There are plenty of fad diet plans out there, but for dads who don’t want to eat fistfuls of ham in the name of Keto or go on a yo-yo dieting roller coaster, there’s got to be a better way. Fortunately, dietitians and trainers agree that there are plenty of legitimate options for men who want to lose weight, eat healthier, and live longer for the sake of their families.
But you’re busy. We get it. So we collected the best evidence-based diets for dads, right here.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet has been around longer than any fad diet. It incorporates many whole, unprocessed foods rich in healthy fats and has been found to lower men’s risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Plus, it was ranked as the best diet overall by U.S. News and World Report. It works so well because it’s packed with macronutrients like protein, fats, and carbohydrates. And many of these foods come in the form of fairly accessible and affordable grocery store staples like grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and a little red meat and red wine from time to time, so it’s easy to stick to—whether you’re in Santorini or Cincinnati.
The DASH Diet
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet includes low sodium foods that are rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, all of which help to lower men’s blood pressure. The diet was ranked the second best by U.S. News and World Report and includes many of the same fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins that are found in the Mediterranean diet. The main difference is that DASH is designed to limit salt intake specifically, capping it at around 2,300 mg, or one teaspoon of salt, per day.
“As Americans, our average intake is 3,400 mg,” says registered dietician Heather Shasa. “Focusing on shaking the salt habit…may help reduce blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, and decrease bad cholesterol.”
Low Sugar Diet
“Looking at how much sugar you are taking in will give you insight into why you may be gaining weight or feeling like you have low energy,” registered dietician Jeanette Kimszal told Fatherly. Diet foods often replace fat with added sugar or artificial sweeteners, which can mess with a man’s blood pressure and make it easier to put on weight. Kimszal recommends limiting sugar intake overall by moderating soft drink, beer, and sweets consumption, and replacing these foods with nutrient-rich, plant-based alternatives. “It is important to replace them so they are getting adequate calorie intake to have needed energy and not starve themselves.”
Intermittent fasting requires men to integrate periods of fasting into their regular routines, and parents forget to eat all the time. So it’s perfect. There are a number of ways to do this, but intermittent fasting usually involves not eating for 14 to 16 hours a day, regularly. If you can avoid getting hangry, it can be very effective. “Intermittent fasting is not a fad diet and is here to stay,” Priest told Fatherly. “If you properly train your body to eat this way it can be extremely effective in helping a person lose weight.”
Or Just Eat Smaller, More Balanced Meals, Often
Most fad diets are flashes in the pan by nature because they’re not really meant to be maintained in the long term. Dads who want to not just lose weight but stay healthy should consider complete lifestyle changes. And that’s all about portion control. Focusing on eating smaller portions can be a diet in itself, registered dietician Lisa Hugh acknowledges, as long as meals are balanced with complex carbohydrates, protein, fruits and vegetables. “I may have them start with simple portion control such as a balanced meal with six ounces of meat, chicken, fish, one to two cups of vegetables, and one to one-and-a-half cups of starchy foods.”
Priest agrees, adding that when dieting men tend to slow their metabolisms by depriving themselves of energy they need, they often overcorrect by gorging on calories. “Smaller more frequent meals can have a positive impact on a person’s metabolism and can also help tremendously with portion control,” he says. “If a man knows he will be eating every few hours it is much less tempting to overeat at any one meal.”