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Prairie Fare: Men care about health and wellness issues, they just need better information — and a new website can help

“Gentlemen, start your engines!” I wonder how many times I have overheard that sentence in my house.

Yes, I am married to an automobile racing fan. Because the race-car drivers usually drink milk at the end, I guess racing has a nutrition connection.

This long, cold winter has been a challenge for vehicles and our bodies. One of our vehicles, which has a lot of miles, has spent a few nights in a shop. Sometimes it doesn’t like to move very easily, or at all, in extremely cold weather. I can relate to my van.

Our bodies and our vehicles have an important thing in common: They both need to be maintained. Sometimes we can prevent major issues through preventive maintenance.

About a year ago, my extension colleagues Cindy Klapperich and Kristi Berdal and I embarked on a new project. We dreamed up an idea for extension programming in our hotel room while we were at a conference. We had lots of fun exploring the possibilities.

We also knew we had very few extension health materials created just for men.

However, being women, we weren’t exactly sure what men really wanted to know about health. Maybe men didn’t want to know anything.

How do you find out what people want to know? You ask them. We created an online survey and we were pleasantly surprised by the number of men who completed it. Anyone could fill it out. We had 557 people complete the survey, with 519 respondents indicating they were male. They ranged in age from 18 to more than 76 and they lived on farms, and in small towns and fairly large cities.

They rated the health topics of greatest concern to them, and they provided many thoughtful, helpful comments. They told us that cancer (especially colon), high blood pressure, heart disease, overweight, stress and prostate health were their top issues of concern. They wanted to know about nutritional needs of men, fitness, and quick, healthful snacks and recipes, among many other things.

They told us that professionals were their preferred place to get health information, followed by a spouse/significant other and websites. They liked face-to-face conversations the best, but classes and handouts were other ways they liked to learn.

I suppose my colleagues and I could have stopped there and published a research paper. But we didn’t stop with the research. In the extension system, research guides what we do. We created fact sheets, a card game, displays and a bingo game. We sought men’s input on a graphic to use on all the pieces. (It looks like a wrench, by the way.)

In January 2018, we released a new program, “Healthwise for Guys,” which includes a website with fact sheets covering the topics men requested and much more. The program has easy-to-make recipes tested by my six interns studying to be dietitians. The website also includes links to a wide range of research-based health information. The fact sheets are printable in case you prefer that format. Our initial focus is on cancer (including skin, colon and prostate).

We invite all of you — regardless of gender —to explore the brand new Healthwise for Guys website, which will grow through time. As a leading source of health information, spouses or significant others need to arm themselves with accurate content for these important face-to-face conversations with all the men in their lives.

Visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/healthwiseforguys for information and links, and stay tuned for local offerings of health-related presentations and interactive displays offered by many extension county offices. The link to “More Health Information” takes you to a wide range of nutrition and physical activity information from the NDSU Extension Service.

So, gentlemen, what are some ways to keep your body running smoothly? Fill it with premium fuel, such as whole grains, lean protein, calcium-rich foods and beverages, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Get regular checkups, too.

Here’s one of the easy-to-make recipes from the fact sheet about colon cancer. It’s a good source of fibre from the black-eyed peas and black beans.


Southwest Bean Dip

  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1/3 c. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 lb. Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 (15-oz.) can black-eyed peas
  • 1 (15-oz.) can black beans
  • 2 c. frozen corn
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 c. green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 c. red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 c. cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. sugar (or less, to taste)

Drain and rinse beans. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar and chili powder. Add tomatoes, black-eyed peas, beans, corn, red onion and bell peppers. Stir to combine. Stir in cilantro. Cover and chill at least one hour or overnight to blend flavours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 140 calories, 8 grams (g) fat, 4 g protein, 16 g carbohydrate, 4 g fibre and 50 milligrams sodium.

This easy-to-make recipe is a good source of fiber.
photo: NDSU

About the author

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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