It is a generalisation, but it can be very hard to get a man to address any health concerns early on. The attitude of ‘she’ll be right’ seems to be one many men have perfected.

International Men’s Health Week is on the 11-17th June. While nutrition may not be this year’s major focus it is timely to look at some of the nutritional issues that face men.

Heart disease is the main cause of death in New Zealand and more than twice as many men as women die from it.

Men also have higher rates of obesity. Around 60% of New Zealand men are overweight or obese compared to 48% women. Obesity of course is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

In the New Zealand 1997 National Nutrition Survey males were almost twice as likely as females to be eating less than one serving of fruit per day (recommended number of serves is at least two) and females were more likely to meet the goal of three servings of vegetables each day.

Often I will see professional men about weight issues and they all seem to face the same issues. Generally they work long hours and often struggle to find time to stop for a planned lunch – or lunch may involve a meeting and they have little control over what is available.

Bad eating habits at work can and will affect productivity. Not fuelling your body properly and/or having a poor fluid intake can make you agitated, short tempered and less able to make good decisions. You may think you are in control, but your energy levels can be improved if you eat in a more balanced manner over the day.

Many people say to me it is too hard to stop for lunch – however this is one of the most important things we can do in our day. The problem is that often it is not seen as a priority. We need to schedule lunch into our day – without feeling guilty about it.

If you don’t stop for lunch chances are you raid the snack box in the office, or you stop and buy something when you are getting petrol for your car, or you eat a mini meal just before your dinner meal because you are too hungry to wait for dinner- or you just eat a much bigger tea meal than you need.

Some ideas for incorporating a better balance at the office:

  • Be organised and take some food from home each day – sandwiches, rolls, wraps, fruit, yoghurt.
  • If you can’t take lunch to work each day make sure you have some good choices at work – if you have access to a fridge or freezer at work your options are endless.
  • Leave the office at lunchtime so people can’t keep disturbing you.
  • Schedule lunch into your day – and don’t break this appointment with yourself.
  • If you know you have a catered work lunch where the choices may not be the best have a healthy snack at morning tea time so you will not be as hungry.
  • If you are eating buffet style as part of a work meeting- look at all your options before you start serving yourself and only choose what you really want- when eating buffet style we tend to choose a little of everything and by the end we have so much more on our plate than we need or want.
  • Keep up with your water over the day – thirst will often send us looking for food in the early stages.
  • If you are having a meeting or networking over a dinner then try to eat slowly – we tend to eat less if we eat slowly. It may be beneficial to also include an afternoon tea snack to help control your appetite through to your evening meal.

Plan your weekly meals for home – dinner isn’t going to be balanced if you are walking in the door and have no idea what you are going to cook.

Remember we often spend more time at work than at home. Chances are you are very organised at work – but you just fail to schedule health and wellbeing into your working day. If you are not about to change your job then you need to make some changes regarding your eating habits so that you can benefit from better health.

Dads should also never underestimate the importance of being a good role model. Your children, especially in the younger years will notice if you don’t eat your greens or if you’re a breakfast skipper. If you are not great at the basics then your children may follow in your footsteps. This is obviously another good reason to make some changes to your diet – for your sake and the sake of your family.

Quite often I am lucky enough to reflect on the thought that my husband is probably a better cook than I am. My two daughters love spending time in the kitchen with him while he cooks up a storm for us – without a doubt he has a lot more patience than I do when the children want to try some fiddly technique. This is another great way that dads can be a great role model for children and help to establish great habits and food experiences from a young age. It is a great way to get children trying new things – they always like to taste what they have had a hand in making.

So for you dads out there it is not too late to make some changes to your eating habits, and it is not too late to try out some cooking skills – I am sure that you will get good support for this idea from your partner!

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Fiona Boyle is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. She runs a private practice and gives nutrition advice to individuals and families to help meet their health needs and personal goals.

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