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HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition

Raw or cooked produce: What’s healthier?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn when you should turn the flame up—or down—on your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Many raw fruits and vegetables are tasty, low in calories and fat, and high in fiber. And eating them might help you feel fuller and consume less, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. However, some cooked produce can be just as delicious—and even more nutritious.

Many cooked fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes, corn, spinach, carrots, and asparagus) provide more antioxidants, which protect cells and help your body function properly. For example, cooked tomatoes and asparagus release vitamin-rich lycopene, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. And cooked spinach provides greater amounts of calcium, iron, and fiber.

However, broccoli is best eaten raw because myrosinase, a valuable enzyme, is damaged during the cooking process. Vitamin C can be lost during cooking too. But you can find it in citrus and other foods. In the warmer months, eating raw produce can save time as well as keep your kitchen cooler since you won’t be cooking! Still, raw fruits and vegetables might be hard to find when you’re on a mission or in a smaller dining facility. So instead, choose from what’s offered—whether it’s dried, canned, frozen, or dehydrated.

Try to include a variety of produce in your meal plan, aiming for 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of veggies each day. Choose fruits and vegetables from the rainbow of colors (red, blue/purple, green, yellow, orange, and white) to maximize nutrient intake. Eat both cooked and raw varieties to make sure you’re getting nutrients, antioxidants, and more. For example, eat raw carrot sticks one day and cook them on a different day. And enjoy the benefit of obtaining all that nature intended to provide!

What’s in your smoothie?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Before you whip up or grab your next smoothie, make sure it’s got “the right stuff” to meet your nutritional needs.

What role does a smoothie play in your meal plan: meal, snack, or post-workout fuel? If it’s a meal-replacement, then choose one that includes dairy, some fruit, and maybe vegetables. Is it a snack? Then go lighter and pick one with fruits, vegetables, and ice. And if you’re replenishing fuel after your workout, then make sure your smoothie includes protein—and choose the protein source wisely.

Make them quickly: Just dump your ingredients into a blender, hit start, and blend to desired consistency. That’s it! They can include any combination of fruits—such as berries, cherries, apples, melons, bananas, and grapes—and vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and cucumbers). Try freezing some ingredients for an icier drink. You also can use frozen bags of smoothie ingredients, saving time and decision-making. But avoid adding juice because it contains little (or no) fiber and extra calories.

There are many protein options too. Milk (dairy or nondairy) and plain (or Greek) yogurt also provide calcium. Nut butters can be flavorful as well. But remember 2 tablespoons add an extra 200 calories.

Choosing ready-to-drink dairy or juice smoothies? Some contain added sugar, and others with mostly apple juice aren’t as nutrient-dense as ones made with other fruits and vegetables. And check the Nutrition Facts panel because some bottles contain two (or more) servings. This is especially important because you’ll want to get the proper nutrients without going over your daily calorie needs.

Tip: Try a refreshing blend that includes 1 cup watermelon, ½ cup strawberries, 4 ice cubes, and ½ tsp lemon juice. Make sure to experiment with multiple combinations and flavors, and include more fruits and vegetables! And read HPRC’s FAQ about juicing to learn more. 

Saluting fathers on Father’s Day

Learn how dads help their children become stronger, healthier, and more resilient.

This Father’s Day, HPRC salutes the many fathers who serve their country, families, and children. Dads play an essential role in families because they teach their kids about being healthy, smart, and kind. And it makes a difference.

So how do fathers teach their kids to become good people? Some dads help their children tune in to their own emotions as well as what others are thinking and feeling. Empathic kids are able to tolerate some degree of anger and guilt. And they use these emotions to look out for themselves and others.

School-age children with involved fathers are more likely to earn better grades and enjoy school. Dads can get more involved by helping their kids with homework and attending school events. Ask your kids about what they’re learning and help foster that curiosity.

Try to volunteer when your schedule allows it too. Coach your child’s sports team or serve as a scout leader. Pick whatever activity he or she enjoys—and your athlete or “mathlete” will shine.

Dads also can help put the fun in family fitness. Organize a bike ride, challenging hike, or fun day at the pool. Fathers with healthy-exercise habits help motivate their kids to be physically fit and active.

Remember to teach your children how to fuel their bodies. Set a good example for your kids to follow. Choose healthy snacks and drinks often because your kids are likely to eat and drink “what Dad’s having.” And ask them to help create your favorite salsa, pancakes, and chili in the kitchen. Make sure to involve the entire family during cleanup too.

Fathers near and far: Thanks for all you do! 

The “new” Nutrition Facts panel

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
The Nutrition Facts panel for packaged food labels is getting an update! It’s easier to read and can help you make more-informed decisions when choosing foods.

The Food and Drug Administration just unveiled an updated Nutrition Facts panel, which is easier to read and reflects the 2015–2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Recently revised after 20 years, this new format must appear on all packaged foods by July 2018 (with some exceptions). These are the facts to know:

  • Highlighted calories, servings per container, and serving sizes. This information is larger and bold, making it easier to find at a glance.
  • Vitamin D and potassium. These are now listed, since many Americans don’t get enough of these important minerals. Vitamin D maintains bone health, and potassium can help reduce blood pressure. Vitamins A and C are no longer included since deficiencies of these are rare.
  • Added sugars. “Total Sugars” includes what’s added and what’s naturally occurring (but with “Added Sugars” also noted separately). This new information is especially important for those who are managing their nutritional needs and limiting their calories to less than 10% from added sugars.
  • Updated “Serving size.” These now match what people typically eat or drink. For example, a single serving of soda might be 12 or 20 oz., depending on the packaging.
  • Clearer footnote. The footnote better explains what “% Daily Value” means.
  • Multiple serving sizes. Some packages, such as a pint of ice cream, include two columns: “per serving” and “per package.” This makes it easier to choose whether to eat or drink one serving—or the entire package—at one time.

Watch for the new Nutrition Facts panel to appear on your favorite packages soon. In the meantime, you can view it below.

Thumbnail for May 2016 Nutrition Facts Label

“Smart snacking” for kids

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
In the past 25 years, young children have greatly increased the number of snacks they consume. Try these “smart snacking” tips to help keep your kids healthy.

Almost 1 in 3 children starts school either overweight or obese—but giving healthy snacks to your preschoolers can get them off to a good start. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends healthy snacks as part of early childhood nutrition, especially since younger kids have small stomachs and might not be able to get all their nutrients at mealtime.

Over half of children ages 2–6 eat 3–5 snacks daily. Sweet and salty snacks (including sugary drinks) make up nearly 30% of their daily calories. These energy-dense foods also are linked to excess weight gain.

But there are ways to get the proper nutrients into their little bodies without going over their daily calorie needs. 2–3 healthful snacks can be just the ticket. Here are some helpful hints for “smart snacking.”

  • Think food groups. Many traditional snacks are carb-based with little nutrition and empty calories. Include 2 food groups per snack, such as whole-grain cereal with dried fruit, peanut butter on apple slices, plain yogurt with chopped fruit, or nut butter on whole-wheat bread or cracker.
  • Fill in the gaps. Young children can be picky eaters, especially at mealtime. Eating a snack in-between—such as fruit, vegetable, or protein (for example, chicken, egg, or nut butter)—can make up for what they’ve missed.
  • Timing is important. Limit snack time to 10–15 minutes to prevent overeating. And avoid eating too close to mealtime.
  • Portion size matters. Kids are small so their portions should be too. Limit portion sizes to half of adult ones, except they’ll still need about 2–2½ cups of dairy daily.
  • Think easy access. Store healthy-snack portions in baggies or containers at home. Take them on the go too!

Visit HPRC’s Family Nutrition page for helpful resources on nutrition, healthy recipes, and more.

Giving a speech? "Fuel" properly.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Planning to give a speech or presentation? Learn some valuable nutrition tips to help.

“Fueling” your body with good nutrition can help calm your nerves—and your stomach—before giving your next speech or presentation. Try these tips to help prepare for the challenge.

  • Be mindful of what you drink. Avoid carbonated drinks that could cause bloating or gas. Don’t drink alcohol thinking it could calm your nerves—as it could backfire badly. And the jury’s still out on whether drinking dairy causes phlegm and should be avoided before a speaking engagement. Tip: Drink cool or room-temperature water. Or a warm beverage such as tea with honey to help soothe your throat.
  • Be mindful of what you eat. Eating fatty and/or sugary foods won’t provide staying power to help you feel your best. Avoid spicy foods that could cause stomach upset, especially if you’re already experiencing nervousness. And eating a heavy meal can make you sleepy. Tip: Eat something light such as lean protein and/or healthy carbohydrates to boost your energy.

Don’t skip drinking and eating due to nerves. You could be experiencing some of the same adrenaline hormones as when you participate in athletic events.

HPRC’s Going the Distance section offers helpful nutrition tips to prepare for endurance events. Use some of these strategies to stay fueled during “speech time” too.

Fueling up for the PFT/PRT

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Physical Fitness
Getting ready for your PRT/PFT? Check out these tips that can help you pass with flying colors!

One of the best but most-overlooked ways to prepare for your Physical Fitness (PFT) or Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) is to make sure your body is well fueled. Proper fuel and a good workout strategy can get you ready to take on the challenge!

  • Keep hydrated. Drinking enough fluids will help your body function at its highest level. These amounts can vary depending on weather and location. Don’t restrict drinking water because you’re worried about weigh-in. This can backfire at test time.
  • Eat something light. You’ll need enough fuel to perform well, but too much can slow you down. Proper fuel should come from a high-carbohydrate source about 200–300 calories such as cereal, fruit, and milk. Or a slice of whole-wheat bread with egg or nut butter. Yogurt and fruit are nourishing pre-test snacks too. And try to eat 30–60 minutes before your PFT/PRT, if possible.
  • Avoid trying new foods. Try new bars, chews, gels, or other foods during training, but not before your test because you could experience gastrointestinal upset. Give yourself time to use the bathroom before too.

HPRC also offers good advice to help set your workout plan in place. Keep your body strong, fueled, and hydrated—and perform your best!

Turning mealtime into “family time”

After a long workday, you might consider forgoing a family meal. Instead, combine plan-ahead tips with simple time-saving recipes. Add your loved ones to the mix and enjoy!

Mealtime can be enjoyable “family time” too, especially when you plan ahead and ask family members to “pitch in.” Kids like being helpful so let them know they’re vital members of your “family team.”

Many moms and dads recognize the importance of family mealtimes, but often want helpful ideas to make it “the norm.” Here are some tried-and-true tips to get you started. Add these to your family’s routine gradually. And add new tips whenever possible. Read more...

Celebrate Mother’s Day

Filed under: Family, Relationships
Celebrate Mother’s Day wherever you’re serving—at home or abroad.

Mother’s Day is set aside to honor mothers, but for service members who can’t celebrate with their moms or who can’t take time to celebrate being a mom, it can be hard. But still do your best to take time and recognize the special moms in your life.

  • Show your appreciation with a handwritten note or ecard. If you’re feeling creative, make a card from scratch—just like you did as a kid—and drop it in the mail.
  • Enjoy a physical activity together. Go walking, running, biking, hiking, or do yoga. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, together or apart, can help you both enjoy Mother’s Day in the future too.
  • Nourish your mom with healthy treats or a homemade meal. And consider inviting a mom who doesn’t have family nearby. Good food and conversation can make her day special too.

If you can’t be with your mom, then schedule a time to talk or video chat. Let her know how much you cherish your relationship. And ask any questions you might have wondered about, such as:

  • How are we alike or different?
  • What did you really think when I joined the military (or married someone in the military)?
  • Is it easier being a mother now that your kids are grown?
  • What do you hope the next few years will bring for our family?

If you’re feeling some sadness or anxiety, make a point to manage your stress. “Perfect” moms and/or children could evoke stress, even if you love them dearly. Consider mindfulness or other ways to cope, and make the best of this day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all military moms—service members, spouses, and mothers of service members!

Ketogenic diet and performance enhancement

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
What’s a ketogenic diet? Can it really help you perform better?

A ketogenic diet (KD) is one that’s very high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. Traditionally, KDs have been used to help treat children with epilepsy (seizure disorder), but over the past few years they have gained popularity in the athletic community for purported performance-enhancing effects. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the use of KDs to improve performance; in some cases, it can even decrease performance. It also can be difficult to maintain a ketogenic diet due to its extreme dietary constrictions, which come with potential negative side effects. Read more...

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