This article is also available on Nutrition in Motion's blog NIM Dish
From One to Two
Sarah Reid, RHNC
Being in a loving relationship is a wonderful thing – someone to cheer you up when you’re down, help with all those “little” things that fall by the wayside, an excuse to go for those long walks on the beach, and unfortunately, an excuse to stop for an ice cream cone or share a pizza afterwards. Whether you call it unfair (for the women out there) or poetic justice (some of the more cynical men prefer this), the fact remains that the female body is not designed to eat like men. Keep matching him slice for slice, pint for pint and wing for wing, though, and soon only one of you will start packing on the pounds. You aren’t resigned to this, though, as long as you spot your “cheats”, make a few spot alterations and keep going for those strolls.
Since men, in general, are bigger than women – taller, heavier and with a higher muscle : fat mass ratio, it’s logical that they need to eat more. It may surprise you just how much more they actually should be getting. Unlike women, who to maintain their weight and health should consume roughly 1600 calories daily, males can need as much as 2800 – letting them have that extra beer with his plate of loaded nachos and a scoop of ice cream with his meal and not feel a thing. The tradeoff for this “eat anything” capability is that men are also inherent speed-eaters, so they often get hungrier sooner and overeat in the long run. While women might not be able to pile their plates with steak and potatoes, they can extend their dining experience by eating mindfully, slowly and – if craving the appearance of “equal plates” – loading up on the vegetables. Eating out, ladies can opt for two appetizers instead of a gigantic entrée, or have one “bulky” appetizer (like the pasta in Italian restaurants, or a bowl of mussels) and still share dessert! Smaller plates at home also help to trick the mind, and regardless of where you eat, a brothy soup and garden salad with dressing on the side is a great way to start into the meal (and helps you eat less overall!).
Women need to watch their glasses more than men too. Whether at a fancy restaurant, a wedding reception or a backyard BBQ, it’s not just by the luck of the draw that the ladies can’t “hold their liquor” like their male counterparts. While body size and composition definitely play a role in how females absorb and distribute the alcohol, they also make less of the liver enzyme that detoxifies alcohol – keeping it in the bloodstream. Being on the pill or PMS’ing can do the same thing, and though men may physically drink more, women are more susceptible to liver damage. The general daily limit for adult women is the equivalent of a single (5-oz) glass of wine – such as a bottle of beer or 1 shot of hard liquor – but around the week of menstruation its safest to stay away from it at all. Calorically, treat alcohol as any other indulgence – that glass of wine has about 120 calories, the beer, 150, and the liquor (without anything else added), 100. And that goes for women and men.
What if the man or kids in your life don’t want to join your campaign for living healthier? Unfortunately, though it may not be showing up on their outsides yet, the same poor diet and lifestyle choices that sparked you to try a healthier path are still impacting their wellbeing. There is a way to take steps towards your own health goals, improve the health of your family and still keep the peace. Firstly, refuse to cook two or three different meals to try and please everyone – it is more time and stress than anyone should put on themselves! At the same time, a family used to red meat, white pasta and the only vegetables drowned in cheese sauce or creamy dressing will shut right off if subjected to nothing but poached fish, tofu and plain, steamed veggies. Start small for success. Swap regular salad dressing with reduced-fat or homemade oil-and-vinegar, drop the fat percentage of the milk by one (and cut out cream in the coffee) and take a look at incorporating one “meatless” dinner a week. Baking home-breaded chicken fingers and fish sticks (use Corn Flakes for crunch) and making individual whole wheat “tortilla pizzas” on your family’s regular “take out” night are also proven winners. Take a cue from the seasonal availability in your area and rotate the veggies you serve up. Tossed with lemon and pepper, salsa or garlic-herb seasoning instead of a gooey sauce, it’s a fresh, delicious way to appreciate local food. Come holiday time, go ahead and make that famous scalloped potato casserole or cheesy cauliflower and broccoli dish. Not only will you feel like it’s a treat, but your family will appreciate it more too! As long as you keep portions and accompaniments in mind, you can all enjoy yourselves.