Life for men aged 19 to 50 is typically full of major life events which can range from graduating and starting your first job, through to separating from a long-term partner or getting a major job promotion. Eating well is crucial as it gives you more energy to tackle life’s challenges.

Why eat healthily?

It’s important to eat healthily to optimise your general health and wellbeing, and to prevent nutrition-related health conditions.

Research shows that along with healthy eating, it’s also important to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day to maintain optimal health. Find out more about Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines.

Healthy eating guidelines for men aged 19 to 50

Many of us eat some foods out of habit without really questioning whether or not they are good for us. Maybe it’s the food we’ve grown up with, or it’s quick and easy. But is what you’re eating good for your health?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines outline what a healthy diet is for men aged 19 to 50 with average height and an inactive (sedentary) to moderately active lifestyle. 

Australian Dietary Guidelines serving recommendations by food group

Food group Example serving size Serves per day Example of essential nutrients
Grains (cereal) foods 1 slice of bread or ½ a medium roll or flat bread (40 g), ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, ½ cup of cooked porridge or polenta, 2/3 cup breakfast cereal flakes (30 g) or ½ cup muesli 6 serves Fibre, carbohydrates, protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, B group vitamins, vitamin E
Vegetables and legume/beans   ½ cup cooked vegetables (75 g), 1 cup salad vegetables, 1 small potato, ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, chickpeas or lentils (no added salt) 6 serves Fibre, carbohydrate, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, folate, protein, iron  
Fruits 1 medium piece of fresh fruit (150 g), 30 g dried fruit (e.g. 4 dried apricot halves), 1 cup canned fruit (150 g)  2 serves Fibre, carbohydrate, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, folate 
Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, legumes/beans* 65 g cooked lean red meat (e.g. beef, lamb, pork, venison or kangaroo) or ½ cup of lean mince, 2 small chops, 80 g cooked poultry, 100 g cooked fish fillet or 1 small can of fish, 2 large eggs, 170 g tofu, 30 g nuts or seeds 3 serves Protein, essential fatty acids (found in fish, e.g. omega 3 and omega 6), iron, vitamin B12, iodine, zinc
Milk, yogurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat* 1 cup (250 ml) milk, 200 g tub of yoghurt, 40 g or 2 slices of cheese, 120 g ricotta cheese  2½ serves Calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, iodine, zinc, riboflavin
Saturated oils and fats (e.g. butter, cream, lard, coconut and palm kernel oils)   use in small amounts  

* If you follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, plan your diet to be sure it includes all the essential nutrients. 

If you are taller or more active, you can have an additional 0–3 serves per day, selected from:

  • foods from any of the five food groups, or 
  • unsaturated spreads or oils (such as olive oil, canola oil, nut butters or avocado paste), or 
  • discretionary choices. However, discretionary choices are not needed as part of a heathy diet and, if eaten, should only be eaten occasionally.

Is your weight putting you at risk of chronic disease?

For adults over the age of 18, the body mass index (BMI) can be used as an indicator to determine whether your body weight puts you at risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers. If you would like to know what your BMI is and what it means, use our Body mass index calculator.

Eating for a healthy weight

Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight is all about balancing the energy you take in with the energy you burn (energy out). To find out more about the relationship between food and energy, see Balancing energy in and energy out.

How to start healthy eating habits

Eating on the go is common during this life stage, as men in this age group are often time-poor. And it’s just so easy to choose convenient and takeaway foods.

These foods are high in saturated fats and salt, which are detrimental to your health, and they tend to be low in vegetables too. Soft drinks and sugary drinks that come with convenient and takeaway foods are also a common source of unnecessary sugar in the diet.

Start your healthy eating habits by:

  • aiming for no more than 455–500 g cooked red meat per week (such as beef, pork or lamb) and limiting or avoiding processed red meat (such as bacon, ham or salami). Excessive consumption of red and processed meat is linked to colon cancer, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes
  • choosing healthier takeaway meals such as wholegrain sandwiches or wraps filled with lean chicken and salad or vegetables, or salads with lean chicken, eggs, tuna or fish
  • choosing a handful of nuts (30 g), a piece of fruit, or a tub of plain yoghurt (200 g) for a healthy snack instead of chips, biscuits, cakes or pastries
  • reducing salt intake by choosing ‘no added salt’ or ‘reduced salt’ options and marinating foods with olive oil, herbs, spices and lemon juice instead of salty sauces and marinades
  • including vegetables and fruit as part of your meals and snacks
  • choosing wholegrain or wholemeal cereal, bread, wraps, rice and pasta instead of the white or sugary options 
  • drinking water or milk instead of sugary drinks and alcohol.

For more information, see this sample meal plan.

Common dietary issues for men aged 19 to 50

Here are some of the more common dietary issues that can affect men in this age group.

Alcohol 

Alcohol is high in kilojoules and low in nutrients. Drinking alcohol can cause serious short- and long-term harm such as obesity, heart disease, liver disease and high cholesterol. It can also affect your mental health. 

For more information, see How alcohol affects your body.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s publication Cancer in Australia 2017, alcohol is a known risk factor for the following cancers:

  • colon and rectum 
  • liver
  • lung
  • oesophagus
  • pancreas
  • stomach.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) alcohol guidelines recommend that healthy men should drink no more than two standard drinks on any one day to decrease the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related diseases. These guidelines also recommend that healthy men should drink no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion to decrease the risk of alcohol-related injury. 

For more information on what represents a standard drink, see Alcohol content of a standard drink.

Obesity

Obesity is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (which increases risk of cardiovascular diseases), high cholesterol (which increases risk of coronary heart diseases) and some cancers (such as colon and rectum cancer).

You can use the body mass index (BMI) as an indicator to determine whether your body weight puts you at risk of chronic disease. A waist circumference measurement can indicate whether your body waist fat is putting you at risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. (This may be the case if your waist circumference measures more than 94 centimetres.)

For information on healthy weight loss, see Weight loss – a healthy approach and Body image and diets.

Eating disorders

Poor body image can lead to self-destructive behaviours such as dieting and binge-eating, and these behaviours can put you at risk of developing an eating disorder. Although eating disorders are not as common in young men as they are in young women, it can still be an issue.

Eating disorders are a type of illness. They usually start in adolescence. The two most serious are anorexia nervosa (anorexia) and bulimia nervosa (bulimia). Anorexia is characterised by an intense fear of being fat and a relentless pursuit of thinness. Bulimia is characterised by binge eating and purging. 

Anorexia and bulimia are both treatable, but they can be life-threatening if severe and left untreated. It’s therefore essential to identify early warning signs – such as abnormal eating patterns, ongoing loss of weight, and preoccupation with thinness and dieting – and get help as soon as possible. 

See Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa for more information.

Where to get help for eating disorders

Note that this page does not apply to men with specific health conditions. For more information, please consult:

References

Content Partner

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Deakin University - School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences

Last updated: May 2019

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