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'?

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The Eatwell Guide defines 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 five-a-day of fruit and veg, including wholegrains and choosing more fish, poultry, beans and pulses, less red meat and lower fat, lower sugar dairy (or dairy-free alternatives). But that's not the whole story. How much should you be eating and is there an ideal time to eat protein, carbs or fats? Read on for our guide to healthy eating around the clock.

Discover a balanced diet for women, a balanced diet for toddlers and a healthy diet for those aged 65 and beyond. Read our guides on how to feel more energetic, how food affects your mood and top tips for eating healthy on a budget.

Father and son cooking together in kitchen

Reference Intakes (RI)

Nutritional needs vary depending on 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, moderately active adult 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)

Men
Women

Energy (kcal)
2500
2000

Protein (g)
55
50

Carbohydrates (g)
300
260

Sugar (g)
120
90

Fat (g)
95
70

Saturates (g)
30
20

Salt (g)
6
6

Reference intakes (RI) for men

  • Energy – 2500kcal
  • Protein – 55g
  • Carbohydrates – 300g
  • Sugar – 120g
  • Fat – 95g
  • Saturates – 30g
  • Salt – 6g

Portion sizes for men

Numbers and figures are all very well, but how does this relate to you? Keeping the Eatwell Guide in mind, you can personalise your portion sizes with our handy guide.

Carbs like cereal/rice/pasta/potato

  • Portion size: Your clenched fist
  • Include 1 portion at each main meal and ensure it fills no more than ¼ of your plate

Protein like meat/poultry/fish/tofu/pulses

  • Portion size: Palm of your hand
  • Aim to have a portion at each meal

Cheese

  • Portion size: 2 of your thumbs
  • Enjoy as a snack or part of a meal

Nuts/seeds

  • Portion size: 1 of your cupped hands
  • Enjoy as a snack or part of a meal

Butter/spreads/nut butter

  • Portion size: The tip of your thumb
  • Eat no more than 2 or 3 times a day

Savouries like popcorn/crisps

  • Portion size: 2 of your cupped hands
  • Enjoy as a snack/treat

Bakes like brownies/flapjacks

  • Portion size: 2 of your fingers
  • Enjoy as an occasional treat

Don’t forget, as set out in the Eatwell Guide, we should all be aiming for a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Discover what counts as one portion using our five-a-day infographic.

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 lower fat dairy or dairy-free alternatives. 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-rich breakfast recipes:

Scrambled omelette toast topper
One-pan summer eggs
Flash-fried smoked salmon & egg bagel
Ultimate makeover full English
Full English frittata
All-in-one baked mushrooms
Full English potato cake

Mid-morning snack

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. This means choosing snacks that 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

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 wholegrains, which help you manage those afternoon munchies. Wholegrains 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 wholegrain bread and enjoy with baked beans.

Protein and carb lunch recipes:

Open mackerel sandwich with fennel slaw
Open chicken Caesar sandwich
Salmon & chive bagel topper
Open turkey BLT

Mid-afternoon

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 lower fat cream cheese on crackers.

More like this

Savoury afternoon snacks:

Spicy seed mix
Sweet & spicy popcorn
Scandi cheese & crackers

Dinner

Tandoori trout with sauce, potatoes and peas

Don't curfew carbs, they're low in fat, fibre-rich and help you relax in the evening. Combine them with essential fats which your body can use overnight, along with protein, for regeneration and repair – this combination is especially important for healthy skin and hair. 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 colourful variety of vegetables or salad, drizzle with a dressing made from linseed or rapeseed oil and add meat, fish or beans with a serving of brown rice, quinoa or wholemeal pasta.

Nutritious dinner recipes:

Spicy Cajun chicken quinoa
Zingy salmon & brown rice salad
Thai salmon noodles
Tandoori trout

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Do you have a burning nutrition question? Ask us in the comments below.


Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

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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.

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