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HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
Not all birth defects can be prevented, but a pregnant woman can increase her chances of having a healthy baby by eating well and avoiding infections that could impact her health and her baby’s health. You can lower your risk by following these practices:
Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands often. Be especially diligent when preparing food and before eating. Wash your hands after handling any raw foods, but especially meat, eggs, and produce.
Food choices are critical. Make sure to get 400 mcg of folic acid daily by either taking a supplement or eating a fortified breakfast cereal. (Ideally, all women should be ingesting this amount.) Be sure to avoid raw fish, raw milk and cheeses, and raw sprouts. If you have kids, take care not to share their food or drinks. Avoid putting your child’s pacifier in your mouth because many children have the cytomegalovirus, which is transmitted through body fluids such as saliva. Be sure to stay well hydrated, preferably with water, as it can help fight off infections.
It’s also important to see a healthcare provider early on and throughout your pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy includes controlling your weight by eating healthfully and being active. To learn more about National Birth Defects Prevention Month, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page. And for more nutrition information for maintaining a healthy pregnancy, visit HPRC’s FAQs about nutrition during pregnancy.
If you’re wondering how to talk with your partner about his or her weight, resist the urge to control or criticize. Instead, express genuine concern, and focus on healthy, sustainable changes that you can make together.
Couples typically share similar values and engage in activities together, so you’re more likely to impact each other’s health habits. Yet criticism about weight can be a source of conflict between some couples, which can affect your otherwise fulfilling relationship.
When one partner is at a healthy weight and one is overweight, there’s a greater chance for conflict, especially when they eat together. If one tries to restrict the other’s eating, things become less enjoyable. You might argue more too.
Try to be supportive about your loved one’s health issues. It’s most helpful when your message expresses caring and closeness. Be in tune with your partner’s needs if she or he is asking for your help with making healthier habits. Try being an “accountability” partner and help keep your partner on track towards his or her goals. Establish mutual goals you can work on to help improve your health and wellness too.
Some phrases to avoid include:
- “You’re going to eat that?”
- “Maybe you should stop eating.”
- “You’re going to gain more weight if you keep eating so much.”
Some supportive phrases to try include:
- “Let’s both commit to healthy eating in the new year.”
- “Since you’ve expressed wanting to eat healthier, how can I help?”
- “I know you’re trying hard to eat healthier, and it’s not easy. I’m proud of your efforts. Let’s continue in a positive direction.”
Create healthy lifestyle changes together. Pack nutritious lunches and snacks for work or school, and prepare well-balanced meals. Check with your installation about couples cooking classes and other wellness activities offered through Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs too. And check out HPRC’s ABCs of Nutrition page and videos for more ideas.
Be prepared so you can make smart choices the next time a snack attack hits. Most people have a “snack drawer”—whether it’s in their office desk, gym locker, backpack, or car. Snacking can be an important part of your meal plan, preventing late-afternoon vending machine runs or overeating at mealtime. Snacks also can provide crucial nutrients before workouts or missions.
A healthy snack provides 100–300 calories, depending on your weight and activity level. Try to stock your snack drawer with a variety of nutrient-rich snacks.
- Choose lean proteins. Select water-packed tuna in single-serve pouches or nut butters. Or choose walnuts, almonds, or pistachios. If you have an office fridge, stock it with boiled eggs (up to one week) or single-serving cups of hummus, cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt.
- Pick healthy carbs. Options include instant oatmeal or grits, whole-grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, and dried fruit.
- Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies. Stock up on cut-up celery or cucumbers, baby carrots, and apples.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water (flavored with slices of lemon or cucumber), herbal tea, milk, soy milk, or almond milk. Or eat juicy fruits such as watermelon, oranges, and kiwis.
Follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations on consuming foods and drinks too. And be mindful of portion sizes. Make sure to visit the MedlinePlus page to learn more about healthy snacking.
The first step to losing weight and gaining better health is using self-monitoring techniques to track your calories. Armed with this information, you can reinforce what’s working well. Some evidence suggests that recording food and beverage intake leads to healthy, sustainable weight loss. Weighing yourself daily might help too.
What’s the secret to weight-loss success? Choose a self-monitoring technique that works for you: Try to do these actions frequently—at least 3 times per week—and turn them into healthy habits. Read more...
Food waste is a massive problem in the U.S. Billions of dollars’ worth is wasted each year—about 20 pounds of food per person each month. But there are strategies you can use to help save valuable food resources. Food waste happens along the food chain: from the farm, during transport to grocery stores and commissaries, at retail stores and food service operations, and in your home.
Military communities are working to address food waste by ordering only what’s needed, carefully planning meals, and avoiding waste through reduction and composting. In addition, many commissaries have food donation programs for items that can’t be sold but are still safe to eat. Try to do your share at home too. Read more...
Lentils, peas, and beans can provide a protein-rich boost to your meal plan. They contain healthy carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and valuable minerals such as potassium, iron, magnesium, and folate. Also known as legumes or pulses, these foods can help balance your blood sugar and keep you fuller longer, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. Eating legumes also might lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and even some cancers.
Legumes are inexpensive too. At just pennies per serving, they’re cheaper than other forms of protein. What’s more, they’re delicious and can be eaten in different ways!
- Dried. These varieties always require cooking, but cooking times vary. For example, lentils and split peas cook in about 10 minutes. Tip: Avoid soaking legumes—and save more time—by cooking them in a crockpot instead.
- Canned. Keep low-sodium or sodium-free varieties on hand for salads and soups. Tip: Cook instant rice, mix with black or red beans (drained), and season with garlic for a quick meal.
- Specialty packs. In a hurry? Grab ready-made meals, pastas, and bean blends from your local grocer. Remember: Ready-made foods tend to cost more, and they’re typically higher in sodium. Tip: Add 1 cup of sodium-free beans to your specialty pack, which lowers the total amount of sodium per serving.
Legumes help keep you “regular” too. A ½ cup serving contains roughly 25% of your recommended daily fiber. One carbohydrate in legumes ferments in the gut, causing gas. However, this mostly diminishes as you eat them more frequently. If gas becomes problematic, cook legumes thoroughly, rinse them well, and gradually increase your fiber intake. And keep in mind the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendations for 1–3 cups per week, depending on your age. So, try to eat them more frequently. Make sure to check out the Bean Institute's easy recipes too.
Soups can be the perfect solution when you’re trying to eat well and save money. You can “doctor” a packaged or canned soup to make a healthier and tastier version in no time. For example, add low-sodium ingredients to increase the volume and lower the salt content of ready-made soups. Or add veggies to increase your soup’s antioxidant content and make it more colorful. Add leftover beans, fish, or chopped meat to boost protein too. Here are more ideas to get you started.
- Tomato. Swap water for skim milk to add more protein. Top with 1 Tbsp grated, low-fat sharp cheddar cheese for extra calcium too. And add chopped tomatoes for more lycopene, flavor, and texture.
- Minestrone. A handful of greens and your favorite low-sodium beans add protein, fiber, and flavor.
- Chicken noodle. Add a grated carrot plus fresh or frozen green beans.
- Vegetable. Toss in some thyme and cooked tortellini for an Italian flair.
- Split pea. Fry lean ham in a hot pan and add.
- Potato (dried). Add grated potato and frozen corn to make this soup a homemade hit!
- Potato (canned). Add cooked broccoli and a sprinkle of cheese for extra fiber and calcium.
- Onion (dried). Add 1 cup chopped onion and cook for 10 minutes. Divide into oven-safe, single-serving bowls. Top each bowl with thin slices of toasted French bread, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and a slice of provolone cheese. Broil until bubbly.
- Ramen. Crack one egg into boiling water and stir. Add noodles, cooked mixed vegetables, and ½ the seasoning packet. Flavor with red pepper flakes.
Want to try your hand at homemade soup? Check out HPRC’s soup recipes and use your holiday leftovers to produce delicious results!
The holiday season can be a challenging time to eat sensibly as food is everywhere you turn. The practice of “mindful eating,” a form of mindfulness, can help you stay the course. It means being more aware of your eating habits, eating cues, and sensations. When you eat mindfully, you learn to savor your food with all your senses and become aware when you’re full. Try these mindful eating tips this holiday season and all year long!
- Come prepared. Many tend to overeat during social gatherings because it’s easy to be distracted by all the food choices. When you first arrive at a holiday party, go on a reconnaissance mission and see what’s available. Choose carefully between what you’ll eat, sample, and avoid.
- Recognize feelings of hunger and fullness. Try to understand the reason you want to eat. Is it true physical hunger? Or do you tend to eat when you’re stressed? Perhaps you saw or smelled something delicious, and now your stomach is rumbling. Eat only when you’re hungry. And avoid skipping meals because you have a holiday party later in the day. Try to eat a light meal or snack before you head out too. If you wait until you’re starving, you’ll likely end up eating twice as much. After you’ve had your first helping of food, wait 10–20 minutes to determine if you’re still hungry.
- Enjoy your food. You can have your favorite dessert and eat it too! All foods can be eaten mindfully. First, choose a sensible portion size. Then eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly, and put your fork down between bites. Enjoy the taste, texture, smell, and sight of your food too. Mindful eating also teaches you not to be judgmental about your food choices—there’s no right or wrong way to eat!
It’s easy to think, “I’ve overindulged,” and continue to overeat. Still, mindful eating can help you maintain healthy habits this holiday season!
Cranberries are especially popular during the holidays but can be a healthy part of your meal plan all year long. They’re good sources of vitamin C and fiber and contain polyphenols, which might lower your risk of heart disease.
There’s some evidence that cranberry juice can help reduce the recurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in those prone to such infections—important because UTIs can be debilitating, and more than 60% of women experience at least one. However, there’s no proof that it has any benefit for an existing UTI. Keep in mind that drinking juice hasn’t been proven to effectively treat infections.
Still, cranberries can be an easy, healthful way to add fruit to your meal plan. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), males (ages 19–50) and females (ages 14–50) consume less than one cup of fruit (including juice) daily—roughly half the recommended amount. So enjoy berries whole, dried, in sauces, and in juices. Tip: Purchase whole berries in the fall when fresh and store them in the freezer for future use.
Cranberries are tart, and some sugar is needed to make them edible, so watch how much sugar and other sweeteners you consume at any meal that includes cranberries.
- Breakfast. Drink 4–8 oz cranberry juice or toss a spoonful of dried cranberries on your cereal or oatmeal. Or add ½ cup raw berries to your favorite quick bread recipe or boxed mix.
- Lunch or dinner. Spread cranberry sauce instead of mayo on your turkey or chicken sandwich. Or sprinkle dried cranberries on your salad. Stir dried cranberries, cooked apple, onion, celery, toasted pecans, and sage into wild rice for a tasty side dish.
- Snacks. Mix ¼ cup dried berries with 1 Tbsp nuts.
- Cranberry relish. Combine 12 oz uncooked cranberries with one unpeeled, chopped orange in a food processor or blender. Pulse to mix, being careful not to over process. Add sugar to taste.
Over 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and they’re especially at risk of infections due to weakened or damaged immune systems, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tracts. It’s important to exercise extra caution and practice food safety to avoid foodborne illnesses and food poisoning. So, pay attention to how you handle, prepare, and store what you eat.
During the holidays, many share food at office parties, favorite restaurants, or other gatherings with family and friends. You also might receive home-cooked treats as gifts. Remember your overall health and well-being. Here are some ways to maintain it.
- Avoid certain foods. Some holiday foods—such as unpasteurized apple cider and homemade eggnog—can put you at risk of illness. Some raw foods—such as cookie dough, eggs, sprouts, meat, fish, and poultry—can cause food poisoning too. Make sure that uncooked vegetables and fruits are handled carefully as well as seafood, ham, and chicken salads made with mayonnaise. These foods easily spoil or risk contamination. If something doesn’t look or smell right, don’t take a chance.
- Practice safe food handling. If you’re taking food to a holiday dinner or party, make sure to keep cold foods cold. Fill your cooler with ice and keep the temperature below 40°. Transport hot foods in an insulated container, and make sure the temperature is at least 140°. Refrigerate all perishable leftovers within 2 hours of serving, and reheat them to 165° before eating.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page for resources and tips to help raise awareness about National Diabetes Month. And see your healthcare provider if you suspect you have a foodborne illness. In the meantime, read the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services guide, “Food Safety for People with Diabetes,” to learn more about diabetes and your immune system.