The idea that there’s one plan that works for everyone is obsolete.
According to the editors of Consumer Reports On Health, one of the reasons one-size-fits-all diet and exercise advice so often fails is that men and women have different tastes, habits and physiology. Examining data from the Framingham Nutrition Studies, for example, researchers uncovered distinct dietary patterns for men and women. Men are more likely to eat a variety of meat, while women more often reach for fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs and yogurt, according to a recent survey of some 14,000 adults by state and federal health agencies.
Researchers with the Framingham Nutrition Studies have identified several characteristic eating patterns for men and women that reflect different dietary preferences — and different health risks. Consumer Reports On Health gives tips on how to satisfy the palate and still make healthier choices.
Men’s eating styles
— Empty calories. These men like meat well-marbled and have a weakness for snacks and sweets. Ways to improve: Substitute fruits for sweets, and try to eat more vegetables and whole grains.
— Low variety. They find comfort in routine, sticking with just a few favorite fruits and vegetables. Ways to improve: Add variety when selecting produce and whole grains to get the full complement of nutrients.
— Average guy. Average guys tend to eat moderate amounts of whatever is put in front of them, and they don’t usually go for lean protein or low-fat dairy. Ways to improve: The good news is that they get a wide range of nutrients. A few more thoughtful choices could bump them up to heart-healthy status.
— High starch. They prefer lean protein but like to butter everything. Refined starches and desserts are a weakness. Ways to improve: They can keep their carbs as long as most are whole grain. Buy spreads and sprays that are free of trans fats and have little or no saturated fat.
— Heart healthier. These men have a varied diet that includes fruits and vegetables, some leaner meat and low-fat dairy, and at least some whole grains. Ways to improve: Reduce saturated fat by consistently choosing low-fat dairy and swapping some animal protein for beans and legumes.
Women’s eating styles
— Empty calories. Sweets and sugary drinks are their downfall, and they’re not big on vegetables. Ways to improve: There are many ways to satisfy cravings without going overboard on fat and sugar. Focus less on restriction and more on eating healthier fruits and vegetables.
— High fat. These women are apt to skip snacks in favor of a hearty meal: fried chicken and potatoes, buttery white rolls and dessert. Ways to improve: It’s time to explore the abundance of flavorful, low-fat menu options and recipes. Satisfy a sweet tooth with lower-fat, lower-sugar fruit desserts such as a scoop of frozen yogurt with fresh strawberries.
— Moderate eater, not-so-moderate drinker. They don’t overeat, and they limit desserts and sweet drinks. But they do indulge in wine, fatty or salty snacks, and cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs. Ways to improve: Limit drinks to one daily and check serving size (five ounces can look like a splash in the bowl of a wineglass).
— Light eater. They keep their weight down by eating smaller portions and limiting choices. But their weight tends to fluctuate. Ways to improve: Stick with heart-healthy choices, but try to eat a bit more. Repeated weight fluctuations might increase cardiovascular risk.
— Heart healthy. These women base their diet on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy. They’re not into diet drinks or snack foods. Sweets and fatty foods are an occasional indulgence. Ways to improve: Keep up the good work. But there’s still room for improvement. The ability to convert protein to muscle may decrease with age in women, so make sure to get plenty of lean protein.
Filed Under: Consumer Reports