In honor of Father’s Day this month, let’s take some time to make Dad feel special, and nothing says “love” like giving him the gift of good health. While it’s not possible to bestow good health upon someone else, we can, perhaps, encourage our fathers—whether they’re our actual dads or our husbands/partners, brothers, sons, friends, or neighbors—to make healthier lifestyle choices.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, there’s no question that this year’s commemoration will be different for dads. Some are working from home, some are essential employees, and some, unfortunately, are out of work. So rather than spend Father’s Day sitting in front of the TV, why not do something different and mark the occasion by doing something active? Being active is not only great for heart health, but good for the whole family.
Your options are virtually endless. You could take a walk together at a metropark, go for a bike ride, or plan to do whatever your father’s favorite activity might be. I know our dad will be golfing (walking and carrying his bag, not riding in a cart) and our neighbor dad will be playing a competitive round of pickle ball in the driveway.
Dads usually expect to enjoy certain foods on Father’s Day—often originating on the grill. Feel free to prepare your father’s favorite meal, but try to make it healthier. If he likes steak, choose tenderloin or marinate a flank steak overnight. Also, try roasting assorted vegetables on the grill and serving fruit for dessert.
Of course, we want to encourage our dads to adopt healthier habits year-round, not just for Father’s Day. Eating healthy obviously comes first, and where better to start than with fruits and vegetables. Remember, men need at least nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The key here is to have them handy and accessible. Leave an apple or banana on the counter so he will think to grab it when he’s hungry. Also, fill a sandwich bag with cut-up celery sticks, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers for snacking. Then make a salad and another vegetable for dinner.
Regular physical activity is vital too—and I’m not just talking about cutting the lawn once a week. Find fun ways to be active together, such as shooting hoops in the driveway, taking a walk, riding a bike, or completing a DIY project in the yard. Getting active on a routine basis reduces the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, lowers blood pressure, and improves mood and mental health. Physical activity can also help with depression, stress, and emotional tension.
Speaking of mental health, it’s important for men to recognize the signs of stress and anxiety, such as sadness, grumpiness, feelings of hopelessness, tiredness, decreased energy, and feelings of suicide, and then to learn healthy ways to manage that stress without drugs or alcohol.
We also need to talk about preventive healthcare visits, which can be like pulling teeth with these guys! Regular checkups are so important because they help identify health issues early on before they become a problem. Even though they’re responsible adults, men often need lots of encouragement to do this or even someone to make the appointment for them. In addition, men need to know their family history and discuss it with their physician, which means having open and honest discussions with parents and siblings.
Perhaps the best way to encourage the men in your life to adopt healthier habits is to set an example by making healthy choices yourself.
So, this Father’s Day, why not remind Dad to take some steps to be healthier and assure him he doesn’t have to do it alone? Let him know he’s special in so many ways, and show him that you care about both his mental and physical health. Getting started could be as simple as teaching him how to use the health app on his phone. Plan to do something fun and active—even if it’s something indoors such as a competitive game of table tennis or a one-hour yoga session. For your Father’s Day feast, create a healthy meal on the grill of salmon, tenderloin, or chicken, and serve it with plenty of assorted vegetables and fruit for dessert.
Let’s encourage dads everywhere to pay special attention to their own health and nutrition needs. Have a happy, healthy Father’s Day!
Laurie Syring, RD/LD, is Clinical Nutrition Manager at ProMedica Flower Hospital.