A Balanced Diet for Men in Their 20’s

From eating more nutrient-rich foods to moderating portion sizes, the fundamentals of a healthy diet for men in their 20s help to fuel the body, fight off disease, and optimize overall well-being!

A Balanced, Healthy Diet for Men in Their 20’s

Calorie Needs

While calories are not the true tale of a balanced diet, they are an important consideration to provide the body with the right energy it needs to maintain a healthy weight, lose, or gain it.

Calorie needs depend on your height, weight and activity level. But since men have more muscle and are typically bigger than women, they require more calories throughout the day. According to this chart provided by USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, men in their 20s need approximately 2,600 to 3,000 calories daily.

These calorie needs are suggestions and men should consult with a primary care provider to help determine specific calorie ranges to meet personal needs and goals.

Whole Grains

Men should make half their grains whole grains, such as whole-grain breads and pastas, brown rice, oats, and barley, and reduce the intake of refined grain products. Whole grains and associated products contain wholesome vitamins, minerals, and fiber that white and processed foods generally lack.

Choose MyPlate encourages a daily recommendation of 8-ounces of whole grains, with 4-ounces identified as the minimum. In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal are considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Grains Group.

Furthermore, younger men are encouraged to consume at least 38 grams of fiber daily, which helps support bowel health, decrease heart disease risk, defend against certain forms of cancer, and manage weight.

Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and veggies are essential to men’s health, as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. At least five servings of fresh produce should be included in the daily diet, which is further broken down into the following fruit and vegetable needs:

  • Fruit: Include at least two cups of fruit in the diet, particularly fresh fruit over juices for added fiber
  • Veggies: At least three cups of veggies per day, along with offering variety from dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables.

Lean and Plant-Based Proteins

Like calorie needs, protein requirements tend to increase to support their increased body size, higher percentage of muscle mass, and greater testosterone levels.

Whereas protein recommendations vary based on the actual muscle mass percentage and activity levels, the dietary reference intake (DRI) for males is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, along with Choose MyPlate recommending men aged 19 to 30 should consume 6 ½ ounce meat equivalents daily.

Whereas men require additional protein to support their greater muscle mass, they oftentimes overestimate just how much they need, as muscles are essentially only capable of absorbing an approximate 30 grams of protein during each meal.

Men also tend to be avid meat-eaters because of the perception that more protein equals more muscle mass, which really is unnecessary unless exercise is involved, and excessive process and red meat is linked to heart disease and colorectal cancer.

Although red meat can fit into a well-balanced diet, also include other lean and plant-based sources, including chicken, fish, beans, lentils, tempeh, and tofu.

Dairy Products

Including dairy in the diet offers naturally-occurring carbs, protein, and micronutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, supportive of bone health.

Men in their 20s are encouraged to consume three cups of dairy daily, along with obtaining at least 1,000 mg of calcium and 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D daily to support bone health.

Milk, soymilk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and part-skim cheese are options to put in rotation.


Including at least two to three servings of fish per week offers valuable protein and healthy fat.

Also include at least a weekly serving of fatty fish, including anchovy, tuna, herring, rainbow trout, and halibut, to obtain omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3s have shown considerable worth in supporting heart, brain, and mental health. 


While oils are not a food group, certain types deserve recognition. More specifically, a Mediterranean-style diet stresses the importance of olive and canola oils, as they are loaded with monounsaturated fats and shown to quite beneficial to overall health, including diabetes management and heart disease reduction.

Furthermore, a number of foods are naturally suppliers of oils, including avocados, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds. Along with reducing the intake of butter, margarine, and the high-fat sweets and snacks they often comprise, men are encouraged to consume seven teaspoons of these healthier oils.


Along with the general 64-ounce daily water recommendation, the adequate intake (AI) for men is 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluid each day.

Ultimately, make water your drink of choice than other routine options, including soda, energy and sports drinks. Men are also encouraged to drink no more than two servings of alcoholic beverages on a daily basis.

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