Eating well is confusing to many men. After all, we live in a world where we’re bombarded with junk food commercials and fast food lurks on every corner. With busy jobs and lots of responsibilities, making good nutrition a priority can be difficult. However, strategies to eat well don’t have to be complicated and time-consuming. Here are 5 simple guidelines that take the mystery out of getting the most nutrition from your food, so you can feel great and have the energy to tackle whatever life throws your way.
Pile on the Protein
It’s a fact of life than men carry more muscle mass than women, making their protein requirements significantly higher, so men need to make protein a major component of every meal. However, not all sources of protein are created equal. Grass-fed meats have different nutrient profiles than stockyard meat, containing much higher levels of omega-3 essential acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and vitamins A and E. Another omega 3-packed protein option is wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna. Nuts and seeds deliver high amounts fiber, vitamins, and minerals along with protein. Beans are an excellent source of protein when combined with rice or corn to form a complete protein.
Reduce Refined Sugars and Grains
Snack options loaded with sugar and refined carbs crowd our grocery shelves and beckon to us from gas stations and convenience stores. Reducing them from our lives can feel like a losing battle until we realize the damage they can cause in the body. When we indulge in refined foods, our blood sugar spikes which causes the body to release high levels of insulin. Over time, our cells become resistant to insulin’s signals to pull sugar from the blood, can cause our blood sugar to climb higher, and our body to produce still more insulin. At other times, an overproduction of insulin can cause our blood sugar to drop too low, making us crave a refined snack only an hour or two after finishing one. All this can be curtailed by keeping refined foods to a minimum.
Eat your Veggies First
Your mother was right. Vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals, so you get a lot of nutrition for very few calories. When you fill up on the vegetables first, your stomach gets filled with fiber, leaving less room for the refined carbs. Make it your goal to pile half your plate with steaming and crunching goodness: a fresh, crisp salad, lightly steamed broccoli or cauliflower, wilted spinach, sautéed onions and peppers, grilled asparagus, herbed carrots, roasted mushrooms, the options are endless. The more you turn your tastes to vegetables instead of bland, refined foods, the more you’ll find yourself craving them.
Fruit for Dessert
Often when our body is deficient in a vitamin or mineral, such as vitamin C, it will call out for fruit, but the signal will get misinterpreted and we’ll grab for a cookie or a Coke. But replacing fruit for traditional desserts keeps us nourished with necessary nutrients which helps to curb sugar cravings. Although fruit does have a little natural sugar, it is also loaded with fiber and water, which slows the digestion of the carbs, and keeps us from overeating on fruit. Have you ever witnessed someone binge eat apples like people do donuts? Because fruit is bursting with flavor and nutrients, it leaves us feeling satisfied and content. If watching your carbs, grab for berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, which are especially low in sugar despite their delicious taste.
Beware of Beverages
Drinking calories is the pitfall of many Americans and continues to be one of the driving forces behind type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3828681/) Although moderate beer and soda intake may not be problematic for most people when consumed only occasionally, the constant use sets off a chain reaction of metabolic problems in the body that can have lasting effects. Thankfully, today we now have many alternative options for those who get tired of plain water. Before you turn your nose up at them, remember that your taste buds can learn over time to appreciate more subtle tastes than just sugar. Try La Croix, Perrier, Hint, and Bubbles when you are wanting something special. And don’t forget black coffee and herbal teas, and lemon water.
Good nutrition is well within the reach of every man who is willing to take a few small steps in the right direction. For those trapped into extremely bad habits, you could attempt making one or two changes first, and add more later. Just remember, good nutrition need not be tasteless and time-consuming. If you keep it simple, keep it fresh, and keep it unrefined, you will be well on your way to fueling your body with the foods and nutrients you were meant to consume.