Fit Father’s Day Tips: A Focus on Men’s Health

Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., Kimatni Rawlins, and Stephen Neabore, M.D., at the Physicians Committee in D.C.

June is Men’s Health Month so this Father’s Day the Physicians Committee is teaming up with fit fathers Stephen Neabore, M.D., and Kimatni Rawlins to learn about simple dietary modifications that can result in major health gains. Their top tips? Build meals around plant-based foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes; stay active by moving for at least 30 minutes most days of the week; and lead by example.

Here’s how they put the latest nutrition science into everyday practice:

Fit Father’s Day Tip No. 1: Schedule a physical. Routine check-ups and exams let you catch problems, like borderline high cholesterol, a few extra pounds, and elevated blood pressure, before they morph into larger issues—like the early stages of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

If you haven’t booked a physical, make an appointment today and talk to your children about hereditary risk factors for disease that run in the family. The good news is DNA isn’t destiny. For example, one-third of all cancers can be prevented with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Fit Father’s Day Tip No. 2: Eat your greens. Consume at least one leafy green vegetable each day, which helps stabilize blood sugar. For an extra boost, aim for a few cups of raw leafy greens to slash type 2 diabetes risk and to extend cognitive function as your body ages.

If you’re not sure where to start, pick up Swiss chard, arugula, and mesclun, which help to improve oxygen circulation throughout the body more efficiently than any other salad green. Other good picks include celery, collards, green beans, kale, and spinach. By loading up with greens, you’ll have more energy to do the things you love, whether it’s playing a game of pick-up basketball, taking your family on a hike, or helping your kids with their chemistry homework. Asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, and parsley are other green veggies that help the body break down atherosclerotic plaque and support healthy blood flow.

Fit Father’s Day Tip No. 3: Swap seasoning for potato chips. Those nicely packaged snack packs—whether it’s cookies, candy, or chips—look easy to pick up and throw into lunches, but these packaged items often contain surprisingly high amounts of sodium, sugar, and empty calories.

To satisfy cravings for a crunchy treat, you can pair plain popcorn with a few pinches of Himalayan sea salt and Vegit (no oil or butter). Your kids won’t know the difference, but you’ll slash their saturated fat intake in half. Kale chips are delicious, too.

In addition to planning healthful snacks in advance, one of the best things you can do for your family is to set up your kitchen so that the healthiest choice is the easiest choice. Start by preassembling to-go bags of healthful snacks, which can fit into lunches, sports bags, desk drawers, and car consoles. When all else fails, pick up extra apples and bananas—which Dr. Neal Barnard refers to as the ultimate fast food.

Fit Father’s Day Tip No. 4: Like lycopene. Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in American men, falling behind lung cancer and colorectal cancer. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is also the most common. In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight and staying active, you can further slash prostate cancer risk by filling up with fruits and veggies. A plant-based vegan diet reduces prostate cancer risk by 35 percent.

One way to increase intake of these disease-fighting foods is to start by adding lycopene, an antioxidant associated with reduced prostate cancer risk, to your diet. Lycopene is bundled in tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and guava. To double lycopene’s bioavailability, heat it up. Stewed tomatoes and pasta sauce are great options.

Fit Father’s Day Tip 5: Befriend beans. Plant proteins—think lentils, beans, and peas—are packed with fiber, a nutrient exclusive to plant foods. Fiber escorts toxins and other unwanted compounds from your body. It also sends a signal to your brain that you’re full. Aim for at least 40 grams of fiber a day. The average American consumes just 15 to 16 grams of daily fiber. Especially good sources include bean chili, bean-based dips, salads with beans, and vegetable stir-fry dishes with black beans, bold spices, and BBQ tofu.

Want to learn more? Follow the conversation online at #FitFathersDay, #PlantBasedRx, and #MensHealthMonth.