By Patrick Tuttle
on 6.25.09

upgrade-your-meals

Today we tackle a domain over which all men love to preside… meal time. Somewhere, somehow the expectation has develop that real men eat steak and potatoes and always go back for seconds. Our culture has been inundated with processed foods, preservatives, and all manor of things that are intended to make food cheap and long lasting. This must to stop. For your health and for the health of your family, I encourage you to take these suggestions to heart. Making changes to your eating habits means going against your own biology, food manufacturer’s marketing ploys, and our own government. Certainly a tall order, but one with life-long benefits (one of them being a longer life).

I’m not going to waste your time suggesting that being a better man involves spending exorbitant amounts of money on prime cuts of meats, certified organic goods, or the types of foods that are considered manly. Fankly, that would be an insult. We live in different geographic regions and on different budgets. We have different regional taste preferences and were raised with different cultural beliefs. I say to each their own. Instead, I’ll focus on subtle changes that you can incorporate to make meal time less stressful, more nutritious, and overall more satisfying.

Plan a Menu

upgrade-your-meal-plan-a-menuYes, it’s work, but it’s well worth the effort. Take the time to write out a basic menu for the week and then track down the requisite ingredients. If you wait until you’re hungry, you’ll be far more likely to eat whatever is close at hand. If, instead, you’ve done a little prior preparation, then you’ll be stocked up on healthy fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins from which to choose. Studies have shown that planning meals in advance can help you eat healthier. Besides the nutritional benefits, cooking from a menu can save time, money, and effort.

I’ll leave it up to you what you pencil in for your meals. I don’t think you have to always eat like a rabbit. If you like steak, then eat steak. Just opt for some great sides (say roasted Brussel spouts and 3 bean salad). I also don’t think that having a menu means picking out intricate recipes. I personally like to find one or two new recipes each week to expand my cooking arsenal. For the rest, I resort to the cooking skills I already have.

Use Less Processed Foods

upgrade-your-meal-use-less-processed-foodsI’m not going to harp on this. We all know that processed foods are less healthy (and some cases down right harmful) than foods still in their natural state. Just read the back of any package and I’ll bet you won’t be able to pronounce half of the chemicals and preservative they use to make it cheap and long lasting. Blah.

As men, our digestive system is pretty much the same as that of our caveman ancestors. And as much as you don’t want to hear it, they didn’t eat TV dinners after a long day of running from saber-toothed tigers. Seriously, where would they’ve plug in the microwave? It may take a little more effort, but ingesting more fruits and vegetables (in their natural state) will make a huge difference to your health. Don’t be fooled by calorie counts or the package’s nutritional label. It’s not always about the numbers of carbs or the fat content, rather it’s about how your body digests and process your food. Also, watch out for foods that claim to be whole wheat, organic, low or fat-free. These are more or less technical minimums that food manufactures barely meet to slap on the label and sucker you in. All the while, their food still contain non-trivial amounts of the very crap you’re trying to avoid.

As an example, manufacturers are allowed up to 0.49 grams of trans fat and still label their food as having zero or no trans fats. What a scam!

Incorporate Good Fats

We’ve been conditioned to think that fat is bad for you. The fact is, your body is built to use fat as an energy source. So much so that your body uses fats as a trigger to your brain to signal you when you’re full (specifically, mono-unsaturated fatty acids). These fats are incredibility good for your body and are crucial in triggering fat burning via your metabolism. Who knew fat could help you burn fat? Wild.

Great sources of mono-unsaturated fatty acids include nuts, seeds, olives, oils, avocados, and dark chocolates. Incorporate small amounts of these into each meal and you’ll notice that you feel fuller and more satisfied longer.

Portion Control

Between all you can eat pasta nights, super sized sodas, and ridicules package sizes, we’ve lost all context for what a real portion size should be. A standard portion of chicken is 4 oz, or about the size of a deck of cards. In all honesty, you’ll be shocked at what real portions are. In fact, I’d bet you won’t believe it will keep you full (that’s where the mono-unsaturated fatty acids come in).

Portion sizes will vary from person to person, but learning to eat the proper amounts has life-long benefits. I suggest you set a calorie goal per day and then work backwards based on the number of meals you intend to eat to find appropriate portion sizes.

Turn Off The TV

upgrade-your-meals-turn-off-the-tvHow often have you come home after a long day just to sit in front of your TV and wolf down your meal in minutes? That’s no good, no matter had big your TV is. Your body needs time to recognize that you’re full. If you’re shoveling food into your mouth, you’ll over eat before you realize you’re no longer hungry.

Make meal time an opportunity to catch up with your family (or friends). It should be a time to relax and decompress. Enjoy meal time. Savor the time as well as the food. Happy, less stressed people are less likely to over eat or indulge.

Let’s continue the conversation. Do you have any tips for improving the meal time? Share them below.