The Men  s Guide to Eating Well: 6 Steps to a Better Diet

As men age, their diets can have a significant impact on their health and well-being. And while the foods they choose don’t have to be all that different from the foods women eat, men do have some specific nutritional needs. By following these guidelines from Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietician with the Mayo Clinic, men can get the most out of every bite they eat:

1. Go Easy on the Red Meat. Men may want to cut down on meat for several reasons. First of all, meat can be high in iron. Men don’t need as much iron as women and children, "Yet for a majority of men, a meal is not complete unless it has a piece of meat," notes Zeratsky, who advises men to become more aware of how much iron their diets contain. If they are already getting enough in their meals, men should avoid taking multivitamins with additional iron, since too much of a good thing for males can actually be damaging.

Secondly, two major health concerns for men are heart disease and colon cancer, and "Red and processed meats have been associated with an increased risk of both diseases," Zeratsky points out. While some meat is okay, she suggests men opt for leaner cuts and smaller portions in order to limit calories, fat, and iron intake. It’s also a good idea to replace some of the meat with plant proteins such a beans or lentils.

2. Load Up on Fiber. All too often, men’s diets are light in fiber, Zeratsky says. Fruits and vegetables provide this digestive health essential, which can also benefit men’s hearts and cholesterol levels. To pack more fiber into the diet, Zeratsky suggests incorporating salads and vegetables into meals. Since men’s fiber needs can be quite high, Zeratsky also recommends men talk to their doctors about taking a fiber supplement if they aren’t able to squeeze enough into their daily diets.

3. Watch Portion Sizes. In restaurants (and sometimes at home), portion sizes tend to be large—much larger than needed. To become more aware of realistic serving sizes, Zeratsky suggests that men use their fists as a guideline for portion size, since the size of a hand usually is a good indicator of a man’s overall body size. She also says that one way for a man to gauge appropriate portion size is to look for a piece of meat about as thick as his palm.

4. Match Calories in to Energy Out. Men who were active in their teens and early twenties might be used to eating extremely high calorie diets to fuel their exercise levels. Yet as they age and muscle mass declines, some men are probably taking in more calories than they need. If a man finds himself gaining weight, Zeratsky says it’s time to take a closer look at his true calorie intake and at how many calories he’s burning through the day. Food choices should reflect current lifestyle and activity level.

5. Make Smart Swaps. It can be hard to completely makeover your diet. But you can enjoy good foods while still taking care of your health, Zeratsky says. For instance, if you tend to munch mindlessly on potato chips or sweets while you watch TV in the evenings, Zeratsky recommends these smart swaps: Ditch the chips for a bag of light popcorn, a bowl of strawberries or grapes, or a handful of baby carrot sticks instead. Or better yet, take a walk and forego the eating in favor or fresh air and exercise.

6. Be Realistic. Keep in mind that there is no one perfect diet that will fit every man, and know that "You really need to look at your lifestyle. Whatever changes you make will have to work for you," in order for you to stick with them over the long term, Zeratsky explains. She recommends going to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ( and the Mayo Clinic ( to access a wealth of nutritional information, recipes, and exercise tips. These resources can also help you gain a better understanding of what eating for good health really means.

Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD, reviewed this article. 


Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD, Mayo Clinic. Phone interview April 18, 2014.