Creating a meal plan for men begins with healthy eating behaviors. By including sufficient protein, vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates and fats in a diet, a man can meet his nutritional requirements while still enjoying tasty foods. By reducing portion sizes, weight loss is also achievable.
Men’s Daily Recommended Food Intake
Finding a man's ideal daily food intake is difficult, as there are numerous variables in play and changing any of them can affect the final outcome. There's no foolproof way to accomplish your goal.
If you're an average-height 25-year-old man who works out several times every week, with a vigorous physical activity level that has helped you to maintain a normal weight, your daily calorie needs won't be the same as those for a sedentary 55-year-old man with 40 extra pounds on his compact frame. Your weight-maintenance diet will also differ considerably from that of a man who wants to drop some extra pounds.
As a guideline, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends that adult men should consume 2,000 to 3,000 calories daily. Sedentary men fall into the lower end of the range, while active men occupy the higher end of the spectrum.
Keep in mind that older men will also have a reduction in their basal metabolic rates, says the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. In turn, this should dictate a corresponding decrease in daily calorie consumption.
Read more: 10 Essential Foods for Men
Regular Meal Plan for Men
If you're a man without dietary restrictions and you're not trying to lose weight, consider using the meal plan for men from the Idaho Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics as a daily food planning template. This inclusive plan details the total daily food group amounts for 2,000-calorie diets. You may want to increase the daily quantities of certain foods based on your nutritional needs and physical activity level.
In the meal plan for men protein category, you should eat a total of 5 1/2 ounces of meat daily. Examples of foods to include are 1 ounce of cooked lean poultry, meat or fish. Vegetarian sources, such as cooked beans, peanut butter and tofu, may also be feasible protein options.
Add 2 1/2 cups of vegetables (especially dark green, orange and red varieties) and 2 cups of fresh or canned fruit. Six ounces of grains (half of which are whole grains), 3 cups of milk products and small amounts of fats a day complete this well-balanced meal plan.
Different Weight-Loss Options
If you've decided to drop some weight, your best bet is a balanced diet that provides good nutrition while including foods you actually want to eat. The Cleveland Clinic notes that there isn't a "one size fits all" diet that works for everyone and recommends three science-backed weight-loss plans, each with a different focus.
The Moderate Protein Plan recommends that protein sources compose 30 percent of your daily calorie intake. Carbohydrates should make up 40 percent of your daily diet, while 30 percent of your calories should come from fat. This higher-protein plan can help to reduce hunger, making it easier to follow the diet's guidelines. You can also track your food consumption via a convenient mobile app.
If tracking calories doesn't hold much appeal and you'd rather structure your meals around the well-known food groups, try the DASH diet, recommends the Cleveland Clinic. Short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, this well-regarded meal plan was originally designed to reduce high blood pressure. You'll also likely see lower cholesterol readings as a result of following it.
The increasingly popular Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle modification than a formal eating plan, explains the Cleveland Clinic. By choosing this option, you can enjoy large portions of vegetables and legumes while replacing meat entrees with fish and seafood twice weekly. Fruit, nuts and olive oil are also prominent plan components. This eating plan has been shown to produce weight loss while also reducing your stroke and heart attack risks.
Correct Portion Sizes for Men
Adopting the correct portion sizes for men is the key to keeping your weight-loss program on track. It's worth noting that a serving and a portion size aren't the same thing. A serving is a pre-measured amount of food, while a portion relates to the quantity of food that makes it on to your plate.
To determine what the correct portion sizes for men are, the Mayo Clinic recommends you equate common everyday objects with the portion sizes of specific foods. By skipping that exercise, you'll be tempted to eat larger portions.
For example, an average apple is the size of a tennis ball. A medium green pepper or 1 cup of cooked carrots resembles a baseball in size. The correct portion size for a piece of skinless cooked chicken should resemble a deck of cards, while a small bowl of macaroni and cheese equates in size to a hockey puck.
Read more: Diet to Lose 10 Pounds in 4 Weeks
Men’s Muscle-Building Meal Plan
If you're focused on building (or maintaining) your body's muscle mass, you may be interested in using resistance-training workouts to head off the effects of age-related muscle loss. Supplement these muscle-strengthening exercises with a balanced muscle-building meal plan, recommends the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
When you're engaged in muscle-building exercises, give your body the protein it needs for those vigorous workouts. Each day, protein should make up 10 to 35 percent of your total calorie consumption. Eating more protein won't help you, and it could even have harmful effects.
In contrast, maintaining your existing muscle mass requires less protein. For example, the recommended adult protein allowance is 0.37 grams for each pound of body weight. For a 150-pound man, that means consuming about 56 grams of total protein a day.
Carbohydrates are also an integral part of your muscle-building meal plan. In fact, carbs can help to fuel your workouts through their partial conversion to glycogen. If you're involved in a vigorous strength-training program at least twice weekly, carbs should compose at least half of your daily calories.
In addition to whole-grain cereals and bread, consider adding low-fat yogurt, vegetables and fruits to your meal plan. Avoid consuming high-fiber foods just before or during a workout.
Your muscle-building meal plan should also include heart-healthy fats that supply your muscles with much-needed energy. Fat should comprise between 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories, states the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Beneficial fat sources include salmon and other fatty fish, along with extra-virgin olive oil, almonds and avocados. Because fat packs twice the calories of protein and carbs, be sure to watch your serving sizes so you don't overindulge.
Setting a four-week weight-loss goal is a good place to start. However, instead of focusing constantly on the scales, ensure that your body is getting the proper amounts of nutrients it needs. Add regular physical activity to the equation, and you've got a good blueprint for success.
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- Idaho Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics: "2015 Diet Manual: Regular Diet"
- Cleveland Clinic: "What’s the Best Weight-Loss Diet?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Portion Control"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "4 Keys to Strength Building and Muscle Mass"