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Men: You Need Your 9-A-Day!

Food Fitness to Nourish Your Body

One of the most important things men can do for their health is not even on their radar screen. Most men have no idea they need to eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. They are shocked when they hear 9 because it sounds "too difficult." But, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has found the key -- seeing is believing. According to a research analysis conducted by NCI in 2002, when men see what 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day looks like and how small each serving is, they realize it is actually easy to eat 9 servings every day.

Research also shows that by changing just a few key habits, men can make a big difference in the number of fruit and vegetable servings they eat every day.

Men and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: Seeing is Believing

Most Men Fall Short of the Goal
Despite the fact that fruits and vegetables are a critical factor for disease prevention and overall good health, they are often not even on men's radar screens. In fact, research shows the concept of eating more fruits and vegetables is not something most men even think about. Most men have no idea they should be eating 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

  • 97 percent of men think their recommended fruit and vegetable intake is less than 9 servings per day.
  • Only 25 percent of men believe they do not eat enough fruits and vegetables for good health and that they should be eating more.
  • Men, on average, eat only 4 servings of fruits and vegetables a day -- less than half of the amount recommended by the National Cancer Institute.

For Men, Seeing Is Believing

Men are shocked when they hear the recommendation to eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. They think 9 sounds like a lot more than it is and report, "I would have to eat every hour to get 9 A Day."

But, when NCI conducted focus groups with small groups of men and showed them what 9 A Day looks like with real food, they commented, "That's easy!" and "I can do that." None of the men in focus groups were confident they could eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day until they were shown what 9 A Day looks like. These preliminary findings suggest that men may need to see what 9 A Day looks like in order to have the confidence to achieve it.

What 9-A-Day Looks Like!

What 9 A Day looks like

  1. Before hearing the 9 A Day message, 75 percent of men think they either are, or are close to, eating enough fruits and vegetables.
  2. At first, the recommendation of 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day shocks men.
  3. Hearing the number "9" alerts men that they are not eating enough fruits and vegetables.
  4. After hearing the 9 A Day message, but not seeing 9 servings, only 9 percent of men think they can eat this amount.
  5. After seeing what 9 A Day looks like, most men think this amount is "doable."
  6. Men are motivated to achieve 9 when they see how small serving sizes really are, and that it is easy to get 2 to 3 servings in what they often consider a "regular portion."

Men Recognize Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables

NCI's research indicates most men already recognize fruits and vegetables are important for good health. The problem is men often believe fruits and vegetables are important only because they replace unhealthy foods -- not because they provide a wealth of important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and hundreds of disease-fighting phytochemicals. Men do not realize that fruits and vegetables are protective against disease, but rather they think these foods "replace" other foods that cause disease.

  • When asked, men report they believe eating fruits and vegetables would help them: feel and look better, maintain or lose weight, stay "regular," and have a long life.
  • Over 50 percent of men make food choices to help control their weight; but, eating more fruits and vegetables instead of other high-calorie foods is often not part of their weight control strategy.

Barriers and Why Men Don't Eat More

Most men do not perceive any significant barriers to eating more fruits and vegetables. In fact, survey data shows the traditionally assumed barriers -- like cost, taste, convenience, or preference for other foods -- affect at the very most only 15 percent of men. Of these barriers, most could be overcome if men were more knowledgeable about ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diets throughout the day.

  • A key difference between men who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and those who don't is awareness of the recommendation to eat more fruits and vegetables, as well as awareness they are not eating enough.
  • Only 15 percent of men say their preference for other foods affects their fruit and vegetable intake.
  • Only 13 percent of men say fruits and vegetables aren't easily accessible.
  • Only 14 percent of men say fruits and vegetables are difficult to eat on the go.
  • Only 5 percent of men say they don't like the taste of fruits and vegetables.

Helping Men Score 9; Men Say:

  1. Start the day with a serving of fruit -- try fruit on your cereal or a fresh piece of fruit to go.
  2. Eat more fruit as snacks throughout the day -- try taking oranges, peaches, or apples with you for the day instead of other snacks.
  3. Eat big salads at lunch -- try baby spinach topped with cucumbers, carrots, apple slices, and low-fat dressing.
  4. Eat larger servings of vegetables at dinner -- try two different vegetables.

Go for 9!

These fresh, colorful gametime meals and snacks are more nutritious than typical choices, and they will help men meet the 9 A Day goal.

First-Down Layered Dip Recipe

When served with bell pepper "scoopers," a serving of this dip is nearly 150 calories less than a serving of typical potato chips and dip.

Serves: 10
Number of vegetable servings per person: 1

1 (8-ounce) tub fat-free cream cheese, softened
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
2-3 dashes hot sauce
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup low-fat shredded cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread cream cheese in the bottom of an 8- by 8-inch baking dish. Toss together black beans, tomatoes and hot sauce in a medium bowl, and spread over cream cheese. Sprinkle with scallions, then with cheese. Bake covered for 18 to 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serving suggestion: Scoop up this dip with toasted French bread circles or baked tortilla chips. Or, use bite-sized chunks of green and yellow bell pepper to add an extra serving of vegetables.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 90 calories, 4 grams fiber, 1 gram fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 146 mg sodium

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Southwest Tossed Salad

A large serving of this fresh, colorful salad has more than half the calories of a standard serving of potato salad. It also has no cholesterol, is a good source of vitamin A, and is high in potassium, vitamin C, and folate.

Serves: 4
Number of fruit and vegetable servings per person: 3

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 (14-ounce) can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 avocado, diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
6 cups mixed salad greens
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon olive oil

Toss together tomato, corn, red onion, avocado and jalapeno in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, toss together greens, lime juice and olive oil. Lay greens on a platter, and spoon tomato mixture into the center. Serve.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 154 calories, 5 grams fiber, 5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 283 mg sodium

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Slow-Cooked Stew

This hearty, comforting, and easy stew is perfect for a fall weeknight or game day. Serve it with a salad and bread as a light meal, or over cooked pasta or rice as a heavier meal.

Serves: 6
Number of vegetable servings per person: 1.5

2 low-fat turkey sausage links (from a 7-ounce package of 8 links)
1 (14-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced
3 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium white onion, diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 1 tablespoon dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried

Slice each sausage link lengthwise, then chop into small pieces. Brown in a small non-stick frypan on medium heat. Add sausage to a slow-cooker, along with beans, peppers, tomatoes, onion and herbs. Cook 7 to 9 hours on low heat, or follow manufacturer's directions.

Without a slow cooker, this recipe may be prepared by adding the browned sausage and remaining ingredients to a medium pot and cooking on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 167 calories, 10 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 5 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat; 25 mg cholesterol; 348 mg sodium

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