporating the Galveston diet into your lifestyle, Haver and her staff recommend that you consult with your health care provider. Once you have your provider’s approval, they suggest slowly easing into intermittent fasting action. Consistently delay your first meal of the day by 15 to 30 minutes to gradually achieve a 16-hour fast. In doing so, your body has time to adjust and you should avoid any unpleasant side effects, Haver says. It’s important for you to be patient with the process and listen to your body.
The anti-inflammatory approach to nutrition can be phased in by slowly phasing out inflammatory-causing foods and increasing the amounts of anti-inflammatory foods you consume. The Galveston diet curriculum contains lists of specific foods to avoid (such as refined carbohydrates) and foods to increase (such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats).
This anti-inflammatory shift will help you ease into fuel refocus. “Again, we recommend you take your time making these dietary changes so as to not experience any of the uncomfortable symptoms of carbohydrate withdrawal,” Haver says.
Recipes and Meal Ideas for the Galveston Diet
Here are a handful of Galveston diet meal and snack recipes:
Egg scramble (serves one)
- 2 eggs.
- 1 cup fresh spinach leaves.
- 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped.
- 1 tablespoon of butter.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 1 cup of raspberries.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and whisk until blended.
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
- Pour the egg mixture into a saucepan and cook until a thin layer of cooked egg appears around the edge of the saucepan. Fold the eggs gently. Continue to cook, pushing and folding eggs around the pan occasionally.
- Halfway through cooking, add the spinach and tomatoes. Continue pushing and folding eggs until eggs are barely set. They should look a bit runny on top.
- Serve the scrambled eggs with a small bowl of fresh raspberries.
Grilled chicken salad (serves four)
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast.
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
- 1 ½ teaspoon of paprika.
- 1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped.
- 1 lemon cut into 4 wedges.
- Heat one side of your grill on high and the other side on medium, or grill the pan over medium-high heat.
- Pat chicken dry and coat with olive oil and paprika, or seasoning of your choice.
- Brush grates with olive oil and place chicken on hot side of the grill (or grill pan). Don’t touch the chicken until the pieces start getting some grill marks.
- Let the chicken brown on one side, turn over and move to the cooler side of the grill.
- Remove from grill when the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cover chicken with foil and let rest 5-10 minutes. Serve over a bed of Romaine and dress with fresh lemon.
Crunchy Kale Chips with Pecans (serves four)
- 1 large bunch of kale.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
- 3/4 cup of pecans.
- Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
- Remove the kale from the stems, wash it, and dry it off well.
- Add kale to a Ziploc bag with oil and shake well so that every piece is coated.
- Put the kale onto a baking sheet, spread it out and flatten the leaves.
- Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, add sea salt and enjoy with pecans.