“Man-up” to Better Eating Habits

Think that giving attention to your diet and health is just for women? According to statistics from the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, men are:

  • 22% more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests
  • 24% less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year
  • 32% more likely to be hospitalized for complications from diabetes

Dietary intervention can make a difference in many common health concerns for men, such as weight control/weight loss, diabetes and heart health. Developing healthy eating habits is something that can be done at home—no co-pay or waiting room required. (If one did want help though, consulting a Registered Dietitian is a smart way to go.)  Get started by tackling these eating issues that many men share…

Father and Son
Father and Son / Scott Ableman / CC BY 2.0

Nix nighttime noshing.

I get it. Nighttime is your time to kick back and comfort yourself after finishing another day of hard work, but late night snacking can be a recipe for weight gain if it means you end up taking in more calories than you need. Let’s face it, baby carrots and edamame are not what most folks reach for as they settle onto the couch for some tube time. And speaking of that couch—associating snacking with watching television is something that our bodies “learn,” which means we can unlearn it, too, though it takes some time for a different, healthy association to take hold. Instead of snacking as you watch, try establishing your TV time as the time you walk or jog on your treadmill, do some stretching, ab exercises or a few relaxing yoga poses. You get the idea.

Another idea for thwarting the evening snack fest: get up and brush your teeth and use mouthwash after dinner, and/or clean up and “close” your kitchen (clean up the dishes and counters and turn off the lights)—you’ll be less tempted to “ruin” your clean mouth and tidy kitchen with a snack. Another idea: make sleep a priority. Studies show that a lack of sleep can do a number on your body and mind, making you more likely to crave carbs and high calorie foods. Nighttime snacking is rarely an issue of true hunger, and eating right before lying down to sleep increases the likelihood of heartburn. Best to just get used to being done eating after dinner, have some water (you might really just be thirsty anyway), and hit the hay at a reasonable time.

Limit liquid calories.

They don’t call it a “beer belly” for nothing, ya know. But whether you’re talking juice, soda or alcohol, caloric beverages of all types can easily contribute excess calories to our diets—and excess inches to our waistlines. The truth is that calories from liquids don’t contribute to the feeling of satiety as much as calories from solid foods. In other words, we can gulp down several hundred calories in a jiffy, but our bodies aren’t great at registering that we’ve consumed them. It’s a bummer, yes. On the plus side, when trying to drop a few pounds, one study showed that a reduction in liquid calories was more effective for weight loss than limiting solid food calories. Best places to start? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a container of water in your fridge—very cold water from a pitcher is somehow nicer than water from the tap (add crushed mint leaves or lemon/lime slices to it for a little zip if you like).
  • Make it a habit to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning (bonus points for drinking a glass of water before each meal as well).
  • Wean yourself off of soda gradually, and consider swapping in flavored seltzer to get your fizz fix.

Re-focus on fruits and veggies.

The lettuce and tomato on that burger do not make up for a day of next-to-no produce. It’s time to update your plate—move the meat out of the middle of your plate (give it a quarter of the plate space) and fill half the plate with vegetables and fruit. Depending on age and activity level, men need at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2-4 cups of vegetables each day.  What are the benefits of bumping up your produce intake? You will increase your intake of a wide range of vitamins and minerals, fiber and other beneficial plant chemicals. Plus, you’ll feel more full on relatively few calories, which can help with weight control efforts. A few easy ways to start making fruits and veggies more of a habit in your life:

  • Include at least one serving of fruit at breakfast each day (not counting juice)—make it automatic.
  • Snack on raw veggies while getting dinner ready (or before you go out to eat). This will take the edge off your hunger and give you a nutritional boost, too.
  • Add a mini-salad to dinner each night as a matter of routine (bagged salad is perfectly fine)