June marks Men’s Health Month (just in time for Father’s Day) and with it comes an opportunity to discuss men’s health for the sons, fathers, uncles, grandpas, and husbands in our lives. During Men’s Health Month we aim to get the word out to men of all ages to be physically active, eat healthily, and maintain a healthy weight.
When it comes to health, most men tend to take it for granted until a major illness or disease strikes. Often taking a “too little, too late” approach since preventative health is not part of their vernacular. But the fact of the matter is that prevention matters for better health.
On average, men live about five to six years less than women. And the leading causes of death for men include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and suicide. These sobering statistics show that taking care of your physical and mental health is very important and scheduling time for those yearly preventative medical visits should be a priority.
Good health, strength, and energy are important for all men to keep men at the top of their game. Therefore, Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating compiled a list of 5 things the men in our lives can do right now to greatly improve their health with little or no effort at all!
Here are our top 6 suggestions when it comes to men’s health:
Get “Gut” Healthy
Most men fall short on consuming foods that are good for the gut, like probiotics. Hippocrates once said, “Bad digestion is the root of all evil.” Now, a growing body of research suggests that the ancient Greek physician was seriously onto something!
Maintaining a healthy balance of “good” gut bacteria in the digestive tract is critical to overall health and wellbeing. Eat to beat disease by including a plethora of citrus fruits, fiber-rich foods, leafy greens, and yellow vegetables.
And don’t forget to include a variety of probiotics and prebiotics including yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, bananas, garlic, asparagus, and onions on a daily basis. Probiotics help to provide your body with the “good bugs” and prebiotics are fiber-filled plant foods that help to provide “food” for this good bacteria to keep you feeling and looking your best.
Men have more fat-storing cells around their abdomen, increasing their waist circumference. This is also called visceral fat, which can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes. Some research suggests that visceral fat may also increase the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia, and some cancers.
A good tool for improving your health is a simple tape measure. If your waist measures 40 inches or more, it is time to focus on a healthy weight loss plan. Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your weight can make great improvements in your overall health.
Send Meat to the Sidelines
Are you a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy? Having favorites is not a bad thing, but having a varied diet is important for keeping you fueled and meeting your nutrition needs. Many men believe that eating more meat equals getting more muscles. But this is not necessarily true! If you are doing increased strength training, adding extra protein is a good idea. But without that extra activity, adding extra protein will only lead to an excess of calories which could lead to weight gain.
Making meat the center of your plate is another habit that needs some adjustment. Meat, especially red meat, is high in saturated fat which can increase your risk for heart disease and increase your cholesterol. The American Cancer Society advises limiting processed meat (sausage, ham, jerky, bacon, and cold cuts) and red meat as part of a healthy diet while emphasizing plant-based food.
Try making meat one-quarter of your plate and fill the rest of your plate with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans. Increase your intake of lean and plant-based proteins, such as skinless chicken, turkey, beans, and nuts/seeds. And remember a serving of meat is roughly the size of your palm or a deck of cards, not a 12-ounce steak!
Commit to going meatless on Mondays. Men crave meat! But eating meat daily is not a healthy habit. The campaign for “Meatless Monday” has been around for some time and the concept is very simple: One day a week, cut out meat. To make your goal even more attainable, use your Meatless Mondays as a make-ahead day to prepare extra fruits and vegetables for the week. There are many great ideas online for quick, delicious vegetarian meals that are packed full of nutrition.
Nix the “Clean Plate Club”
Most men belong to the “clean your plate club.” This habit is firmly rooted in childhood and often most men don’t break it as they get older. Over the years, this equates to extra calories and extra pounds! Instead, stop eating your meal when you are 80 percent full. Most of us are inclined to eat past the point of fullness, but eating just until we are comfortably full can save hundreds of calories and many pounds throughout the year.
If you’re less athletic or physically active now than in your younger years, body fat can sneak up on you without you realizing it. As your activity changes so should your intake. Many men keep up with their eating habits without accounting for a decrease in the number of calories they are burning throughout the day. You shouldn’t be eating the same amount of food when you were the star quarterback in high school as you are now sitting at a desk or on the couch for much of the day.
If you find it hard to leave food on your plate, then start practicing taking smaller portions. With less on your plate, it will help decrease your calorie intake. Also, after dishing your food onto your plate it’s a good idea to put the rest of the food away. The temptation to go up and grab seconds is lessened when you have to get it back out of the refrigerator, heat it up, and dirty another serving spoon. If it is less convenient to get more food, you will be less likely to grab seconds unless you are REALLY hungry for it.
Ditch the Salt Shaker
According to the American Heart Association, having high blood pressure under the age of 45 is common in men. One of the best ways to combat this is by lowering your salt intake. The average American adult eats more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day which is much higher than the recommendation to consume less than 2,300 mg per day.
Men are also at higher risk than women of developing cardiovascular disease at an early age. Following a healthy diet that helps you maintain a healthy weight can help you control your risk. Add more plant-based foods to your diet including whole grains, fruits & vegetables, and beans and legumes which are all naturally low in sodium and cut back on processed, high-salt foods.
Remember to taste your food before adding salt. You would be surprised how many people reach for the shaker before they even taste their food. You may find that your food tastes just as good without it. Experiment with salt-free blends to add flavor to your food while keeping your sodium levels down. Each dash of salt you add to your food adds about 150 mg of salt. That means if you add 3 dashes of salt, you are adding about 450 mg of sodium, 20% of your daily amount. Those little shakes can really add up!
If you have a constant salt craving, turn to chip alternatives such as unsalted popcorn. According to one study, those who munch on a cup of air-popped popcorn are significantly more satisfied than their chip-loving friends. Popcorn is a whole grain, full of fiber, offers great flavor, and provides a satisfying portion. Since one cup of potato chips is a dense 150 calories, while the same amount of popcorn is only a super-light 15 calories, you can feel full and slim down with every delicious bite.
Say No to Screens
Men have a bad habit of spending too much time in front of screens – TV, computers, tablets, smartphones, etc. The national average time for watching television is 28 hours per week, or four hours per day, for the average American adult male. This is a tremendous amount of time being spent engaged in sedentary activity. And, this doesn’t account for other screen time either!
Additionally, many TV viewers report uncontrollable desires for advertised snacks, which usually are high in both fat and calories. To reduce food cravings, manage weight, and find time for exercise, it is recommended to watch 10 or less hours of television per week, or less than an hour and a half per day.
Less physical activity over time can lead to weakened bones, decreased strength, and an increase in weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American men on average weigh about fifteen pounds more than they did two decades ago. Do you think that is a coincidence with the rise in screen time?
Turn those screens off and find something active that you enjoy. Heading outside for a hike, a bike ride, or swimming at your local fitness club may all be good options for getting your heart rate up, switching up the scenery, and connecting with others.
Don’t be one of the 50% of men that get less than 10 minutes of physical activity per day! Switch up your activity so you don’t get bored. And finding a fitness buddy may help keep you accountable and make your activity more enjoyable.
Drink in Moderation
If you enjoy a cold one every now and then, that’s okay (in moderation)! It is important to stick to one to two drinks per day, instead of a six-pack. Data from the National Health Interview Survey in 2019 revealed that more than 30 percent of men 18 years and older had consumed five or more drinks in one day at least once over the past year.
Set limits and know that less may be best. Twelve ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or one and a half ounces of distilled spirits, such as vodka, whiskey, or gin, all counts as one drink. Drinking too much alcohol can negatively impact your weight, mental health, sleep, and health risks.
The typical beer belly some men may be familiar with is not good for your health either. Fat around the midsection increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and heartburn. And the research shows that drinking too much alcohol can raise triglycerides, high blood pressure, and increase your risk for Afib (atrial fibrillation).
Cutting back and choosing lower-calorie drink options, such as light beer and dry wines, and avoiding drinks mixed with heavy cream or soda can help with avoiding unwanted calories and help defeat that beer belly. The American Heart Association recommends drinking alcohol only in moderation, if at all.
Hopefully, you can share these 6 simple tips with the men in your lives to help improve their health as we celebrate Men’s Health Month this month. The men in our lives are important and helping them to maintain good health with some easy lifestyle changes will help them look and feel their best. For the busy men or the men who don’t know their way around the kitchen, consider mentioning Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating to help them enjoy the convenient, balanced meals to help them reach their health goals.