Men face unique challenges when they try to slim down. One of those challenges is meal size. In many restaurants and other social settings, guys are encouraged to eat “manly” portions of hearty foods. Big meals and big bodies are often celebrated in men’s magazines and television shows. Eating petite portions of light, delicate dishes can make a guy feel…well, less like a guy.
The Importance of Protein
The best weight loss foods for men are selections that fill a guy’s plate, keep his body lean and muscular but also help him to feel full and satisfied. So, guys should focus on protein when shopping for diet-friendly foods.
"One thing I take into account for a goal of weight loss in men is lean protein intake," says Jason Ewoldt, RDN, LD, wellness dietitian at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. He adds that he doesn't necessarily focus on increasing protein intake but on choosing the right type of protein. "Men tend to have more lean muscle tissue," he says, "so it's important to ensure adequate intake of amino acids to preserve lean tissue while at the same time increasing feelings of fullness."
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Non-essential amino acids, such as glycine and alanine, are made by your body so you don't need to get them from food. But essential amino acids are not produced by the body. The food you eat should provide these amino acids for general health and for the production and maintenance of lean muscle mass.
Protein quality can also be determined by the PCDAAS or protein digestibility corrected amino acid score.2 PCDAAS takes amino acid content into consideration and balances it with other factors related to digestibility. Casein, egg, milk, whey, and soy proteins have the highest score of 1.0. Other foods that are high on the list include beef (0.92), black beans (0.75), and peanuts (0.52).
But if you're a man who wants to slim down, you may not have time to research the PCDAAS score of every food you see in the grocery store aisle. Instead, scan these lists of the best weight loss foods for men to eat at mealtime and the best weight loss foods for men to snack on. You can even bookmark this page and take it with you to the market.
In a recent interview about weight loss challenges for men, fat-loss expert Tom Venuto and Biggest Loser champ Pete Thomas said that men should learn how to cook to lose weight faster. If you can learn how to build hefty but healthy meals around nutritious foods you're more likely to stay satisfied and get the fuel your body needs to get lean and strong.
So, what foods should you throw in your cart at the grocery store? "One thing I would suggest when shopping for weight-loss friendly foods would be putting the focus on whole foods," says Ewoldt. "This would include foods like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. By shifting toward a more whole food approach it generally means more plants (fruits and veggies) which helps with weight loss as they are higher in fiber and water but lower in calories. I would also look at making changes from higher fat protein foods to lean types of protein, which keeps satiety up but reduces overall calorie intake."
Here are some of the best weight loss foods for men at mealtime:
- Lowfat Greek yogurt (look for brands that are lower in sugar)
- Fish such as salmon or tuna to provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids also known as "good fats"
- Poultry like chicken or turkey breast (reduce fat and calories by choosing skinless varieties)
- Lean cuts of beef such as filet mignon or flank steak
- Bison and other game meats that are lean but flavorful
- Cottage cheese (check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label if you are watching your salt intake)
- Healthy beans (legumes) like black beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, or green peas
- Whole grains like quinoa, barley, brown rice, or buckwheat
- Dark green, leafy vegetables including kale, spinach, or broccoli
- Fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth
And which foods should you avoid when trying to slim down? The worst weight loss foods for men might be the foods most often served on game day at the bar. These are foods that are full of the nutrients that your body probably needs less of. "Men tend to over-eat foods that are high in fat and carbohydrates. This is especially true when eating out as high-fat items such as burgers, French fries and chicken wings tend to be the expectation," says Ewoldt.
Just like any dieter, a man is likely to get hungry between meals. But snack foods can easily undo the effort you put into a healthy meal. So it's important to be just as mindful when you snack as you are when you plan and prepare nutritious meals.
Sadly, the snack aisle at your local market is probably full of foods to avoid. They are also foods you're likely to want to overeat. "It seems, in my experience at the Healthy Living Program, that men tend to crave either salty foods like chips or French fries or sweeter foods like cookies and desserts when they are actively trying to lose weight," says Ewoldt.
Here are some of the best weight loss food for men who snack:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Chopped veggie sticks with hummus or other bean dips that provide healthy fats
- Plain Greek yogurt and nutrient-packed berries (think raspberries or blueberries) topped with chia seeds for extra fiber and nutrition
- Other low-fat dairy products like skim milk or chocolate milk for a post-workout boost (instead of high calorie or artificially sweetened sports drinks)
- Low-calorie, protein-packed snack bars for busy days when you are on the go
- Nuts such as almonds or Brazil nuts that provide both poly and monounsaturated fats
- Peanut butter on whole grain crackers
- Turkey roll-ups (low-sodium turkey slices rolled around a thin layer of low-fat cream cheese and thin veggie sticks)
Most importantly, drink water for thirst. Skip the super-sized sodas that you find in convenience marts. Regular colas and flavored sodas are full of sugar and even the diet-varieties often contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners that can derail your diet.
You can (and should) learn to cook weight loss meals that build muscle and bulk up your plate without adding inches to your waistline. Simply adding healthy weight loss foods to your plate won't help you to lose weight unless you use smart cooking methods to prepare them. Focus on these cooking methods to keep your meals lean:
- Grill: If you love a good steak, you can keep it in your diet if you grill it without adding extra oil or butter. Most cuts of beef already contain enough fat so there is no reason to add any more. And if you are grilling lean poultry, marinade it in citrus or drizzle with (just a small amount of) olive oil to boost your intake of heart-healthy fats. And remember that you can grill indoors or out. During cold winter months, invest in an inexpensive indoor counter-top grill to prep your meals.
- Roast: Nothing brings out the savory flavor of vegetables like roasting. And it is one of the easiest cooking methods available. Simply chop vegetables like carrots, onions, or Brussels sprouts and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Season with herbs or salt and pepper and place in the oven at about 400 degrees. Roasting is also a smart way to prepare meats and seafood.
- Poach: Many savvy cooks poach seafood to maximize flavor and minimize the amount of added fat that you use. To poach salmon, simply simmer an inch or so of liquid on your stovetop and place the fish in the warm water to cook.
- Sautée: Rather than frying your favorite foods, why not lighten up the meal and sautée instead? This method allows you to use less oil and still get the flavor you enjoy when you cook meats, fish or veggies. In fact, you can even sautée without oil and use chicken or vegetable stock instead. Just be sure to use high-quality cookware so your food doesn't stick to the pan and so you are not tempted to use more fat and oil.
If your cravings for French fries, pizza, and burgers get the best of you, there are also reduced-calorie recipes for each of those favorites. You can learn to make healthier pizza by swapping veggies for fatty meats and cheeses. Bake sweet potato fries that are better for you than their traditional counterparts and then grill a lean turkey burger instead of making one from fatty ground beef.
Lastly, remember that calories matter most when it comes to weight loss. Make sure you are eating the right number of calories to fuel your body properly and create the calorie deficit needed to slim down.