March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
For many young men, nutrition isn't always a focus. There are many transitions going on at this point in life. Busy schedules and new environments can lead to unhealthy eating habits such as skipping meals or snacks, eating nothing but fast food, overeating, and drinking excessive amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages or alcohol. Along with inconsistent eating patterns, young men may experience weight gain or a lack of energy.
Making healthy choices to fuel a young, active mind and body starts with balance. Follow a healthy eating plan featuring lean protein, vegetables and whole-grains. Have fruit and low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt for snacks. By eating well now, you can lessen your risk of health-related problems later. Try these nine healthy changes:
Eat Breakfast Every Day
The first meal you eat in the morning truly "breaks the fast" and gets your metabolism moving for the day. Don't skip it!
A midmorning and midafternoon snack will help you avoid overeating at meals and alleviate energy lows throughout the day.
Eat Vegetables and Fruits
Aim for at least two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables every day. Grab an apple, peach or pear for the road. Take sliced fruit for a snack. Put lettuce and tomato on a sandwich or order a salad.
Make Protein Count
Young men need protein to fuel developing muscles. Choose low-fat protein sources. Eat less red meat and more chicken, turkey and pork. Eat fish at least two times a week. Regularly eat plant-based proteins such as tofu, beans and peas.
Add in Healthy Fats
Be selective with the fat you eat. Limit fries, onion rings and nachos. Eat heart-healthy fat sources such as olive oil, canola oil, walnuts, almonds and avocado.
Young men need 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day for bone and tooth health. What young men do prior to age 30 is crucial to having healthy bones for life. Food is your best source of calcium. Aim for three servings of low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt or cheese every day.
You also need vitamin D good for bone health. Especially if there is little to no fortified milk or fish in your diet, consider a supplement containing at least 600 IU.
Iron is important for energy. You likely can get enough iron by eating iron-fortified cereal, leafy greens or a handful of raisins each day. Young men need just eight milligrams of iron per day. Women need more iron than men.
Most young men do not need an excuse to get active. For healthy bones, weight management and overall good health, get at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing activity most days of the week. To build muscle, strength train with weights or resistance bands at least two to three times a week.