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HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
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.
Add protein-rich eggs to your meal plan! They contain amino acids—essential to performance because they build lean body mass—especially important for athletes, children, and the elderly. In addition, these nutrient powerhouses contain lutein for eye health, choline for brain function, B vitamins, zinc, and iron.
In the past, many avoided or limited their egg consumption, thinking of eggs only as a food that raises cholesterol rather than one packed with nutrients. However, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other evidence suggest including eggs as part of a healthy diet. Eating 1–2 eggs daily can increase your intake of important nutrients. Eating eggs doesn’t necessarily increase your risk of heart disease or type II diabetes, and it might even lower your risk of these illnesses. Scientific research also has shown that eating eggs at breakfast can help you “feel fuller” because of their high protein content. This might contribute to weight loss when combined with other dietary strategies too.
On average, an egg costs about $.20, which is a bargain compared to other proteins. Eggs also can be a satisfying meal anytime and extraordinarily easy to prepare, especially for breakfast.
- Vegetable omelet. Beat one egg with 1 Tbsp milk. Pour into a small, heated nonstick skillet. Using a spatula, gently push the cooked egg away from the pan’s edge to allow the liquid egg to run underneath until it’s no longer visible. Place ½ cup cooked vegetables and 1 Tbsp cheese on one half, and then fold over.
- French toast. In a shallow bowl, whip one egg with 1 Tbsp milk. Put one slice of whole-wheat bread in the mixture and then flip to coat both sides. Place in a heated nonstick skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve with fruit and syrup.
Enjoy eggs more frequently and remember to pair them with healthy sides!
Turn small nutrition goals into healthy habits! A habit is a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition. It’s an action associated with a cue that’s associated with a performance. For example, service members always cover their heads before stepping outside. The cue is “going outside,” and the action that follows is “putting on your cover.”
Once you form a habit, you do the action without thinking. And if you don’t do it, you likely will realize that something isn’t quite right. These same principles can be linked to changing healthy eating behaviors. So, use these tips to make a new “healthy eating habit.”
- Set a small goal. You might think, “I’ll eat an apple every day.”
- Plan a simple action you can do daily. You might think, “Every time I work out, I’ll eat an apple afterwards.”
- Choose a time and place to perform the action. You might think, “I’ll go to the gym every afternoon.”
- Do the action during the designated time. The cue is “working out,” and the action that follows is “eating an apple.”
- Write it down. Sometimes it helps to keep a written record while you’re working on a new goal. Doing so can help you track progress and celebrate successes.
It’s commonly thought that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, recent evidence suggests it actually takes 66 days to 10 weeks before the habit’s yours for good. Remember: It gets easier each day that you do it. Before long, you won’t be thinking about it at all. The more you tie your actions to cues and make the actions automatic, the easier it will be to include the habit into your daily life.
Still, you might experience setbacks along the way. Don’t get discouraged. Try again the next day. Take the time to make one new eating habit, which will give you confidence to make other healthy changes!