June 13th is the beginning of National Men’s Health Week and the time to place awareness on health concerns that men face. While men’s health needs are wide and varied, taking men’s health seriously starts with a balanced diet. Food is more than just fuel for the body. An unhealthy diet can increase the risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
While certainly not true for all men, studies suggest that men often have less variety in their diet than women. Men tend to gravitate towards those foods they grew up on, often choosing food for convenience, rather than nutrition. Research on the subject indicates that men may eat more fatty meats, processed carbohydrates and fast food when compared to woman. Men may also consume snacks that are higher in fat, sodium, and calories. Men’s intake of whole fruits, grains, and vegetables are likely less than the recommended amounts. However, experts also find that men tend to lose weight more easily than women with simple adjustments to eating habits.
That said, when picking up a fork men should consider:
- Specific energy needs are determined by height, weight, age, activity level, and medical history.
- Since men typically are larger and have more muscle mass than women, men require more calories throughout the day.
- On average, moderately active males need 2,200-2,800 calories and at least 50 grams of protein per day.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a healthy diet for men includes:
- At least 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables each day.
- Whole grain products, like brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat bread. Make it a habit to swap out refined carbohydrates for whole grain options.
- At least 38 grams of fiber a day for men under 50 and 30 grams of fiber per day for men older than 50. Good sources of fiber include berries, popcorn, avocado, apples, nuts, and whole grains, including those listed above.
- Unsaturated fats such as oils, nuts, and oil-based salad dressings instead of saturated fats like full-fat dairy foods, butter, and high-fat sweets.
- A variety of protein foods, including 2-3 servings of fish per week and plant-based sources like beans, lentils, nuts, and peas.
- No more than two drinks per day. A serving size is equal to 12 oz of beer, 1.5 ounces of spirits or 5 ounces of wine.
Keep in mind that a healthy diet is one that adds food variety, not limits. Men should be encouraged to enjoy new foods and get creative in the kitchen. Always remember it is important to aim for regular mealtimes and to snack strategically. Avoid under-eating or skipping meals. This can lead to hunger which can hamper the best eating plan. The most effective way to eat more healthfully is to make gradual, doable changes.