Man Up Your Nutrition

by Nicole Olen RD, LDN, CHC

Making healthy eating a priority is important for both men and women.  While most nutritional advice applies to both sexes, there are a few key differences for men.  Males have specific recommendations for total calories and protein in order to stay healthy and decrease the risk for disease.  So, for all you men, listen up… and for all you women, share these facts with the important men in your life!  

Calories

Men tend to need more calories than women, due to larger frames and more muscle mass, but similar to women, exact calorie requirements depend on activity level, metabolism, and weight goals.  On average, 2000-2800 calories are needed for men to maintain a healthy body weight.

However, just meeting this calorie goal isn’t as important as selecting the best foods to fill the diet.  Men should focus on more whole grain carbohydrates – think whole wheat bread or English muffins, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat crackers, whole wheat cereals, oatmeal, and popcorn.  These hearty grains will increase overall fiber intake and regulate blood sugars, both which help reduce the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in men.  

Eating fatty foods, high in saturated and trans fats (the “bad” guys), yields greater excess body fat and increases the risk for heart disease in men as well.  Reducing red meat consumption, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and eating more heart-healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, walnuts, salmon, or tuna, can decrease risk factors for heart disease in men.  

Try a bowl of oatmeal with raspberries & walnuts for breakfast, a brown rice bowl with grilled salmon and roasted veggies for lunch, and a whole wheat pita wrap with sautéed chicken, sliced avocado, and hummus for dinner to emphasize whole grain carbohydrates & heart-healthy fats in your diet.  

Protein

When looking at your total daily calories, 10-35% should come from protein sources, whether male or female.  The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight.  For a 200 pound male, this comes out to about 73 grams of protein per day.  With the traditional American diet, most men consume over their body’s requirements for protein - there is 84 g of protein in a 12 oz steak, 70 g of protein in a 8 oz chicken breast, and 54 g of protein in a pork chop!  Excessive amounts of any food (protein, carbohydrate, or fat) gets stored as fat if not used in the body, so in this case, more is not always better.  

Protein is essential for growth and recovery, so when choosing foods, opt for lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish, eggs, low-fat or fat-free dairy, and more plant-based protein like beans, peas, tofu, nuts, nut butters, and seeds.

Need ideas for healthy protein meals?  Make “Meatless” Mondays a routine with black bean quesadillas or vegetarian chili filled with beans and vegetables.  Have breakfast for dinner with whole wheat pancakes and scrambled eggs.  Grill a new kind of fish with your favorite roasted vegetable.  Opt for skim milk with dinner over soda and other sugary beverages.