June is Men’s Health Month, a time to raise awareness and educate men about health issues that are unique to them. While women’s health gets a lot of attention, men also face their own health challenges that they will often ignore or disregard. Men are also less likely to seek health care than women, especially preventative care. But with education and awareness, men can take the necessary steps to improve their health as they age through diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
A frustrating thing for many women is how men can eat twice as many calories as women and not gain weight. It’s not uncommon for younger men to exist solely on pizza, burgers, and beer! But as men age, especially after age 50, those unhealthy choices can catch up with them, and a poor diet can increase their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers, as well as the dreaded middle-age spread. One way for men to cut these risks is to change their diets by cutting back on foods that are high in trans fats, saturated fat, salt, cholesterol, and sugar.
As men age, they cannot typically eat the way they did in their 20s and maintain a healthy weight. Men, like women, tend to become less active as they get older, and will lose muscle and gain fat, which will cause metabolism to slow down. This means that as men age, they need fewer calories, so it’s important to make every calorie count by choosing foods wisely.
• Less active – 2,000 to 2,200 calories
• Moderately active – 2,200 to 2,400 calories
• Active – 2,400 to 2,800 calories
Make good choices
There are several specific foods that men over 50 should avoid altogether.
Avoid: Processed Meats. Processed meats, such as salami, bologna, and pepperoni are all high in saturated fat and salt. Consuming high levels of saturated fat has been proven to raise cholesterol levels, which increases your risk of heart disease according to the American Heart Association. These meats have also been linked to colorectal cancer.
Choose instead: Make your lunch sandwiches with grilled or roasted boneless and skinless chicken breast or low-sodium turkey, which are lower fat, leaner choices.
Avoid: Protein Bars. Protein bars are convenient, but most are just glorified candy bars. They may be touted as healthy snacks, but they are usually loaded with calories and added sugars and a lot of other questionable ingredients.
Choose instead: If you really like the convenience of a protein bar to carry with you to work or for after a workout, make sure you chose one that’s high in protein and has less than 7 grams of sugar, and less than 200 calories. A better option is making a healthy trail mix with fresh or dried fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds, and whole grain cereal.
Avoid: Toaster Pastries. Toaster pastries are essentially dessert for breakfast; they’re packed with sugar and calories, and very little fiber or protein.
Choose instead: For a healthier breakfast, skip the pastries and make sure you get some protein to start your day. A good choice would be one or two eggs and a slice of whole grain toast with fresh berries or bananas.
Avoid: American Cheese. That bright orange cheese that comes on your burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches is not really cheese. It’s highly processed and full of preservatives, with ingredients like oils, milk fat, salt, and starch. You’ll notice most American cheese packages are labeled as a “cheese product” because they contain less than 50 percent of real cheese.
Choose instead: Any other type of cheese is a better choice than American cheese! Choose lower-fat or part-skim options of real cheeses like Swiss, mozzarella, cheddar, or Gouda. One of the healthiest cheeses is goat cheese, as it’s lower in calories than other cheeses, and it’s easier to digest if you have any lactose intolerance. Do watch your portion size when it comes to cheese and try to stay under 200 calories worth per day.
Avoid: Sugary Drinks. Sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit juices are all packed with sugar and high in calories. Drinking these types of beverages regularly has no nutritional value and can lead to excess weight gain.
Choose instead: Water! It’s important to drink enough water to stay hydrated, especially as you get older—or choose low-sugar or no-sugar drinks in moderation.
Avoid: Fried Foods. It’s best to just avoid fried foods in general as they have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other diseases such as type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Plus, as you age, it’s harder to digest fried foods, so you may experience stomach upset and indigestion.
Choose instead: Instead of frying, use alternative cooking methods (baking, grilling, etc.) for meat. If you crave French fries, cook them in an air fryer using potato strips.