Man-taining your health
Important tips for men to eat well and improve their health
Lite n’ Easy accredited dietitian, Larissa Robbins has the following steps to help you improve your overall health, lose excess weight and ensure that your most important machinery is in tip-top shape.
This week is Men’s Health Week, and it’s an important reminder for all the fathers, brothers, sons, husbands and friends to take control of their health.
Men often bury their heads in the sand when it comes to their health, taking a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. Unfortunately, this approach is just not working and the stats speak for themselves.
- 7 in 10 Australian men are overweight or obese
- Heart disease affects men about 20 years earlier than women and is the leading cause of death in men over 45
- Men are more likely to have Type 2 Diabetes than women
- About 1 in 2 men will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime
- Men also talk about their health less and frequent their doctor less than women
So how can you make sure you’re not one of these statistics?
1. Up your veg!
It’s not rocket science here! Veggies are good for you… like, really good! They’re chocked full of important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. They’re also really low calorie! However, as good as they are, only 3% of Australian men eat enough vegetables on a daily basis.
So how can you boost your veggie intake?
- Start the day the right way by adding a handful of spinach to your eggs at breakfast
- Add baked beans to your brekky meal or mix them into a casserole or curry
- Bulk up your sandwiches with extra salad
- Aim to fill half of your plate with salad or veggies at both lunch and dinner. And yes, roast potato counts as a veg!
- Snack on roasted chickpeas or a corn cob – the perfect alternative to chips!
2. Go with the grain
Wholegrains are little nutritional powerhouses and have multiple health benefits. Choosing wholegrains can help reduce your risk of diabetes and lower your cholesterol. They’re also a great source of fibre which helps to feed your good gut bacteria and keep your weight in check by keeping you feeling full!
Here’s some simple ways to get some grains into your diet:
- Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals such as bran, porridge, oats, Swiss style muesli and whole wheat cereal.
- Avoid white bread and instead opt for wholemeal, rye or multigrain breads. The more seeds and grains, the better!
- Use brown rice instead of white rice with your meals
- Snack on wholegrain crackers with peanut butter instead of rice crackers or chips
3. Cut back on booze
You don’t have to cut out alcohol altogether, but it pays to play it smart! They don’t call it a beer belly for nothing! At a whopping 7 calories per gram, alcohol is runner-up only to fat in the ‘calories per gram’ stakes.
For example, one schooner of beer has approx. 170 calories, which is the equivalent to a sandwich! And not only is too much alcohol harmful to your waistline, it can also affect your mood, sleep, energy levels and long term risk of chronic health issues.
The current guidelines advise a maximum of 10 standard drinks across the week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. And try to aim for at least 2 alcohol-free days per week.
When you do drink, opt for lower alcohol beers, and choose calorie-free mixers such as soda water and fresh citrus. You might also consider including a non-alcoholic spacer between hard drinks to cut your overall alcohol and calorie intake.
4. Watch your portions!
Being a man doesn’t automatically mean bigger portions than women. While men may have more muscle and therefore burn more energy at rest, total daily energy requirements vary from person to person. While men may need more energy than women, remember it’s easy to go overboard with big portions, and portion creep is one of the main reasons for weight gain! For example, adding an extra cup of pasta or another piece of steak to your meal can add up to 250 calories per day– and that equates to an extra 0.5kg every 6 months!
Tips for portion perfection:
- Balance your plate: fill at least half with veggies or salad, a quarter with protein and a quarter with good quality carbohydrates.
- Start with a regular serve and go back for seconds only if you’re actually And remember – it takes around half an hour for your stomach to register that it’s full – so don’t wolf down your food and try to wait a while before going for seconds.
5. Make fibre your friend
Fibre has been shown to reduce your risk of chronic diseases as well as certain types of cancers. People with a higher intake of fibre have a reduced risk of premature death from chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes.
Fibre also plays an important role in gut health, but men today typically fall well short of the recommended intake of 30g per day. The good news is that increasing your fibre intake is easy once you know how.
Here are some simple steps you can take to increase your fibre intake:
- Get your 2 & 5 in every day and eat the skins where possible!
- Make sure that half your plate is vegetables at dinner time and choose a variety to keep things interesting and increase your nutrient intake.
- Try adding legumes to more of your meals. You can make a burrito bowl at home with lots of veggies, rice and some drained, canned black beans. Or try throwing a handful of red lentils into your bolognaise sauce while it’s simmering on the stove – even the fussiest eater won’t know they’re there!
So make fibre your friend! It’s the kind of mate who will always have your back— and truly love your guts.
As part of Men’s Health Week, we’re also showcasing stories of men who have prioritised their health and achieved their goals through healthy eating and living. So, if you or a male in your life could do with a little healthy inspiration, why not check out these success stories.
Larissa Robbins is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with extensive experience working across Australia and the UK in the food industry, corporate health, hospitals and private practice. She specialises in the area of weight management, gastrointestinal disorders and chronic disease management. Larissa is passionate about helping people live their healthiest lives through the power of food and nutrition.