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The Deconstructed Dish: Is the Way to Your Man’s Heart Really Through His Stomach?

By Jenn Randazzo, MS RD on June 9, 2015, categorized in Plant-based Nutrition

The Deconstructed Dish: Is the Way to Your Man’s Heart Really Through His Stomach?

Who has time to stay savvy about latest nutrition research these days? Besides, a nutritional breakthrough or wonder food makes headlines every Monday only to be disproved by Tuesday, right?  Even though you may be seconds away from tossing in the kitchen towel and just eating your favorite comfort foods because you’re so frustrated and confused, don’t yet.

Nutrition trends come and go, but I’m here to provide you with evidence-based, sustainable ways to improve your health.  Each month, I’ll focus on a nutritional hot topic, sift through tons of research, separate fact from fiction, and provide realistic solutions to help you improve your life.

Please note: This particular blog post is dedicated to my fellow 30-something ladies who are ready for their man to take ownership of his health. To celebrate Men’s Health Month, I’m doin’ some research and providing ways that you can help your man be the healthiest version of himself without nagging him to finish his $7 green juice.

I don’t even need to research it.  Yes. The way to my man’s heart is indeed through his stomach. End of story. Fin. And anyone who tells you differently is either a) lying or b) has created a wondrous specimen in a lab he/she needs to share with the rest of the world.

If your man is anything like mine (or my father for that matter), his affection for me becomes almost unbearably smothering after I place dinner on the table.  And the funny thing? It could be a mofo (can I say this on this blog?) veggie quesadilla or an elaborate seven-course meal—he still responds the same way: thankful and loving praise.  Basically worshipping the ground I walk on.  And let me be clear here: I could single-handedly re-shingle our roof and it wouldn’t generate nearly the same praise as me putting cereal in front of his face at breakfast time.

If you’re reading on to find out why this happens to many males out there, sorry.  If I decide to go into psychology later in my career, I’ll let you know.  However, I did do a little research on the nutritional habits and beliefs of men like my husband, those in their 30s who are experts in ordering takeout while novices in the kitchen.

Sifting through the research

While diving into the research out there, I came across interesting articles that evaluated typical male dietary intake, dietary beliefs and attitudes and comprehensive interest in health.  The general findings suggested:

Guys’ dietary intake and habits typically aren’t the greatest.

According to the nutritional data available from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and recent NHANES data, adult men, on average, consume per day:National Center of Disease Control and Prevention. (2012) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/search/datapage.aspx?Component=Dietary&CycleBeginYear=2011

  • 48% of their calories from carbohydrate, 15% from protein, and 33% from fat (Which is actually pretty spot on considering the recommended macronutrient distribution is: 45-65% from carbohydrate, 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fat)
  • Inadequate amounts of key nutrients, like fiber, Omega-3s, and Vitamin D
  • Nearly 37 teaspoons of sugar (this is the equivalent of 5 ½ Snickers Bars)
  • Roughly 40% of all calories eaten outside of the home

Along with research that evaluates their dietary patterns, other studies have studied men’s dietary beliefs and attitudes.  According to a study in 2012, researchers found that men generally didn’t believe in the health benefits of fruit and vegetable intake, and weren’t confident consuming those foods at work, when tired or watching TV, selecting them over “junk foods.”Emanuel, A, McCully, S. et al. (2012). Theory of Planned Behavior Explains Gender Difference in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption. Appetite. 59(2): 693-697. Accessed from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3490048/.

Our fellas typically aren’t in the kitchen, but (surprise!) they want to be.

According to research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 1998, roughly only 25%-35% of men were involved in meal planning, cooking and preparation.Harnack, L, Story, M. et al. (1998). Guess Who’s Cooking? The Role of Men in Meal Planning, Shopping, and Preparation in US Families. 98(9): 995-1000. And although that number hasn’t improved much over the past decade, possibly more importantly, is that the desire to be involved has.  In a report from the University of Michigan, Gen X men are more involved in all aspects of meal preparation—from grocery shopping to cooking — than their fathers, and are cooking about eight meals a week and buying groceries more than once a week.Miller, J. (2012) Food: Shared, Prepared, Organic and Genetically Modified. The Generation X Report: A Quarterly Research Report from the Longitudinal Study of American Youth. 1(3). http://home.isr.umich.edu/files/2012/04/GenX_Rept_Spring20121.pdf

Although the research hasn’t yet been able to identify the cause for shift in culinary enthusiasm, it’s pretty rad that it’s happening.

Gents aren’t “Chatty Cathy’s” when it comes to their health.

Why is it that men can excitedly chat about the big game they saw over the weekend or the fastest new car on the market, but when you ask them any health-related question, they clam up like a ...well, clam?  Seriously, if your man is anything like mine, he’ll talk my face off about the newest electric-powered BMW, but will become mute as soon as I ask him if he plans to get his annual physical.

My Suggestions:

To celebrate Men’s Health Month, help ensure your man’s getting the nutrition he needs by trying one, or all, of the following strategies:

1. When preparing a meal for your man in mind, choose nutrient dense, whole foods, especially plant-based proteins, fruits and vegetables.

Since it’s easy for your guy to grab food on the run, if you want to prepare a meal for the two of you, choose your favorite plant-based protein and serve it with a ton of your favorite greens medley.  Some of these awesome, whole-food based, low-sugar meals I’ve made this past week include:

  • Breakfast: Vega One Nutritional Shake + almond milk + banana + nut butter
  • Lunch: Beyond Meat (ground faux “beef”) + sautéed kale + grilled onion + salsa + corn tortilla
  • Dinner: Tofu + grilled peppers + grilled onions + gluten-free General Tso’s sauce + quinoa

2. Get busy in the kitchen.

Wait, wait wait, ladies... not that kind of busy. Get busy in the kitchen by teaching you man how to cook a few of his favorite, healthy meals.  Research supports that those who create and prepare their meals, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, tend to consume diets richer in fruits and vegetables, foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.Jackson SE, Steptoe A, Wardle J. (2005) The Influence of Partner’s Behavior on Health Behavior Change: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. JAMA Intern Med. 175(3):385-392. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7554.

When individuals, including men, don’t feel confident in preparing their own meals, they don’t. (Shocker, right?). Research has revealed two possible general differences between the genders when it comes to cooking:

  1. Confidence: Men seem inherently less confident and less comfortable in the kitchen possibly because they may subconsciously view as a female domain.
  2. Sensual vs. Successful: Females find cooking as a way of giving pleasure to others whereas men view cooking as a performance and an activity at which they can impress.

Not only will cooking with your man increase his confidence in the kitchen and encourage him to cook more for himself, but he’s probably excited to show off his mad skills by cooking for you!

3. Open up a dialogue about your joint health goals.

Along with drops of wisdom, like “Marry someone who talks!”, my mom offered another gem: “You can never change him, so love him for who he is.”

Although you’re generally more interested in your dietary health than your male counterpart4 (or counterparts if you’re still a baller!), pushing your nutritional agenda on your man is not the way to make him consume more fruits and veggies or hit the gym.

However, a recent study out of London looked at 3700 co-habituating couples who, together, set health goals (specifically related to smoking, inactivity, and overweight/obesity).  Across all biases, those who set goals with their partners were more likely to improve health outcomes than those who tried to change their behavior alone.Wardle, J., Haase, A. et al. (2004). Gender differences in food choice: The contribution of health beliefs and dieting. 27(2):107-116. Although researchers are still trying to figure out if it’s our competitive drive or our supportive tendencies that drive these results, my thought is: who cares?  Result: healthier peeps!

So although your guy may not have the best dietary habits, but a little time increasing his confidence and self-efficacy in the kitchen could be all he needs to be a greens eating machine.  Spend time together, both cooking in the kitchen and collaborating on health goals.  Not only will your man probably feel and look better, but you probably will too!

What are you going to teach your man to cook for you this week? #bestlifeproject



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