Filed under: Diet
One of the best ways to start losing weight or just improve your nutrition overall is to keep track of what you eat and drink every day. You probably have seen all the advice about eating well-balanced meals—from the amounts you should put on your plate at meals to the recommended amounts of essential nutrients you need every day. But how do you raise your awareness about what you eat and drink? And how can you keep track of whether you’re meeting your nutrition goals?
Try keeping a food diary. There are lots of online resources and apps to help you do this, but one worth exploring is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) SuperTracker. It actually offers several tools to help you track your diet, get nutritional information on more than 8,000 foods, manage your weight, track your physical activities, access a “virtual coach” to meet your goals, and more. You can create a personal profile to save your information and develop a personal plan, or you can use the “general plan” for one-time use.
If you’re looking for more detail about the nutritional content of what you eat and drink, check out the USDA Food Composition Databases. This website contains detailed nutrient information for more than 180,000 branded and generic food products. Need to get more of certain nutrients in your diet? More vitamin B-12? Or more protein? There’s a search engine to help you find what foods provide the ones you’re looking for. You can even specify what type food or which meals you’d like information about.
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.
Is your New Year’s resolution to try to lose weight, meet body composition standards, or just be healthier? Weight-loss supplement might be a tempting solution, but before you take one, consider this: Dietary supplements marketed for weight loss are categorized “high-risk” products. The Food and Drug Administration has found many dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss to contain hidden drug ingredients or other ingredients that haven’t been adequately studied in humans.
Not only are they potentially unsafe, weight-loss supplements that advertise “quick fixes” likely won’t help you meet your goals. There’s limited scientific evidence that weight-loss supplements alone help people lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off. Question the claims on the label, and remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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!
Before you gobble up your Thanksgiving dinner, consider starting your day off with a calorie burn! Pretty much wherever you are, you can find a road race—Turkey Trot, Drumstick Dash, or Gobble Gait—and most are family friendly.
If you’re prone to “holiday stress,” particularly if you’re hosting, it can be a great way to relieve some tension and mentally prepare for the day ahead. If you’re not up for the race crowds, or there isn’t a race nearby, there are lots of other options for getting in some exercise. Find a quiet road for a quick run, go for a bike ride, or enjoy some fall foliage on a hike. Whatever floats your gravy boat.
Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you to all service members and their families too.
Garcinia cambogia, a pumpkin-like fruit, is a popular dietary supplement ingredient in products marketed for weight loss. Although Garcinia cambogia has been marketed as a weight-loss aid for quite some time, the latest scientific research still hasn’t proven its effectiveness. To learn more, read the updated Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about Garcinia cambogia.
If you’re looking for ways to lose weight, OPSS and HPRC always recommend choosing foods first before considering dietary supplements. Visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, where you’ll find joint-service and service-specific programs to help you achieve your goals.
Green coffee bean extract has been available in dietary supplements for quite some time, but despite the hype and popularity of this ingredient, there’s little science to support its use as a weight-loss aid. Green coffee beans are the raw, unroasted seeds or “beans” of the Coffea plant. Similar to your morning cup of coffee, they contain caffeine in addition to a chemical called chlorogenic acid. The difference, though, is that green coffee beans contain more chlorogenic acid because roasting reduces the amount of chlorogenic acid in coffee beans.
Chlorogenic acid supposedly offers some health benefits, but don’t believe everything you hear (or read) about green coffee beans supplements for weight loss; there just isn’t enough evidence to back up these claims. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged a company for using deceptive weight-loss claims to market a green coffee bean supplement. Read more about this in FTC’s Press Release.
Brisk fall weather means it’s the perfect time to hit the couch for a weekend of watching football. But don’t let all the hard work and smart decisions you’ve made during the week go to waste. Avoid weekend binging and (too much) lazing by staying active during commercial breaks and making healthy choices when it comes to snacks.
The average football game consists of about 11 minutes of actual play—so you’re watching huddles, replays, and commercials in-between. Use that downtime to your advantage, call an audible, and get moving during time-outs!
- Complete a quick DIY workout during commercial breaks.
- Go for a jog around your neighborhood during halftime.
- Remember to make healthy food choices too.
Check out A Football Fan’s Guide to Food and Fitness for ways to stay healthy and active during football season.
Whole grains—such as brown rice and oatmeal—keep you fuller longer and provide sustainable energy to boost your performance throughout the day. Those who eat whole grains daily have a lower incidence of prediabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory and infectious diseases, and mental decline too.
Make sure to make at least half of your grain choices whole grains daily to get the vitamins and nutrients they contain and that are missing from refined and processed grains. The more processed grains you eat, the more important nutrients you miss out on. Read more...
Aim to eat five servings—about 2½ cups—of vegetables every day to boost your health and performance. Don’t like vegetables? Here are some tips to help even die-hard “veggie haters” work a few vegetables into their meal plans.
- Grill your vegetables! Grilling adds those familiar tastes that most people enjoy. Baste vegetables with your favorite low-fat marinade for flavor. Tip: Roasting vegetables in the oven makes even bitter-tasting ones taste sweeter. Try asparagus, onions, and summer squash.
- Add vegetables to foods you already love! Add pureed butternut squash to macaroni and cheese, chopped onions and peppers to pizza, grated zucchini or carrots to pasta sauce, or black beans to canned soup. Omelets are great vehicles for a variety of veggies: spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and more.
- Drink up! There are lots of tasty vegetable juices in grocery stores nowadays. Look for low-sodium versions or vegetable-fruit juice blends. Try custom-blending your own by mixing bottled carrot juice with your favorite fruit juice. Or whip up a nutritious smoothie instead!
- Challenge your taste buds. Do you truly not like broccoli, or have you just never had it prepared in a way you like? Change your cooking technique and try again. Try baking, roasting, grilling, sautéing, steaming, or eating vegetables raw for a different flavor and texture.
- Flavor it up. A little flavor goes a long way with vegetables. Prepare veggies using a pinch of sea salt, fresh or dried herbs or spices, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, or a swirl of balsamic vinegar to turn up the flavor.
- Get adventurous! Just because you hated something as a kid doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way about it as an adult. Visit More Matters for other ideas and recipes for vegetables.
Boost your meals with powerful veggies! The recommended intake of vegetables varies depending on your age, weight, and calorie needs. This chart from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will guide you.