While men and women have many of the same health concerns and nutritional needs (we are all the same species), there are many ways in which we are unique. Men and women don’t always have the same attitudes toward food and body weight, and men have some lifestyle-related health risks that are different from what women face.
In honor of Father’s Day, here are some tips for how men can fuel up for optimal health.
Master waist management: Are you wearing your belt on a looser notch than you used to? Don’t fall into the No. 1 male dieting trap: skipping meals. When men decide to cut calories, they tend to start by cutting out breakfast and sometimes skipping lunch. This practice can leave you feeling tired and prone to grabbing less-than-healthful afternoon snacks or overeating at dinner.
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A better plan is to eat a healthful breakfast and have some protein- and fiber-rich snacks available, such as a handful of almonds, if serious hunger hits between meals.
Start a hydration habit: Forgetting to drink enough fluids during the day can leave you feeling tired, which can lower your performance at work, the gym and at home. Most men need about 12 eight-ounce glasses of fluid each day (more during hot weather or when exercising vigorously).
What counts toward fluids? Water is king, but coffee, tea, milk, juice, sports drinks and soda technically count toward that total, too.
What doesn’t count? Alcohol.
Vary your vegetables: Gather any group of healthy eaters, and whether they identify themselves as paleo or vegan, the one thing they will have in common is high intake of vegetables. By vegetables, I don’t mean French fries and ketchup.
But never fear; if you’re not a fan of salads and steamed vegetables, roasting and grilling vegetables bring out their rich flavor and make them feel substantial. Adding extra vegetables to sandwiches and hearty dishes such as chilis and fajitas boosts nutrients, texture and fiber, helping you fill up on fewer calories.
Revise your protein: If you are a committed carnivore, swapping some of your steak for salmon gives you a heart-healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Also consider making a few meals meatless, getting your protein from plant sources such as beans (legumes) and nuts.
Reduce your risks: Men have an increased risk of heart-related health problems at an earlier age than women do. Whether you’re looking to improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lower your blood pressure, or both, you can’t go wrong by eating more whole grains, berries, vegetables and beans.
Some specific go-to foods include almonds, apples, flaxseed, garlic, oatmeal, avocados, olive oil, wine (in moderation), salmon and pumpkin seeds. Many of these foods may also promote good prostate health (as does the lycopene in tomatoes, watermelon, papaya and pink grapefruit).
Accentuate the positive: Focus on eating more of these nutrient-rich foods, and you’ll naturally crowd out less nutritious foods — those high in sodium, added sugar and refined white flour.
Think, “What should I eat?” Don’t dwell on “What shouldn’t I eat?”
Carrie Dennett: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dennett is a graduate student in the Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington; her blog is nutritionbycarrie.com.