New Man Food
Listen up, guys. Masculinity isn't defined by what you eat. It's all about how well
you hold up through the years, which means taking care of yourselves.
So ditch the doughnuts, double burgers and draft beer, and adopt a healthier diet.
Back in 1982, a best-selling, humorous manifesto of masculinity known as Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche epitomized the male backlash against feminism, by then a formidable force in the American cultural landscape. But the joke, it turns out almost 25 years later, is on the men—and not just because quiche doesn’t have that many fewer calories than a Quarter Pounder. We may have maintained our macho-ness all these years by eating “manly food,” but we’ve become unhealthy and ultimately weaker because of it.
In 2000, the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey revealed that among men 20 years and older, a whopping 65.1 million (67.2%) were considered overweight and 26.6 million (27.5%) were considered obese. Only 30.6 million (31.8%) of men 20 to 74 were considered to have a healthy weight. The fallout from such a fatness factor is that more men are dying each year of heart disease and related illnesses, and more money than ever is being spent on health care (to say nothing of how poor male health affects the women and children who depend on the men in their lives). Another cheeseburger, guys?
Those numbers, though shocking at first, shouldn’t be that surprising. As a gender, men are more vain, ego-driven and stubborn than women. How does this manifest itself when it comes to wellness? Until a man is hit with his first health crisis, no matter what the age, he thinks he’s indestructible. That’s why it’s so difficult to convince men to get regular medical checkups (which they should do especially when they hit 50). It’s not that many American men aren’t trying to lose pounds. It’s just that they are a bit misguided in their efforts. Weight-conscious men really gravitated to the Atkins diet. Why? Because at the same time the plan says to cut carbohydrates and increase protein, it gives men carte blanche to eat mass quantities of high-fat “manly” foods like beef and pork. Trading pounds for clogged arteries doesn’t seem like a good deal.
So the time has come for all American men to turn their testosterone-driven energy into changing their nutritional lifestyle. We have to stop eating the same high-caloric and fat-laden foods we usually consume in large doses and start pursuing a diet based on variety, moderation and balance. It’s time to start eating “new” man food: the kind of foods that will make us feel (and look) like a new man.
Out With the Old
But before we can embrace the new, we must wean ourselves off the old, particularly the male habit of eating food in humongous portions. Easier said than done because all of us, men and women, have found it hard to resist the marketing power of super sizing. Who among us wants to feel like an idiot because we didn’t double the size of popcorn, soda or french fries for a mere 49 cents? But resist we must.
We also have to steer clear of the killer Fs—fried food and fat. New York-based nutritionist Annie Hauck-Lawson, PHD, RN, says that also requires willpower because fried foods can be addicting.
“They taste so good and fat conveys a lot of flavor,” she admits. “So the best strategy is going cold turkey to get that taste off the palate.” Hauck-Lawson also suggests not beginning a meal with fried foods or fatty meats. “The start of the meal is when you’re the most hungry so you’ll eat the most during the first course,” she says. “If you start most lunches and dinners with a broth-based soup or big salad, you’ll load up on high-fiber, high-nutrient foods rather than high-fat foods and you’ll be too full to eat the bad stuff. Besides, food can be broiled with herbs and spices instead of being fried and still be delicious.”
Nutritionists like Hauck-Lawson strongly advise men to eat more fiber-based foods, which means adding more fresh fruits and vegetables (about five servings a day), whole grains and beans to the diet. Fiber may not sound manly, but it aids digestion, reduces the risk of colon cancer by moving waste out of your system, supports healthy cholesterol levels and makes you feel full so you won’t gorge yourself on those super-sized portions.
And when you’re eating all those nutritious and healthy new man foods, please don’t offset the benefits by washing it down with soft drinks. Did you know that a can of cola contains 39 grams of refined sugar, which is equivalent to seven teaspoons of the sweet stuff? Okay, we know what you’re going to say when we mention water as an alternative. B-O-R-I-N-G! But you can’t ignore a liquid that is crucial to your hydration, digestion and metabolism. If you must drink something interesting with your meal, try an organic red wine, which can have a positive effect on cholesterol and blood pressure.
During and after your transitional phase into the new man food lifestyle, nutritional supplements can ensure that you get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet. Besides taking a general multivitamin designed for men, you should incorporate heart- and prostate-healthy supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids (especially if you aren’t eating more fish), magnesium, lycopene (found in abundance in tomatoes), zinc and vitamin D, which supports bone health and offers cancer protection. (You should see a licensed practitioner for guidance on which supplements are best for someone in your age group.)
What it boils down to, guys, is choices. We can choose to be set in our unhealthy eating ways or act like men and do the work it takes to make the adjustments. “Men have been stereotyped as meat and potatoes freaks and that view is fairly accurate,” says Hauck-Lawson. “Trying to get men to eat healthier has been difficult.” But then she offers a carrot that men just might bite on. “Look at it this way: if a man eats more fish, fruit and vegetables for the nutrients he needs to stay healthy, he looks smart. And to women, smart is sexy.”