Instinctively, we all seem to think that there is a difference between the kind of food men and women crave. But is there really a difference? And is there a difference in what types of food each gender should be eating? In an attempt to get a clearer idea of people’s eating habits, I reached out to some research of my own. Now, to address certain expectation, I am being far from scientific in my evaluation of eating habits, and my results are not at all statistically relevant. These observations are just made based on articles I have read and friends and family that I have talked to, and of course my friends and family may have very different habits from you or your friends and family. To be honest, some of what I read and was told is stereotypical male/female behavior, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be true. On the other hand, some of the research I found was very interesting, and nothing I have heard discussed before.
Differences in Cravings
A number of people confirmed the stereotype that men crave meat. Actually, when I was pregnant with my son, I began craving beef, which meant I had a very happy husband during those months. He found it very romantic when I’d say, “Let’s go out for steak tonight!” especially because under normal circumstances I’m more of a chicken and pasta person. When I was telling a friend about my cravings, she instantly said that I must be having a boy, and later that day from my 20-week ultrasound, it was indeed confirmed that my baby was a little male.
Another stereotype that my friends and family seemed to confirm is that women crave more sweets than men. I know that is true in my household, although for us, my husband actually likes more variety dessert foods. I’m a chocolate girl. If it doesn’t have chocolate, It doesn’t count as dessert. My husband appreciates fruit pies and cheesecakes in ways that I can’t, and you will never hear me say that something is “too chocolaty” although that is a frequent sentiment of his.
Interestingly enough, one of the articles I read about on About.com had an explanation for these cravings. According to the writer, Jennifer R.Scott, people crave comfort foods that put them in a positive psychological state. For men, this translates to a craving for comfort foods similar to meals prepared for them by their mothers, like meat and potatoes. For women, who, in general, aren’t as accustomed to having meals prepared for them, this means pre-packaged and easy to prepare foods, like chocolate and candy.
An article in the Huffington Post suggests that we are hard-wired to crave high-calorie foods based on evolution. In pre-historic times, calories were in high demand, so it makes sense that our bodies are filled with “happy hormones” like dopamine and serotonin when eating these foods. According to the article, our “survival instinct forces us to compensate for perceived lack of resources, even if one doesn’t exist.” Meaning, we may be biologically programmed to crave comfort foods when we are feeling down or stressed.
Differences in needs
According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, the most important dietary rule for men and women is a healthy, balanced diet. The differences tend to lie in the “fine print”:
- Men need more fiber than women.
- The vegetable omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in canola oil and flaxseed oil, is not good for the prostate, so should be limited in men.
- while excess alcohol is not good for either sex, even low doses of alcohol can raise the risk of breast cancer in women.
- Calcium is important to help fight osteoporosis, which is more prevalent in women, although men can also be affected. Large amounts of calcium though, have been linked to prostate cancer, so men should moderate their calcium intake.
- Women need more iron than men since they lose iron during their monthly menstrual cycle.
One of the biggest differences my friends and family cited was portion size. Men tend to eat larger portions than women. This can mostly be explained by size difference. Men tend to be larger than women, so they need more calories to maintain their energy levels.
I wake up starving and want to eat immediately, and he doesn’t understand what the big deal is. I’m not actually sure if this one is male/female thing or more based on the way we grew up. My mother-in-law doesn’t often eat breakfast either, which is partly where my husband gets it from. His other reason is that he prefers sleep over breakfast.
Overall, it doesn’t seem impossible to plan a healthy, balanced meal that can appeal to both sexes. In fact, most of the dietary requirements are the same for both men and women, apart from a few that experts have called the “fine print” of diets. And just because one gender doesn’t crave something the same way another may, doesn’t have to mean they can’t appreciate the meal that has been prepared.