Healthy Eating At Various Lifestages
Men 19-30 years old
This information is based on the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including Recommended Dietary Intakes, the Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults, and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. These recommendations are for healthy people with standardised weight, height and estimated energy requirements and may not meet the specific nutritional requirements of individuals. Specific advice for individual needs should be sought from a qualified dietitian.
Healthy Eating Guidelines for men aged 19–30 yearsThe Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends the following servings per day:
- 6–12 servings from the bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles group
There is an allowance of about 30 g a day for poly or monunsaturated fats and oils that can be used to spread on breads or rolls or used elsewhere in the diet.
- 5 servings from the vegetables, legumes group
- 2 servings of fruit
- 2 servings from the milk, yoghurt, cheese group
- 1 serving from the lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes group
Note: You get plenty of fats and oils from the amount used with cereal foods and from meat, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, margarine, etc. so fats and oils are not included separately.
For more information, check out the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating at:
Energy requirements (kilojoules/day)Energy requirements for people vary depending on age, gender, body size and activity levels. For more information on energy requirements for adults, see your local dietitian or follow this link to the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including Recommended Dietary Intakes and go to page 20: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/_files/n35.pdf
Physical activityRegular physical activity can:
- Help prevent heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure;
- Help maintain a healthy body weight or prevent weight gain;
- Reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and some cancers;
- Help build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, reducing the risk of injury; and
- Promote psychological well-being.
- Think of movement as an opportunity, not as an inconvenience.
- Be active every day in as many ways as you can.
- Put together at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
- If you can, also enjoy some regular, vigorous activity for extra health and fitness.
Being more active can be simply a matter of spending more time on the things you already do – like gardening or taking the dog for a walk. You could also try different things. Since the emphasis is on moderate activity, there are so many options to choose from.
Many people find it easier to be active when they exercise with friends. This may be organising to join a neighbour for a regular walk, or joining a local sporting or activity club. Remember, find an activity you enjoy – that way you are more likely to keep it up.
Don't forget to consult your doctor before commencing physical activity or if you have a medical condition.
Healthy eating for men aged 19–30The food you eat is made up of nutrients (such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals and vitamins). Some of these nutrients contain energy (in the form of kilojoules) that helps fuel your body.
Many changes can happen during these years such as moving away from home, starting work or beginning a family. During these years it is vital that healthy eating habits are established that will be carried on into later life.
TheDietary Guidelines for Australian Adults (2003) are:
- Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
- Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits
- Eat plenty of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain
- Include lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives
- Include reduced fat milks, yoghurts, cheeses and/or alternatives
- Drink plenty of water
Care should be taken to:
- Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake
- Choose foods low in salt
- Limit your alcohol intake if you choose to drink
- Consume only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars
- Prevent weight gain: be physically active and eat according to your energy needs
- Care for your food: prepare and store it safely
- Encourage and support breastfeeding
CalciumCalcium is important for the development and maintenance of bones and teeth, neuromuscular function and heart function. Getting enough calcium and exercise is important for increasing bone mass to prevent osteoporosis in later life. Calcium is also integral to maintaining normal blood pressure. The average requirement for calcium for men aged 19-30 years is 840 mg/day but because of individual variation, some men of this age need 1,000 mg/day or more.
Calcium can be found in foods like milk, cheese, yoghurt, fish with edible bones (salmon, sardines), legumes, calcium fortified soy products (milk, tofu) and fortified breakfast cereals. Dairy products also provide valuable protein, and vitamins A and B (thiamin, niacin and riboflavin). Choosing mainly reduced fat dairy foods is recommended as they have similar protein, calcium and vitamin content as 'full fat' equivalents.
Men who do not eat dairy products (e.g. vegans or those with diagnosed lactose intolerance) will need to obtain calcium from a non-dairy source. Non-dairy foods that contain useful amounts of calcium include: leafy green vegetables; wholegrain cereals and breads; canned fish (eaten with bones); legumes (e.g. kidney beans, chick peas, lentils); calcium-fortified soy products; and calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and juice.
A high salt intake can decrease calcium levels by causing more calcium to be excreted. This may be particularly important for adolescents who tend to eat more salty take away foods and who also have a very high consumption of caffeinated soft drinks. If caffeinated drinks replace milk-based drinks in the diet, this can also adversely affect calcium levels.
Vitamin DCalcium and vitamin D interact in their role in bone health. Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption. Consuming enough Vitamin D and calcium can help to minimise bone demineralisation
The main source of Vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. Some Vitamin D can also be obtained from dietary sources such as margarine, dairy products, oily fish, cheese and eggs. The recommended intake for Vitamin D for men aged 19-30 years is 5 ug/day (1g = 1,000ug).
Men who spend only limited time outdoors may not receive the necessary sun exposure for adequate amounts of vitamin D to be produced and so are at higher risk of deficiency. Men with computer-based work who spend their leisure time on the computer at home or with other electronic media or only play indoor sports need to ensure they are getting enough vitamin D.
IronIron is important for transporting oxygen around the body, and helps to prevent infection. Symptoms of an iron deficiency are tiredness and breathlessness.
The average requirement for iron for men aged 19-30 years is 6mg/day but because of individual variation, some men in this age group need 8g/day or more. Sources of iron include lean red meat, chicken, fish, dark green leafy vegetables, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, legumes, eggs and dried fruit.
There are two different types of iron found in food: haem iron and non-haem iron. Haem iron is found in red meat, chicken and fish and is easily absorbed by the body. Non-haem iron is found in plant foods such as leafy green vegetables, legumes and iron-enriched breakfast cereals. The iron from plant sources is not as readily absorbed by the body.
Adding a glass of fruit juice or other foods rich in vitamin C (such as tomato, broccoli or capsicum) to a meal will increase the amount of iron the body absorbs. Some things that are likely to reduce your body's absorption of iron include very high fibre diets, alcohol, and tannic acid in tea.
AlcoholAccording to a recent survey, 39% of people in the 15–24 year age group consumed alcohol at 'risky' levels (7 or more standard drinks in any one day within a month).
Drinking alcohol can be risky in both the short and long term. Short-term or binge drinking can lead to poisoning, accidents, violence and unprotected sex. Accidents are the major cause of deaths in young males, and alcohol is the most important risk factor in accidental injury. Long-term excessive use of alcohol can lead to alcohol addiction, cancer and liver, heart and brain damage.
Alcohol is high in energy but consists of 'empty kilojoules' (it has little nutritional value). Alcohol is sometimes consumed instead of more nutritious food—many people who drink to excess are malnourished.
On the other hand, if these 'empty' kilojoules are consumed on top of a food intake that meets normal energy requirements, then overweight and obesity are distinctly possible long term outcomes. For instance 4 cans or stubbies of beer would contribute about 20% of the total daily energy intake for a young man.
For men who choose to drink, the alcohol drinking guidelines for men set by the National Health and Medical Research Council are:
No more than 4 standard drinks a day on average;
And no more than 6 standard drinks on any one day;
One or two alcohol-free days a week.
A standard drink is
- 1 can or stubbie of medium beer
- a 100ml glass of wine
- 1 'nip' of spirits
The Department of Health and Ageing has an extensive website on alcohol for more information:
Soft drinks, sports drinks and caffeinated drinksThere are a lot of non–alcoholic drinks available on the market these days. These include soft drinks (flavoured sweetened drinks), and sports drinks. Athletes who's sport involves long periods of perspiring such as marathon runners, benefit from having water enriched with a very small amount of salts and sugar to replenish those lost during the sport. The consumption of sports drinks, however, for those that do not engage in this type of sport, is not as healthy as plain water. Caffeinated soft drinks are also popular (see next section), with accompanying marketing efforts targeted at young people.
There is also a growing body of evidence that drinking soft drinks may be a risk factor in developing obesity.
It is important for men to be well hydrated. Choose water as a drink, and limit drinks such as soft drinks and sports drinks to occasional treats rather than everyday choices.
Caffeinated drinksCaffeine is in tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, some cola drinks and more recently in a wide range of soft drinks. Some caffeinated soft drinks contain very high levels of caffeine.
In moderate doses, caffeine causes increased mental arousal and alertness. Some people think they need caffeine to become alert in the morning but in actual fact the body needs food, not caffeine, which is one of the reasons breakfast is important.
The body does not need caffeine at all but most people can tolerate small doses. For some though it's not a good choice. Caffeine raises the heart rate, promotes release of free fatty acids into the bloodstream, and acts as a diuretic. Higher doses can cause anxiety, dizziness and headaches, and can interfere with normal sleep patterns. Studies show that some people are more sensitive than others to caffeine, and smaller people will be more affected than people of higher body weight. Caffeine is also addictive and may cause withdrawal symptoms such as severe headaches in those who stop consuming it. It is better to cut down slowly than stop suddenly if you want to cut caffeine out of your diet.
Effects of caffeine as intake is increased
Moderate amounts (less than 600 mg/day)
Large amounts (greater than 600 mg/day)
Long-term effects of large amounts (greater than 600 mg/day)
|Become more alert||Get headaches||Find sleeping difficult|
|Heart rate increases||Feel restless and jittery||Worry more|
|Urinate more frequently||Feel nervous||Depression|
|Body temperature rises||Become delirious||Have stomach upsets|
|More acid produced in digestive system||Find it difficult to sleep||May become addicted to caffeine|
Caffeine content of various drinks and foods
|Instant coffee||60–100 mg per cup|
|Fresh coffee||80–350 mg per cup|
|Tea||8–90 mg per cup|
|Cola drinks||35 mg per 250 ml|
|Other caffeinated soft drinks, e.g. Red Eye||106 mg per 250 ml|
|Cocoa and hot chocolate||10–70 mg per cup|
|Chocolate bars||20–60 mg per 200 g bar|
Food safetyYoung men in this age category are often moving out of home for the first time, or may live in a group house situation. It may be timely to remember to care for your food when storing, preparing and cooking it. Here are a few tips about how to avoid food poisoning.
- Cook food thoroughly—the high temperatures of cooking can kill most harmful bacteria.
- Thaw frozen meat in the fridge
- Store food at temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius or above 60 degrees Celsius. Between 5 degrees Celsius and 60 degrees Celsius bacteria can multiply. The longer food is between these temperatures the more time bacteria have to multiply
- Clean and dry all cooking utensils thoroughly and use clean tea towels.
- Do not allow raw foods to make contact with cooked foods.
- Clean and dry all food storage and preparation areas thoroughly.
Unsafe food sources
- Take extra care with high protein perishable foods such as dairy foods, egg products, seafood, meat and poultry—they are particularly susceptible to bacterial growth.
- Look for “best before” and “use by” dates on packaged foods
- Wash hands thoroughly before preparing or serving food, especially after handling raw food, or after going to the toilet.
BodybuildingBody image can be an important concern for young men. Many young men want to 'bulk up' (build muscle bulk) to fit a perceived image of the perfect body type. They may resort to taking supplements and protein powders believing that more protein means more muscle. It is not quite as simple as that. In fact the ability to build muscle requires:
- a certain genetic makeup —the ability to build muscle bulk depends in a large part on genetic potential. Some people will never look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, no matter what they do.
- weight training—muscles will grow if stimulated regularly by lifting heavy weights or many repetitions of lifting lighter weights .
- a high energy diet—you need more carbohydrate and more protein to make muscles grow. Muscles need carbohydrate as fuel for training.
Protein supplements and bars do provide extra protein, but are expensive. The additional protein in them is usually far in excess of the body's requirements and can result in excess fat being stored by the body. A healthy balanced diet is in most cases, quite adequate for people undertaking weight training or bodybuilding. Make an appointment with a qualified dietitian instead. It might save you money in the long run, improve your health and could give you the edge if you are planning on competing.
Many foods contain both protein and carbohydrate, and are useful for recovery after training:
Protein (g/100 g)
Carbohydrate (g/100 g)
|Breakfast cereals, e.g. Muesli||12||53|
|Low fat milk||3.5||6|
|Low fat yoghurt||5||13|
|Peas||6||6 - 14|
Some low fat, high protein foods are:
|Lean pork fillet||30||5|
|Low fat yoghurt||7||.2|
|Low fat cheese (25% reduced fat)||29||24|
|Low fat cheese (50% reduced fat)||31||15|
|Beans and legumes (kidney beans)||8||0.7|
Quick and healthy snacks and mealsYoung men in the 19–30 year age group may have to cook for themselves for the first time. They are also usually very busy with work, play and socialising, and may rely heavily on take-away foods.
But it is quite easy to make some simple snacks, prepare quick healthy meals or to modify some take away options to make them less unhealthy.
Snacks don't have to be fatty, salty or sweet to be satisfying and filling. Try some of these suggestions:
- Fresh fruit: as alternatives to apples and oranges, try strawberries, watermelon, pineapple, grapes or stone fruits
- Dried fruit: sultanas, apricots, apples, pineapple, paw paw, dates
- Unsalted nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews or brazil nuts, but remember nuts are very high in energy (kilojoules)
- Vegetable sticks: carrots, celery, cucumber, green or red capsicum, with turkish bread and a hommos dip
- Low fat yoghurt
- Milkshakes (with fruit and/or yoghurt) or a low fat flavoured milk
- Half an english muffin, pita bread, or mini pizza covered with tomato sauce, low fat cheese and vegies. Make in advance and freeze; then reheat in the microwave
- Fruit bun, raisin toast/bread, pikelets or scones lightly buttered, or try a nut paste, (tahini, almond or cashew). Add some alfalfa sprouts for a 'vegie fix'
- Thick soup made with vegetables and a protein-rich food such as meat or legumes
- Toasted sandwiches filled with avocado, tuna, salmon or cheese with tomato, beetroot and onion, or some leftover cooked vegetables
- Wholemeal crackers with spreads such as tuna, egg, or ricotta cheese with cucumber, onion or tomato
- Wholemeal crumpets or muffins lightly buttered
- Corn or rice cakes with peanut butter, mashed banana, or cheese
- Cheese slices melted on toast with baked beans or tomato
- Breakfast cereal with low fat milk
Tips for healthy eating when you are busy
- Make breakfast a habit—always have cereal and milk in the cupboard and fridge. Cereal can also be a good snack at night or on the weekend rather than eating junk food. Add fruit rather than sugar and check the label, some cereals are loaded with sugar and salt.
- Have a repertoire of quick recipes that can be prepared from cupboard staples, e.g. pasta with tomato and vegetable or tomato and tuna sauce, rice or noodles with vegetable and nut stir fry, pasta with baked vegetables and pesto sauce.
- Make a dish that serves four on the weekend (pasta, curry, stew, pie, quiche etc) and freeze it in microwavable containers. Put the container in the fridge to thaw before you leave for work and when you get home, pop it in the microwave with a couple of cups of frozen vegetables.
- Add a pre-prepared bag of salad to a piece of cooked steak or chicken.
- All-in-one dishes are very easy to prepare—an old Italian favourite is a chicken and vegetable bake. Simply cut the chicken into pieces, brown in a pan then place in a baking dish with a little olive oil and as many vegetables as will fit around it. Pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant, tomato, onion, carrot—almost any type of vegetable goes well. Season with garlic and Italian herbs.
- Slow cookers are very useful. You can put a casserole on in the morning and come home to a warm tasty dinner that's ready to eat. Great for casseroled meats, chick pea curry, or pea and ham soup.
- When you do get a take-away, choose the option with the least fat, or order a little less and add your own salad or vegetables at home:
- Hamburgers with only a single meat layer, no cheese or low fat cheese, and lots of salad and vegetables.
- BBQ chicken with skin removed, with a salad or vegetables.
- Kebabs with only a little meat and lots of salad
- Pizza with more vegetables (ask for less cheese) and make a salad at home to go with it.
- For fish and chips, ask for grilled fish and order less chips, and add a home-made salad or vegetables.
- Some Asian foods are a good choice, e.g. nori or sushi rolls, steamed and braised dishes (not fried).
Tips for converting favourite recipes to healthier versions
- Reduce the fat, especially saturated fat
- Reduce the salt
- Reduce the sugar
- Add more vegetables or fruit
- Change refined flours and breads and cereals to wholemeal or mixed grain versions.
Protection against chronic diseases—plant foodsNational and state surveys show that, on average, young males consume only a third of the recommended amount of fruit per day and less than half of the recommended amount of vegetables. Diets high in fruit and vegetables have been shown to lower risks of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Although these chronic diseases primarily occur in older adults, the precursors to these diseases, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and obesity, begin in adolescence and early adulthood.
We are only just beginning to understand the many protective properties of plant foods. No vitamin pill can come close to the complex combination of health protecting substances that are found naturally in plants. The following table details some of the ways in which substances found in plant foods may protect us from chronic diseases.
How it helps
|Cardiovascular disease||Antioxidant phytochemicals (e.g. carotenoids) and vitamins E and C||Reduce the risk of cholesterol forming plaque in blood vessels|
|Vegetable protein, eg legumes||Reduces blood cholesterol|
|Folate (found in green leafy vegetables)||Reduces blood levels of homocysteine which is a risk factor for heart disease|
|Hypertension||Potassium, magnesium & fibre||Associated with lower blood pressure|
|Stroke||No one substance can be isolated—all plant foods, particularly vegetables||Mechanism not understood but plant foods offer protection against stroke|
|Cancer especially of the large intestine||Phytochemicals, carotenoids, bioflavonoids, indoles||Detoxify carcinogenic substances, destroy existing cancer cells|
|Type 2 diabetes||Fibre, low energy dense carbohydrate||Possibly lowers blood sugar|
Example of a healthy meal plan for a 23-year-old man
For this example we have based the daily energy requirement on a 23-year-old man, weighing about 64 kg, about 1.7 m in height, with a light activity level. The meal plan is designed as a guide only, and meets recommended dietary intakes. The meal plan is an example for a single day, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating a variety of foods every day to meet nutritional needs.
Energy requirements (kilojoules/day)
- About 11,000 kJ/day (2,600cal/day)
Salt (Sodium, mg)
|Breakfast cereal, flake, fortified||1 1/2 cups||712||3.1||37.8||0.3||486|
|Skim milk||1/2 cup||189||4.7||6.5||0.1||57|
|Polyunsaturated Margarine||2 teaspoons||195||0||0||5.3||26|
|Wholemeal toast, reduced salt||2 slices||702||7.4||28.6||1.4||170|
|Fruit and nut muffin||1 large||2321||11.7||83.8||19||362|
|Wholemeal flat bread||1 large pita||1107||8.4||49||2.2||470|
|Tomato||4 thin slices||40||0.6||1.1||0.1||4|
|Lettuce||1 large leaf||6||0.1||0.1||0||3|
|Low fat cheddar cheese||2 slices||354||14.2||0||3||277|
|Wholemeal bread, reduced salt||2 slices||583||6.2||23.7||1.2||141|
|Baked beans||3 tablespoons||213||3||7.4||0.3||264|
Dinner - Grilled salmon and vegetables
|Grilled salmon||1 medium steak||1092||35.8||0||13.1||82|
|Pasta, spinach||1/2 cup||409||2.8||20.2||0.3||43|
|Basil pesto||3 teaspoons||246||1.4||0.2||5.9||143|
|Grilled tomato||1 medium||79||1.3||2.3||0.1||7|
|Baked sweet potato||1 small||221||1.4||10.9||0.1||8|
|Green beans (whole)||10||66||1.1||1.6||0.2||2|
|Sunflower oil||2 teaspoons||340||0||0||9.2||0|
|Almonds, blanched||1/4 cup slivered||827||6.6||1.4||18.1||2|
|Yoghurt, plain, low fat||200ml tub||464||12.3||12.1||0.4||146|
Variation to energy expenditure depending on physical activity level for a 23 year old man about 1.7 m in height, weighing about 64 kg
Description of Lifestyle/exercise level
Energy requirement (kJ/day)
|At rest, exclusively sedentary or lying (chair-bound or bed-bound)||8,300 kJ/day|
|Exclusively sedentary activity/seated work with little or no strenuous leisure activity eg office employees||9,700-10,350 kJ/day|
|Sedentary activity/seated work with some requirement for walking and standing but little or no strenuous leisure activity eg drivers, students||11,000-11,700 kJ/day|
|Predominantly standing or walking work eg housewives, salespersons||12,400-13,100 kJ/day|
|Heavy occupational work or highly active leisure, e.g. construction workers, high performance athletes||13,800–15,200+ kJ/day|
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