Perimenopause and menopause can come with a lot of body changes, including the chance that you may gain weight around your stomach and other areas. If the idea of gaining weight bothers you or if you’ve already gained some pounds you wish weren’t there, the Galveston diet has an army of fans who swear by it.
This eating plan is specifically aimed at helping women create healthy habits through the perimenopausal and menopausal years. It uses a mix of intermittent fasting, along with healthy food choices, to help women manage their weight, optimize their hormones, and limit bodily inflammation—and it was developed by a doctor, OB-GYN Mary Claire Haver.
So, what’s the deal with this buzzy eating plan and how does it all work? Here’s what you need to know.
What is the Galveston diet?
The Galveston diet is a program that’s designed to help prevent and combat weight gain during the perimenopausal and menopausal period. It uses a mix of anti-inflammatory foods and intermittent fasting, and focuses on having whole foods while minimizing processed products and added sugars, Dr. Haver explains.
“The Galveston diet is a three-pronged approach to transforming nutrition and improving overall health for women in menopause and perimenopause,” Dr. Haver says. It specifically encourages followers to do 16 hours of fasting with an eight-hour eating window. This “coaxes the body to draw energy from stored fat and decreases inflammation,” Dr. Haver says.
The Galveston diet also recommends hitting a “specific ratio of healthy fats, lean protein, and quality carbohydrates to efficiently burn fat as fuel,” Dr. Haver says.
Dr. Haver developed the plan after gaining weight in perimenopause. “Working as an OB-GYN, women would often complain that they were experiencing weight gain, specifically around their midsection, even though they had not changed their eating or exercise habits,” she says. “I would give the same ‘eat less, move more’ advice that I, and many other doctors had always given, and when my patients would return with the same complaint, I would wonder if they had really changed their habits, or if they were just fooling themselves. Then, it happened to me.”
Dr. Haver says she gained about 20 pounds after hitting perimenopause and losing one of her brothers. “I began restricting calories and doubling down at the gym with no lasting results,” she says. “As a physician and scientist, I knew there had to be a better answer.”
Dr. Haver eventually enrolled in Tulane University’s culinary medicine program to learn more about food. “I began intermittent fasting, following an anti-inflammatory approach to nutrition, and fuel refocusing and, before long, the extra pounds came off and friends and family members were asking what I was doing,” she says. The Galveston diet was created.
What foods can you eat on the Galveston diet?
The Galveston diet focuses on anti-inflammatory foods, while minimizing processed foods and added sugars. “The list of foods people can eat is way longer than the list of foods they should avoid,” Dr. Haver says. “I recommend incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high-quality protein, and healthy fats to fill your meals and snacks while limiting your intake of added sugars, processed carbohydrates, and alcohol.”
She also recommends swapping foods that come in a box or a bag for “inflammation-fighting foods and muscle-building proteins.” Healthy fats, like avocados, are also encouraged. These “improve heart health, reduce inflammation, and reduce hot flashes and night sweats,” Dr. Haver says.
Monica Corcoran Harel, the 55-year-old founder of Pretty Ripe, a resource guide for women over 40, tried the Galveston diet and says it was “pretty great.”
“It’s more like a dietary lifestyle—it’s just changing your habits and the foods you eat,” Harel says. “I lost eight pounds, but specifically in my midsection.” Harel says she also felt like her mood improved, along with her skin.
If you want to try the Galveston Diet, you can get a free five-day meal plan, try recipes on the Galveston Diet site, or buy the book. For more support, there are paid plans you can choose online: The online program is $59 and gives you access to the Galveston Diet curriculum, along with a guide on how to balance hormones, 13 weeks of meal plans, and educational videos. You can also pay $24.99 (for the first month; then $49.99 a month) for a Platinum Coaching package that gives you access to online coaching support, live coaching sessions, and weekly bonus content. There are also ready-made meals available for purchase that are free of gluten, added sugars, and dairy.
Is the Galveston diet healthy?
Health and nutrition experts say the diet can be healthy. “The emphasis on limiting overly-processed foods, and encouraging fruits and veggies is rather positive,” says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet.
“It’s about grabbing nutrients from foods so your body can better absorb it,” adds Flow Advisor Dr. Heidi Flagg, founder and managing partner of Spring Ob/Gyn. For example, “many women are deficient in magnesium (found in avocado and pistachio), which can play a role in mood, muscle tone, and heart health.”
“The diet is healthy because it recommends cutting out and limiting processed foods, added sugar, and other artificial ingredients,” says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D.
But Dr. Wider says there’s “very little evidence of scientific backing” that the diet works differently from other eating plans when it comes to the perimenopausal and menopausal periods. “In theory, the diet has merit, but it looks a lot like other diets,” Dr. Wider says. “It promotes healthy eating habits—whole foods, healthy fats, and vegetables and avoiding processed foods.”
Gans is also concerned about the diet’s fat content—while you’re trying to lose weight, Dr. Haver recommends getting 70 percent of your calories from healthy fats. (That eventually drops to 40 percent of your daily calories when you’re in a maintenance phase.) “Even though this diet recommends eating antioxidant and anti-inflammatory-rich foods which are beneficial to our health, it also suggests consuming 70 percent of your daily calories from fat,” she says. “A high-fat diet puts the user at a higher risk for heart disease and certain cancers.”
Harel says the diet is easy to follow (she’s still doing a modified version of it) and she likes how it makes her feel. “I lost some weight in areas where I felt weight was settling and I felt like I slept better,” she says. “I also feel like I have more energy.”
Who should consider the Galveston diet?
The diet is specifically designed for people in the perimenopausal and menopausal periods, although Dr. Haver says that it may be helpful for women as young as 35.
To make it work for you, Dr. Haver recommends adopting the changes recommended by the diet slowly “in an effort to build new habits that will last and to avoid overwhelm.”
Harel suggests that women keep an open mind about the Galveston diet. “When you hit midlife, your needs are specific,” she says. “Your body is changing and it’s easy to get impatient with yourself. You may not get results right away, but that’s part of the natural process of aging.”