Australian men’s diets are pretty tragic. While the overall population isn’t eating according to their best health interests, men tend to have more health problems associated with their dietary habits.
Luckily, health is a project that can be worked on and refined. To get started, we've got to understand where we're letting ourselves down first.
Young men’s eating habits
A 2014 media release from the ABS looked at the eating habits of young people, and the results were alarming. According to the release:
- 51% of teen males (14-18) had consumed soft drink the day before the interview
- 44% of young adult males (19-30) had consumed soft drink the day before the interview
- This is 21%/14% higher than the rest of the population
- Every day, ¼ of teen males will eat a burger
- Every day, 1/5 of teen males will eat chips
- Out of the ¾ of teenagers and young adults that ate vegetables the day before the interview, half of this was in the form of potatoes (including chips)
- Only 40% of males had consumed fruit and vegetables, compared to 50% for females
Unfortunately, this goes hand in hand with too much sugar. According to research, 76% of Australian teens are consuming more sugar than recommended by the WHO.
How to improve your sons’ diet
Get involved! While this gets harder as they grow older and more independent, it’s never too late to change your own grocery list and try to encourage them to change. While replacing soft drinks and snacks with healthier alternatives, like water and fruit, might be met with some resistance, it’s important to make your children aware of the importance of eating right.
Men consume too much sodium
Salt has been a valuable commodity for millennia, and now that it’s readily available we love to sprinkle it on and in everything we eat. Unfortunately, men seem to adore the taste of salt more than women.
According to the World Health Organisation, Australian men consume twice the recommended amount of salt in their diet.
What’s the problem with salt?
Though a delicious flavour enhancer, too much of it can have negative effects on health, especially if you’re over 50, have high blood pressure or diabetes. So far, excessive salt consumption has been linked to:
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
How can I reduce salt in my diet?
The first and best method is to get informed when you’re buying your foods. While fresh meat, fruit and vegetables are the best and easiest way to make changes, you should start to familiarise yourself with the nutritional labels on your processed foods. Nutrition Australia recommends an intake of 460-940 mg a day (roughly 1.15-2.3 grams of salt).
Men drink more alcohol
Living up to the stereotype, men drink far, far more than women. As a quick comparison, 1 in 4 Australian men exceed the lifetime risk guideline compared to 1 in 10 women.
This level of consumption has consequences beyond hellish mornings after and bacon-laden breakfasts, because alcohol, especially beer, can be calorie heavy. Pale ales can clock in at around 200 calories, with darker brews coming in at over 300.
To put this in perspective, your average sandwich clocks in in at around 300 calories.
Why do men drink more?
There are a few reasons men drink more than women:
Men are physically able to consume more – the male body is composed of more water than women’s (55/65% to 45-55%), so they can consume more with less consequences.
Men metabolize alcohol more quickly – thanks to a higher proportion of an enzyme called gastric alcohol dehydrogenase, alcohol is broken down in the stomach and has less impact on blood alcohol levels.
Men get a greater rush from alcohol - men get a bigger rush of dopamine when consuming alcohol, which, unsurprisingly, leads to the difference in alcoholism between men and women.
How can men cut back on alcohol?
‘Drink less’ may not be a particularly helpful piece of advice, but it’s the best one where this problem is concerned. Just like dieting or any other control behaviours, being aware of what you’re taking in is the first step to making changes. Once you’re aware, you can begin planning you’re drinking or try to avoid drinking altogether.
For those suffering from alcohol addiction, you should visit your local GP to seek advice and counsel.
Men are more likely to be overweight or obese
Here’s where most men should be concerned – according to statistics from the ABS, a whopping 70.8% of men were overweight or obese compared to 56.3% of women. While men are only more likely to be more overweight than women in developed countries, where the reverse is true in developing countries.
The study claims that this disparity between the genders comes down to preferences in food choices; namely, men consume greater quantities of alcohol, meat, and dairy.
How can I obtain a healthy weight?
We’re lucky to have an almost infinite supply of diets and nutritional health experts at our disposal, but losing and maintaining a healthy weight can be extremely difficult. However, the hardest answers can also be the simplest ones:
- Eat less processed foods
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
- Eat fresh whenever possible
- Watch how many calories you consume and burn
- Try to get 30 minutes of exercise per day
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