Living: Be a healthy dad

Here's a low-down on healthy eating for dads

Being a parent is a physical experience for a mother, her body changes and a real transformation occurs, many a time leading to a point of awakening to one’s health and dietary choices. For a father, the change in lifestyle is a more gradual one. The focus usually moves to work, stress becomes more common, physical activity is limited, and the basis of food choices oscillates between sustenance and pleasure. The result is weight gain, especially around the belly, niggling health issues like blood pressure, cholesterol, aches & pains, often leading to more serious conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

Today, let’s look at some specific food advice for dads... after all, for men to be healthy parents and good role models for their daughters & sons, it is important for them to re-evaluate their food and lifestyle choices! 

Thriving 30s
Now, this is a time when nutrition is not usually a focus. But a shift to eating for good health, especially to boost metabolism, prevent abdominal fat accumulation (pot belly), which is a precursor to lifestyle conditions like diabetes and heart disease, is super important. To help make some simple and effective changes, here is what you need to start doing...

  • Do not skip meals: Create an eating pattern for yourself that works for your routine. It is important to eat around times when the body needs energy or has had a big energy outgo, like after a workout, before a busy morning at work, during lunch and a late dinner. Missing a meal means depriving the body of energy when it requires it, which eventually leads to overeating or poor choices in another meal. Over a period of time, missing meals or not respecting the body’s nutrition and energy needs will lead to a sluggish metabolism and weight gain.
  • Try a rainbow diet: Eat more colourful fruits and vegetables every day. This improves the nutrition quotient of the diet, providing antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals to your body for improved immunity and health. It also ensures more fibre, which keeps the gut healthy and the good bacteria in the gut thriving, improving digestion, immunity and better weight management.
  • Choose healthy fats: This means avoiding fried foods, fatty meats and dairy on a regular basis and keeping it as an occasional indulgence if at all. Instead, include nuts, seeds, coconut and avocados in your daily diet. This protects the heart and helps reduce bad cholesterol.

Fantastic 40s
For dads in their 40s, make changes in the diet to prevent type 2 diabetes. The disease has taken epidemic proportions in India! Let’s look at what you need to change:

  • Eat more beans & lentils: Consume a wide variety of beans and lentils in your daily diet and ensure it occupies a much larger portion on your plate twice a day! Dal and beans are low-glycemic index foods, with healthy carbs, good protein, calcium, magnesium and fibre. They are truly super foods for diabetes prevention. Sprout them, boil them, eat them as dal, rajma, chole, ragda, khichdi, sambhar etc.
  • Go for whole grains: Avoid refined grains. Swap your rice with brown/red rice or millets etc. This will add fibre and nutrition, which otherwise gets lost in the refining process. Whole grains will prevent a blood sugar surge, the extra fibre will satiate you better, thus limiting the chances of overeating and keep your gut healthy.
  • Swap all refined sugar: Cut down on white sugar and substitute it with fruits. Sugar is a highly inflammatory, addictive substance and has no place in our daily diet. It should only be an occasional indulgence. Drink your tea or coffee without sugar. Chemical sugar replacements are even worse, please avoid them. Swap your biscuit, kheer, laddoo and cake with a seasonal fruit like mango, pineapple or custard apple etc.

Fabulous 50s
Dads in their 50s need to focus on keeping their heart healthy and robust. First and foremost, if you already haven’t made the above changes, there is no time like the present. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Go green: Eat dark green leafy vegetables every day. Spinach, methi, amaranth, cilantro should be eaten daily either cooked, raw or juiced. Dark greens are the most nutritious foods for healthy calories and they provide tremendous cellular repair benefits.
  • Cut down on calories: Make an effort to eat nutrient-dense and not calorie-dense foods in every meal. Choose mangoes over paratha for breakfast, vegetable khichdi over biryani, and dal palak over a cheese sandwich.
  • The brighter the better: Choose bright-coloured fruits and vegetables. The phytonutrients that are responsible for the colour of beets, pumpkins or greens are also known for their cancer-fighting ability. They can reverse the hardening of arteries or atherosclerosis and slow down the ageing process.

(The author is nutrition expert with Curefit)

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Living: Be a healthy dad

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