A balanced diet for men

    When are the best times to eat carbs, protein and fat, what should your portion size be and what are your guideline daily amounts? Choose wisely and you can eat healthily around the clock...

    A balanced diet for men

    Men have different daily nutritional requirements to women, and below our nutritionist has offered guidance and recipe ideas for men seeking a balanced diet for good health - but what exactly is a 'balanced diet'? It's a term we hear time after time - but how many of us actually eat a 'balanced diet'?

    The Eatwell Guide sets out to define the different types of foods we should be eating and in what proportions. The guide explains some simple rules to follow like getting a minimum of 5-a-day fruit and veg, including wholegrains and choosing more fish, poultry, beans and pulses, and less red meat, while opting for low-fat, low-sugar dairy foods. But that's not the whole story - how much should you be eating and is there a best time to eat protein, carbs or fats? Read on for our guide to healthy eating around the clock.

    Reference Intake (RI) – the new term for Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs)

    Nutritional needs vary depending on your sex, size, age and activity levels so use this chart as a general guide only. The chart shows the Reference Intakes (RI) or daily amounts recommended for an average person to achieve a healthy, balanced diet for maintaining rather than losing or gaining weight. The RIs for fat, saturates, sugars and salt are all maximum amounts, while those for carbs and protein are figures you should aim to meet each day. There is no RI for fibre although health experts suggest we have 30g a day.

    Reference Intakes (RI)
    Energy (kcal)2000
    Protein (g)50
    Carbohydrates (g)260
    Sugar (g)90
    Fat (g)70
    Saturates (g)20
    Salt (g)6

    Perfect PortionsPortion sizes

    Numbers and figures are all very well but how does this relate to you? Personalise your portions with our handy guide to finding the right serving size:




    FoodsPortion size
    Carbs like cereal/rice/pasta/potatoYour clenched fist                              
    Proteins like meat/poultry/fishPalm of your hand
    Savouries like popcorn/crisps2 of your cupped hands
    Bakes like brownies/flapjacks2 of your fingers
    Butter & spreadsThe tip of your thumb


    Scrambled omelette toast topper Breakfast

    Whether your first stop is the office or the gym, adding protein to your breakfast is a great way to rev up your metabolism - if you do exercise first thing a protein breakfast helps promote muscle recovery and repair. Eggs are an ideal choice because they provide a good balance of quality protein and fat, other options include lean ham, fish like salmon or haddock, as well as low-fat dairy foods. Protein foods slow stomach emptying, which means you stay fuller for longer so you'll tend to eat fewer calories the rest of the day.

    If you're short of time in the morning a protein-rich breakfast needn't take any longer. Top your morning toast with a couple of slices of smoked salmon, some lean ham or some scrambled eggs and when you do have a little more time enjoy an omelette, frittata or our version of the full English.

    Protein breakfast recipes:
    Scrambled omelette toast topper
    One-pan summer eggs
    Flash-fried smoked salmon & egg bagel
    Ultimate makeover full English
    Full English frittata


    Mid-morning snackPeanut butter & banana on toast

    Eating well in the morning is vital for balancing energy levels. The ideal is to eat little and often but you need to make every snack work for you. That means choosing snacks which satisfy your energy needs plus supply extra benefits like topping up your five-a-day.

    Try peanut butter and banana on crackers or opt for creamy avocado with slices of turkey.

    Energy giving snacks:
    Peanut butter & banana on toast
    Turkey & avocado toast


    Open mackerel sandwich with fennel slaw Lunch

    Make lunch a mix of lean protein and starchy carbs. Carb-rich foods supply energy so you'll suffer from mid-afternoon slumps if you cut them out. The key is to choose carbs that produce a steady rise in blood sugar, which means passing on sugary 'white' foods and going for high fibre whole-grains, which help you manage those afternoon munchies. Whole-grains like rye, wholewheat and barley keep you satisfied for longer - in fact studies show rye bread keeps blood sugar stable for up to 10 hours - a sure way to dampen those mid-afternoon energy crashes.

    Opt for an open sandwich topped with lean beef or pork, salmon, turkey or chicken with plenty of salad or toast some whole-grain bread and enjoy with baked beans.

    Protein and carb lunch recipes:
    Open mackerel sandwich with fennel slaw
    Open chicken Caesar sandwich
    Open turkey BLT

    Mid-afternoonSweet & spicy popcorn

    For many it's not sugar so much as salty, savoury foods they crave in the afternoon. If this sounds like you forget the crisps and opt instead for spiced nuts, seeds and savoury popcorn or enjoy low-fat cream cheese on crackers.

    Savoury afternoon snacks:
    Spicy seed mix
    Sweet & spicy popcorn
    Scandi cheese & crackers


    Spicy Cajun chicken quinoa Dinner

    Don't curfew carbs, they're low in fat, fibre-rich and help you relax in the evening. Combine them with healthy essential fats which your body can use overnight for growth and repair. You can get these healthy fats from oily fish like salmon, trout and mackerel as well as nuts, seeds and their oils.

    Fill half your plate with a riot of colour - choosing from a wide variety of vegetables or salad, drizzle with a dressing made from flaxseed or rapeseed oil and add meat, fish or beans with a serving of brown rice, quinoa or wholemeal pasta.

    Healthy dinner recipes:
    Spicy Cajun chicken quinoa
    Lime-cured pork chops with black bean, corn & quinoa salad
    Zingy salmon & brown rice salad
    Thai salmon noodles

    This article was last reviewed on 10 May 2016 by nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens.

    A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

    All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

    Comments, questions and tips

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    Comments (3)

    toxin free's picture

    This article states that:
    "Typically men need more nutrients than women with the exception of salt and fibre."

    A myth perpetrated by doctors, nutritionists and others is the false requisite for salt, whether for men or women. People need electrolytes, or essential salts, ie sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride etc etc. The human metabolism doesn't require salt, it requires essential salts, obtained from plant based food or the animal that ate the plant.
    The blurring of the lines between non essential NaCl and essential salts is unhealthy.

    joshuajw's picture

    You do realise it isn't Fat but protein that is used by your body for growth and repair? I'm assuming that's a typo if not maybe you can explain your rationale.

    Questions (1)

    jessybrain's picture

    What about it?
    A balanced diet for men includes:
    For vitamins, minerals and fiber, eat at least 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables each day.
    Whole grains. Eat at least half of all grains as whole grains each day. Replace refined grains with whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice or oats.
    At least two to three servings of fish per week.
    At least 38 grams of fiber a day for younger men; 30 grams of fiber a day for men older than 50.
    Unsaturated fats such as oils, nuts and oil-based salad dressings in place of saturated fats including full-fat dairy foods, butter and high-fat sweets.
    4,700 milligrams a day of potassium from fruits, vegetables, fish and milk.

    Tips (2)

    barnypol's picture

    Why can't I save this page to my account

    Bundt66's picture

    I was just thinking the same thing.