Are guys sugar addicts? Seems so. The latest survey of American nutrition finds that young and middle-aged men are the highest consumers of added sugar. On average, we scoop up 335 calories a day of the sweet stuff, with sodas a big contributor. That’s nearly 100 calories a day more than women (average: 239 calories/day). The rest of our diets isn’t so wonderful, either.
The key to healthier eating is to choose foods that pack the most nutrients per calorie. Here’s what nutrients sugar contributes per calorie: zero, zip, nada. Broccoli supplies a lot more nutrients per calorie than, say, French fries. Sure, you knew that. But do you know what nutrients your body really needs every day? To find out, check out this great interactive tool, designed for health professionals, to help calculate anyone’s daily nutrition needs. Put in your gender, age, height, weight, and activity level, and you can find out exactly what your body needs every day.
Related Link: The Top 5 Superfoods For Men
What should you men eat? According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, men should aim for:
- At least 2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day
- At least once a week, eat tomatoes or something made from tomatoes like pasta sauce. The antioxidant lycopene found in tomato products is good for prostate health.
- Eat at least half of all grains as whole grains each day. Replace refined grains with whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice or oats.
- At least two to three servings of fish per week
- At least 38 grams of fiber a day for younger men; 30 grams of fiber a day for men older than 50
- Unsaturated fats like oils, nuts, and oil-based salad dressings in place of saturated fats like full-fat dairy foods, butter and high-fat sweets
- 4,700 milligrams a day of potassium from fruits, vegetables, fish and milk
Here’s a guide to pack in the most nutrients in breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Breakfast fuels you for the first part of your day. If you have time to cook your breakfast, it’s fine to have a soft-boiled egg or two a few times a week, or scrambled eggs—toss in peppers or spinach. Healthy men can have an egg a day without hurting their hearts, according to the Harvard School of Public Health—just remember that the eggs in baked goods counts, too. Have your occasional eggy breakfast with whole-grain toast, fresh fruit (or juice), and coffee, and you’re set.
Another breakfast alternative is the protein pancake. Throw in vanilla protein powder to a whole-grain pancake mix, or make your own batter from scratch using egg whites, oats, protein powder, and lowfat milk. You can store it dry and make a fresh batch quickly in the morning. Top with Greek yogurt, fresh berries, a little maple syrup.
No time to cook? Grab a whole grain cereal with fresh fruit and pour on the lowfat milk. You can boost the protein with a small scoop of vanilla protein powder. Lowfat or fat-free Greek yogurt is another great food choice: Mix it with fresh fruit and enjoy with a whole grain English muffin, coffee, tea or water.
Eat lunch. No matter how busy you are, take time for a quick nutritious lunch to fuel you through the afternoon. Make lunch a stress break, too: Just because you pack lunch doesn’t mean you have to eat it at your desk while jockeying e-mail and everything else! You deserve a break today—one that really fuels your body.
If you’re packing a sandwich, start with whole-grain bread like whole wheat, multigrain or rye. The meat should be a source of lean-protein like chicken breast or turkey breast. Add Swiss cheese if you want, plus dark leafy greens and tomato slices. Ditch the mayo—try olive oil instead. Pack up some fresh carrot slices, snap peas or edamame.
Or pack a really filling salad. At the start of the week, cook up a batch of protein-rich quinoa and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. Quinoa is a nutty-tasting natural seed harvested originally in South America. Mix cooked quinoa with kale, chopped avocado, grilled chicken, chopped tomatoes, and drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Bring along a fresh fruit and you’ll feel like a warrior!
By the time dinner rolls around, it’s the time of day where you just feel like you deserve a good meal. Always try to incorporate a cooked vegetable or salad into your dinner meal. If you’re going to be cooking a high-carb dinner like pizza or pasta, try switching to a veggie pizza on whole wheat crust or switching your spaghetti to a whole wheat. Some pastas, like Barilla-plus, pack in extra protein and fiber.
An ideal dinner might look something like, cooked lemon-pepper salmon with a side of steamed garlic-Parmesan spinach and a small side of whole wheat penne drizzled with olive oil. Or try grilled skinless chicken breasts layered with mozzarella, tomato slices and basil, with a side of steamed broccoli rabe drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. Serve it over a small amount of high-protein pasta and you’re set.
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