Nutrition for Young Men

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN
Two friends - 9 Nutrition Tips for Young Men

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For many in their younger years, 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 unhealthful eating habits such as skipping meals, eating nothing but fast food, overeating, and drinking excessive amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages. Along with inconsistent eating patterns, young people may experience fluctuations in weight and a lack of energy.

Making healthful choices to fuel a young, active mind and body starts with balance. Follow a nutritious eating plan featuring lean protein foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free sources of dairy. By eating well now, you can lessen your risk of health-related problems later. Try incorporating these habits:

Eat Breakfast Every Day

The first meal you eat in the morning truly "breaks the fast". Don't skip it! This is a valuable opportunity to get in servings from some of the food groups. Try a smoothie, baked oatmeal or whole-grain cereal

Snack

A midmorning and midafternoon snack may alleviate energy lows throughout the day. Have a whole-grain muffin if you prefer sweet foods or popcorn if you prefer savory.

Eat Vegetables and Fruits

Aim for at least two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables every day. Grab an apple, peach or pear for the road. Enjoy sliced fruit for a snack. Put veggies, such as lettuce and tomato on a sandwich or order a salad.

Make Protein Count

You need protein to fuel developing muscles. Focus on lean choices such as chicken, turkey and pork and include fish at least two times a week. Include plant-based proteins such as tofu, beans and lentils, too.

Add in Healthy Fats

Focus less on foods containing saturated fat such as fries, onion rings and nachos. Instead incorporate heart-healthy fat sources such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats with foods like olive oil, canola oil, walnuts, almonds and avocado.

Calcium

Individuals 9 to 18 years old need 1,300 milligrams of calcium each day for bone and tooth health, this drops to 1,000 milligrams a day starting age at 19. What young people do prior to age 30 is crucial to having healthy bones for life. Food is your best source of calcium, but for some individuals a calcium supplement may be needed. Aim for three cups of low-fat or fat-free dairy every day, such as milk, yogurt or cheese or fortified soy versions of milk and yogurt. Non-dairy sources of calcium include other fortified plant-based beverages, calcium-set tofu and greens including collards and kale.

Vitamin D

You also need vitamin D, which is important for bone health. Sources of this nutrient include fatty fish, like salmon, mushrooms exposed to UV light, eggs and fortified foods and beverages, including some cereals and dairy products. If there is little to no fortified milk or fish in your diet, discuss the need to take a supplement with your health care provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Iron-Rich Foods

Iron is important for energy. You likely can get enough iron by eating a variety of foods including lean meats, seafood, beans, and poultry. Iron-fortified cereals, leafy greens and some dried fruits, such as raisins also provide iron. Young men need eight to 11 milligrams of iron per day. Women often need more iron than men.

Get Active

For healthy bones and overall good health, get a combination of aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities throughout the week. Strengthening activities include those that use weights, resistance bands or even your own body weight – like jumping jacks, pushups and running. Include bone and muscle-strengthening activities at least three times a week. A minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity is recommended daily for adolescents and at least 150 minutes each week for adults.

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