Men and Women: Differences in How Men Eat and How Women Eat

By Rachel Johnson, Ph.D, M.P.H., R.D., February/March 2006

Does gender make a difference when it comes to the way we eat?

One biological fact is inescapable: most women have lower calorie needs than men, and that means we have fewer extra calories to play with. The new USDA MyPyramid labels the extra calories that are leftover after our nutrient needs are met as “discretionary calories.” For my age, gender and activity level, I have 195 calories for the extras after I’ve gotten my recommended whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean meats. My husband has 425. So while I may have to choose between dessert or a glass of wine, he gets to have both. What’s fair about that? I think because men grow up having this added flexibility, they are often more cavalier about what they eat. Does that make a difference to their health overall? Perhaps—American women do outlive men by about five years, but women also outlive men in virtually every country in the world, suggesting the influence of many factors other than diet.

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