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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition

Summertime food safety

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Food, Safety, Summer
Don’t let germs spoil your summer get-togethers. Try these tips to help keep your outdoor meals safe.

Picnics and barbecues are just around the corner, so be mindful of food safety as you soak up the summer sun and fun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates one in 6 Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses, including those associated with poorly cooked or stored foods in hot environments. Still, there are ways to keep your favorite foods safe—and your friends and loved ones healthy—this summer.

  • Keep it clean. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling uncooked eggs or raw meat, poultry, and seafood (and their juices). To prevent cross-contamination, wash utensils and cutting boards with hot, soapy water after food prep too. Tip: Fill a spray bottle with 1 Tbsp chlorine bleach and water, and use it to sanitize your countertops and other food-prep surfaces.
  • Cool it. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, not on the countertop. Safely marinate your meats, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator until it’s time to cook. Don’t reuse marinade, and don’t serve it with cooked foods.
  • Cook foods thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check for doneness. Make sure cooked foods have reached a safe internal temperature:
    • Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb (steaks, roasts, and chops)—145°F
    • Fresh fish—145°F
    • Ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb (burgers and sausages)—160°F
    • All poultry and pre-cooked meats (such as hot dogs)—165°F
  • Refrigerate your leftovers. Chill your foods to stop the growth of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Refrigerate items within 2 hours of cooking or 1 hour if the outside temperature is at or above 90°F. Tip: If you’re outside, keep things chilled at 40°F or less in a cooler, or place them directly on ice.

To boost your “BBQ IQ,” visit the CDC webpage.

Posted 22 May 2017

Watch out for “hidden” sugars

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn about “added” sugars that can be hiding in some of your favorite foods.

Nearly everyone enjoys sweet treats, but keep a lookout for hidden sources of sugar in some packaged or even “healthy” foods, especially if you’re watching your sugar intake.

Some sugars occur naturally in fruits (fructose) and milk products (lactose). However, other sugars are added to foods and drinks during preparation, processing, or at your table. These include natural sugars (such as honey) and processed sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup). Foods with added sugars include ice cream, some yogurts, baked goods, breakfast cereals, punches, and some sodas and energy drinks. Consuming foods and drinks with added sugars can increase your risk of tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. So it’s important to limit your intake of foods and drinks with added sugars when possible.

Check food labels for hidden sources of sugar too. The Nutrition Facts panel was recently updated to include “added” sugars, and the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting them to no more than 10% of your calories per day. So try to limit your intake of foods and drinks with anhydrous dextrose, brown rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, malt syrup, maltose, maple or pancake syrup, molasses, honey, glucose, lactose, fruit nectars, brown sugar, sucrose, and sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, and mannitol. Still, there are ways to help reduce your “added” sugar intake and boost nutrition as well.

  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruits that contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Try fresh or dried bananas, apples, or berries. Or choose fruits canned in 100% juice.
  • Limit sugar at your table. Add small amounts of sugar to your oatmeal, coffee, or tea. Or skip the syrup and top your whole-grain pancakes and waffles with fresh fruit.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Instead, try fresh or sparkling water flavored with sliced oranges or strawberries.

Visit the MedlinePlus page to learn more about sugar.

Posted 15 May 2017

Event-day nutrition strategies to excel

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Get nutrition guidance for a successful endurance event or competition. Learn how to fuel before, during, and after an event for optimal performance.

Whether you’re training for a ruck, doing mission-specific training, or competing in a marathon, you should be confident you have done everything you possibly could to prepare for this day. Hopefully, you have followed good basic guidelines for eating well-balanced meals, and you’ve consumed enough carbohydrates and protein during training, as discussed in “Daily nutrition strategies for endurance.” This second article looks at event-day nutritional strategies and event-specific preparation and follow-up to give you a performance edge. Read more...

The scoop on probiotic and prebiotic foods

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn how foods with probiotics and prebiotics might boost your digestive health.

Eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics might aid your digestion, so try to include them in your healthy-eating plan. Probiotics are live microorganisms (such as bacteria) similar to the healthy bacteria that live in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of “good” bacteria in your GI tract. Eating foods with prebiotics might improve your digestive health and enhance calcium absorption too.

Some research shows two strains—Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium—seem to offer the greatest benefits. Both can be found in probiotic foods such as kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, miso (a soybean product), kimchi, and some yogurts and cheeses. Eating these foods might help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics and infections. They also might provide relief from symptoms associated with constipation, colds, allergies, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Prebiotic foods include bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, and whole grains. Top your yogurt with bananas or add asparagus to your miso soup to boost the mutual benefits of prebiotics and probiotics.

Probiotics can be found in certain dietary supplements and some skin creams too. However, the jury’s still out on whether they’re safe for long-term use, especially for people who have been diagnosed with weakened immune systems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also hasn’t approved any health claims for probiotics, so check with your healthcare provider about possible risks and side effects.

The greatest benefits from eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics occur when they’re part of a diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat sources of dairy and protein. For more information about probiotics, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health's web page.

Posted 01 May 2017

Daily nutrition strategies for endurance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Get endurance-athlete nutrition tips to feel more energized and recovered daily; ways to adjust your nutrition for easy verse hard training days.

Many people only think about performance nutrition in terms of what to eat just before or after a competition. However, the effect of nutrition on your training and performance starts long before. Performance nutrition really begins during training, when you consistently fuel your body with the proper amounts and kinds of calories and nutrients. The nutrition information in this article is meant to provide a solid foundation to help you train for sporting events, military operations, training events, or rucks lasting longer than 60 minutes. Read more...

To salt or not to salt?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, Sodium
Learn how to reduce your sodium intake for better health and wellness.

Sodium—found in table salt, kosher salt, and most sea salts—is an essential mineral your body uses to control blood pressure, help your muscles and nerves work properly, and balance fluids. However, it’s important to watch your sodium intake because it can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

On average, Americans (ages 1 and older) consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium every day, mostly in the form of salt. But the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day—roughly the amount in one teaspoon of table salt. The Guidelines also recommend that those who are “salt-sensitive”—older adults, African Americans, and people with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease—limit their sodium intake to about 1,500 mg per day.

Most Americans get more than 75% of their sodium from prepared and processed foods, including tomato sauce, soups, gravies, canned foods, bread, frozen pizzas, snack foods, and salad dressings. Sodium adds flavor and helps preserve prepared foods. It enhances food color and gives it a firmer texture too. Many restaurant foods also are high in sodium, but you can choose low-sodium items when they’re available.

What’s the best way to reduce your sodium intake?

  • Eat whole foods such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish, unsalted nuts and seeds, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts panel on all packaged-food labels to compare sodium amounts in foods and drinks.
  • Choose low-sodium, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added products whenever possible.

Check with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian about whether you need to reduce your salt intake. To learn more about how to reduce sodium in your diet, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page.

Posted 17 April 2017

Understanding nutrition’s “alphabet soup”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Getting good nutrition is complicated enough without all the abbreviations you see on labels and in articles. Learn about a few key nutrition-related acronyms and their meanings.

If you’re trying to understand the labels on food packaging or articles about nutrition, you might wonder about some of the terms and abbreviations you come across. The “alphabet soup” of acronyms can be confusing, but this article might help.

Nutrition experts at the Institute of Medicine—or IOM—of the National Academies of Sciences developed the Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRI, based on extensive statistics. The following terms and acronyms are from these guidelines.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of a nutrient is the daily amount that essentially all healthy people need, depending on life stage and gender. For example, the RDAs of some nutrients (such as vitamin C) for a 13-year-old boy are very different from those for a 25-year-old pregnant woman. It isn’t always the same as the Daily Value (DV) you see on food labels, but it’s usually close.

The Adequate Intake (AI) is the adequate daily amounts of a nutrient that healthy people of a particular life stage or gender need. AIs are given when there isn’t enough scientific evidence for a stronger recommendation, that is, an RDA. For example, IOM suggests an AI for one type of omega-3 fatty acids—alpha linoleic acid—of 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 grams per day for women because scientists don’t know yet how much is optimal.

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) are the highest daily amounts of nutrients that you can consume without risk of toxicity. Many vitamins and minerals—even essential ones—can be toxic when consumed in excess. For example, because too much vitamin A can cause liver damage, a UL has been established for this essential nutrient.

You generally can meet all your daily nutrient intake goals (RDAs and AIs) by following a healthy diet that includes lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. So try to remember to get your RDAs and AIs every day, but don’t exceed the ULs!

Updated 10 April 2017

How to equip your kitchen for cooking

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn what you need to equip your kitchen for everyday cooking.

By cooking and eating at home, you’ll save money and prepare healthier meals, but it means you need the right tools. You can pick up kitchen basics from yard sales or thrift stores, family donations, or even when friends or neighbors downsize.

You can purchase all the kitchen basics for roughly $200–300, but compare that to the amount you might spend each year on eating out. Your pieces don’t need to be lavish or color-coordinated, only functional. Remember: Each cook and kitchen are different, so make your choices based on your habits, needs, and space. Read more...

How to gauge food portion sizes

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Keeping portion sizes in check is key to managing your weight. Learn how to use your hand as a guide.

One of the most important things you can do to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to become aware of “portion sizes.” That refers to the actual amount of food you eat at a single time. It isn’t necessarily the same as the “serving size” that you see on a food label, but especially if you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to compare. In any case, it isn’t always practical to use a measuring cup when you’re dishing up a plate of food or spreading peanut butter on your toast.

A more realistic way to gauge your portion sizes is to “eyeball” them—that is, to visually compare your food portions to a familiar frame of reference. The graphic below uses your hand as your guide to keep portion sizes in check. Of course, your hand might be larger or smaller than someone else’s, but your hand size generally equates to your body size and, as a result, your portion needs. What’s more, it’s one measuring device you’ll always have on hand.

Your handy guide to portion sizes: Your fist about equals a one-cup serving of milk or raw vegetables. Your thumb about equals one 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter or salad dressing. Your cupped palm about equals one half-cup serving of cooked fruit, vegetables, beans, or starch. Your thumbnail about equals a one-teaspoon serving of butter or margarine. And your open palm about equals one 3-ounce serving of cooked meat, fish, or poultry.

Energize your day with Go for Green®

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Go For Green®
Learn how Go for Green® can take your performance to the next level.

Is what you’re eating helping or hindering your performance? If you’re feeling low in energy, underperforming in the gym, or struggling through your workday, then choose better “fuel.” Go for Green® (G4G) makes it easy to find high-performance foods and beverages to boost your fitness, strength, and health. Look for DoD’s revised G4G initiative in your dining facility or galley to help make nutritious choices that fuel your body and mind, optimizing your energy and performance.

G4G labels foods and beverages with a stoplight system—Green, Yellow, and Red—to identify your best choices for peak performance. Foods are labeled with Low, Moderate, or High sodium symbols to point out sodium content too. Use these tips to build your energy-boosting plate:

  • Aim to fill half your plate with Green-coded foods. You can find healthy, Green-coded choices in every food group: grains, fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables, and dairy.
  • Eat consistently to keep your energy up. For best results, include Green-coded foods and drinks with every meal and snack—and stick to a schedule when possible.
  • Make nutrient-rich foods the easy choice at home and work. You’re more likely to eat what’s easily available, so choose foods that make you want to get up and go. Stock your fridge with Green-coded items, fill your kitchen cabinets with minimally processed foods, and keep a stash of healthy snacks in your desk drawer.

Learn more by visiting HPRC’s G4G section. Make sure to like G4G on Facebook! Connect with the G4G team, share your stories, and post pictures showing how you “Go for Green” using #getgotg4g.

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