Father's Day is Sunday and I'm not going to sugar-coat it: our dad's are not doing well. They're fat and they're dying because of it. According to the American Heart Association, about 75 percent of adult men are overweight, and about half of those are obese. More than one in three adult men has some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In 2008, CVD caused the deaths of 392,210 males in this country, making it by far the leading killer of American men, and cancer caused 295,295 more. On top of that, 13 million adult men in this country have diabetes. The evidence gets more convincing every day that poor diet and the resulting excess pounds are directly linked to ailments like CVD, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Faced with these facts, do you still think taking your dad out for that steak dinner or sloppy ice cream sundae is the best way to show him you love him this Father's Day?
Listen. I live in the real world. I know men love food, and not bird food at that. Hell, my own father is an admitted hot dog junkie -- a fact that regularly haunts my most frightening nightmares. But on Father's Day, we have a chance to give our dads something that shows we care about their long-term health. We don't have to play into their self-destructive food tendencies. I mean, I for one will not be giving my dad a cornucopia of Oscar Mayer wieners this Sunday. Sorry to spoil the surprise dad, but you're getting spirulina and exercise equipment.
Instead, we can use the holiday as an opportunity to inspire our daddies to live healthier this year, so that we have a better chance of keeping them around for the next one. Here are a few health promoting gifts to consider handing your dad this weekend, in lieu of a bouquet of beef jerky or an Outback gift card.
1. Good Greens Bars - $30 for a box of 12
For the dad who's always on the go -- and who loves to use that as an excuse to eat a bunch of junk -- these superfood-stuffed bars are the perfect way to infuse a dose of health that actually tastes good. Made by an emerging company based in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Good Greens contain a blend of 52 superfoods, including wheatgrass, green tea, barley grass, and acai, plus brown rice protein powder for sustained fullness and probiotics to aid digestion. Flavors options include chocolate peanut butter, chocolate coconut, and chocolate raspberry, or for the dad who's blender literate, you can buy the superfood blend in shake-ready powder form. (If you order from Amazon, they cost less and you can get cheap rush delivery so they'll arrive at Dad's house on Saturday.)
2. A Subscription to Nutrition Action - $20
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been an advocate for American health for the past 40 years. They publish an excellent health newsletter that keeps readers abreast of all the latest findings in nutritional science, from disease prevention to memory preservation and the best foods for your waistline. One of my favorite highlights is the "Right Stuff" and "Food Porn" ratings at the back of the book, which feature the best foods on the market (mini sweet peppers, for example) alongside the absolute worst foods ever created (Tony's frozen macaroni and cheese pizza, et al.), accompanied by the uplifting or depressing nutritional stats on each. The newsletter accepts no advertising, and so serves as a great, unbiased launch point from which dad can start focusing on healthful food choices.
3. A Massage - $100
No, you don't have to knead your dad's hairy back with your own bare hands, but you can buy him a gift certificate good for one round in the hands of a capable local masseuse. Massage has many therapeutic properties, including easing arthritis, lower back pain, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, circulatory problems, and recovery from muscle soreness. Its healing properties are so strong that it's even used in cancer treatment. If your dad is the no-nonsense type and you suspect he would never in a million years buy himself a massage, all the more reason to open up his world to a means of pleasure that doesn't involve gorging himself on salty fatty sugary fried things.
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4. A Kettlebell - $40
Kettlebells are so manly. With their roughly round black exteriors and protruding handles, they kind of look like bombs, which will please the deeply buried GI Joe-loving little boy in any dad. And they're a piece of exercise equipment that is ridiculously effective, compact, and freaking fun to use. Swinging a kettlebell through the air has a very primal feel to it, and if you buy one for your dad this week, he can use it to burn hundreds of calories during his designated TV time. If you don't know how to instruct him on technique, you may want to look for a kettlebell that comes with a DVD, like this Bob Harper model, so he doesn't throw out his back or send the thing through the drywall. The recommended weight for men who are beginning in the sport is 12 kg (26 pounds).
5. A Weekly Share of Local Organic Produce - $20-45/week, $1,040-2,340/year
If you want your dad to eat more vegetables, this gift is a not-so-subtle way to encourage him in that direction. In Miami we have several organic and local produce delivery clubs, including Annie's Organics and Farm Fresh Miami, which deliver to convenient pickup locations on a weekly basis. By streamlining the labor and transport process, these buying clubs typically save you at least 25% off the price of organic produce at the grocery store. Commitment-phobes and broke college students, fret not - you don't have to foot daddy's vegetable bill for a full year; you can sign him on just for a few weeks or a month to kick his healthy eating habits into gear.
You can choose weekly or bi-weekly deliveries, and then either drop off the goods to dad yourself or remind the old man to go pick up his greens when they arrive. One of Annie's recent shares ($45) included: red seedless grapes, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, baby bok choy, sweet mini peppers, eggplant, crimini mushrooms, slicing tomatoes, watercress, broccolini, sugar snap peas, zucchini, a salad mix of baby bok choy leaves, baby red chard, tango, mizuna, baby arugula, baby spinach, baby green chard, baby green romaine, baby green oak leaf lettuce, and butternut squash. Annie's offers several options for different produce preferences, including berry lovers, juice heads (vegetable juice heads, that is), and herb enthusiasts.