A healthy diet looks relatively the same across genders. Everyone needs a balanced plate packed with macronutrients like complex carbs, healthy fats, and high-quality protein. We all should limit foods high in added sugars, salt, and unhealthy saturated and trans fats. And everyone (and every body!) needs movement and regular exercise.
But there are a few nutritional needs specific to men and women that are important to keep in mind. This includes calorie consumption, nutritional deficiencies, protein intake, and more. Plus guidance on choosing the right diet shake to meet your unique nutritional needs.
Calorie Consumption: Men vs. Women
On average, women need fewer calories than men. According to the USDA, men need over 600 to 800 more calories than women throughout the day. Here’s the breakdown:
- Ages 19 to 30: 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day
- Ages 31 to 59: 1,600 to 2,200 calories a day
- Ages 19 to 30: 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day
- Ages 31 to 59: 2,200 to 3,000 calories a day
This caloric difference is primarily because women tend to have higher body fat and lower muscle mass percentages than men. Muscle burns more calories than fat while both resting and exercising. So a person with a higher muscle mass will need more food to stay satisfied throughout the day.
But keep in mind your caloric needs don’t solely depend on gender! Factors like your height, weight, and physical activity levels will also influence how many calories you need. Head to USDA’s free calorie calculator tool for help in estimating your daily caloric needs.
Nutritional Deficiencies: Men vs. Women
While everyone needs a healthy diversity of nutrients in their diet, women tend to have a higher likelihood of nutritional deficiencies compared to men. This is especially the case for nutrients like iron, calcium, and folate. These are likely to fluctuate due to hormonal changes, menstruation, or pregnancy.
And because women need far fewer calories than men, this means that women need more foods that have a higher nutritional value or nutrient density. That way women get all the nutrients they need without overloading on extra calories.
But this doesn’t mean men are off the hook! Everyone, regardless of gender, can struggle with nutritional deficiencies. According to the USDA, the biggest nutrients of public health concern for both men and women include fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.
We’ve included these and other common nutritional deficiencies below, along with the foods you need to avoid them:
- Iron: Menstruation and pregnancy can both lead to iron deficiency. To increase your iron intake it’s important to eat a diet rich in foods like meat, fish, leafy vegetables, lentils, and beans. You can also find iron-fortified foods like cereal, pasta, and bread.
- Calcium: About 30% of men and 60% of women don’t get enough calcium in their diet. Foods with calcium include low-fat milk, yogurt, fortified soy alternatives, canned fish, salmon, almonds, and leafy greens.
- Folate (or folic acid): This essential B-vitamin is important for everyone but is especially encouraged for pregnant women to help boost the health of the baby. Foods with folate include leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, fatty fish, whole grains, and fresh fruit.
- Fiber: More than 90% of women and 97% of men don’t get nearly enough fiber in their diets. You’ll find fiber in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains like brown rice or whole-wheat bread.
- Omega-3: Omega-3 and other fatty acids are important for a healthy diet. Food sources high in omega-3 include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and oils.
- Magnesium: This essential nutrient supports a healthy heart, helping to prevent a large number of health concerns (many that tend to impact men more than women). Foods high in magnesium include leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- Potassium: Both men and women need more potassium in their diet. This comes from foods like beans, lentils, spinach, avocado, bananas, nuts, chicken, tomatoes, and yogurt.
- Vitamin D: Over 90% of all adults don’t get enough vitamin D. While the sun is one of the best sources of this vitamin, you can also get it through seafood, mushrooms, and vitamin-D fortified foods like orange juice or cereals.
Protein Intake: Men vs. Women
Men need about 56g of protein every day while women only need about 46g a day. But men more than women tend to rely on beef, sausage, bacon, and other high-fat foods as their main sources of protein. While this is a generalization, it’s an important nutritional element to keep in mind. These high-fat protein sources tend to play a big role in heart-health concerns that often afflict men more than women.
The average American gets more than enough protein in their diet, but most of that protein comes from meats, poultry, and eggs. Over 90% of adults don’t eat nearly enough seafood and close to 50% don’t consume enough nuts, legumes, and seeds.
Protein is an important macronutrient in your diet but the quality of that protein matters. For both men and women, it’s important to keep in mind that a healthy diet consists of a diverse plate of both plant and animal-based proteins, not just meat.
Diet Shakes: Men vs. Women
It’s important to factor your unique nutritional needs into your decision when choosing a diet shake. And when it comes to men vs. women, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
- Nutrient density: A lot of diet shakes focus on taking away as opposed to adding nutritional value. But given women’s lower-calorie needs and higher nutritional deficiencies, it’s important to look for a high-nutrient and low-calorie shake. Look for fiber, high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals, adaptogens, and antioxidants.
- Limit added sugars and artificial flavors: Watch out for unhealthy but common diet shake ingredients such as added sugars, chemical sweeteners, or artificial flavors. Keep an eye on the back label to avoid brands that add these in and opt for ones on our top-rated shakes list instead.
- High protein content: Men need more protein than women, so they need to look for a diet shake that contains 15g or more of protein, like some of our top-rated diet shakes.
- Healthy plant-based protein: But it’s not just high protein that you need! Men should also look for diet shakes that use high-quality plant-based protein sources like pea, pumpkin, brown rice, or flaxseed. This helps add healthier plant-based protein sources into the diet while also loading up on healthy fiber.
- High fiber: Speaking of fiber, all diet shake shoppers, especially men, should aim for a diet shake that contains 5 grams or more of fiber. This helps increase feelings of fullness and ensures you’re getting enough fiber in your daily diet.
Check out our list of in-depth diet shake reviews to find the right shake for you. In particular, our #1-rated diet shake right now, 310 Shake, contains high-quality plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that support the unique nutritional needs of both men and women.