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New Dietary Guidelines for Americans

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, USDA
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were recently released. They offer the government’s best advice on healthy eating. How can they help you?

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) just released the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines help shape policies for school lunch and breakfast programs, Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC), and nourishment programs for the elderly and military. The skinny is that they’re based on evolving nutrition science. They offer practical guidance on how to develop a nutrition plan too. Remember you can also seek a dietitian’s help to meet your goals towards healthy eating and performing well. Read more here

Chia seeds and drug testing

Will chia seeds cause a positive drug test? Read more and find out what you really need to avoid.

Chia (Salvia hispanica) seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. As such, they have become a popular food item, and you can also find chia (seeds and oil) in many dietary supplements marketed to support heart and digestive health. On its own, chia will not produce a positive drug test. However, when you look at ingredient lists on product labels, don’t confuse Salvia hispanica (chia) with Salvia divinorum (Diviner’s sage), which is banned by some services. There are many types of salvia, so please read the OPSS FAQ about salvia for more information. If you’re interested in learning more about chia seeds, visit this webpage from MedlinePlus.

Plan your meals in minutes!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
The workday is ending—and you’re stressed from not knowing what to prepare at mealtime. With some advance preparation using HPRC’s meal-planning strategies, you’ll look forward to what’s for dinner.

We all want to serve healthy, nourishing food to our families. But sometimes we let our best intentions get in the way. You wouldn’t head into the woods without a plan, map, or GPS—so why begin your day with little thought about eating well? Start this year off right by learning and putting these easy meal-planning practices into place. Once you’ve established these habits, you’ll be amazed at how good it feels to map out your meals. The more you practice HPRC’s strategies—the faster and fitter you’ll be—a huge savings to your body, time, and wallet. Read more here. 

 

Decrease your holiday food stress

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Need to cross “food worries” off your holiday checklist? There are ways to add nutrients, cut calories, and enjoy the holidays!

Who says that figuring out what to prepare and eat over the coming holiday weeks needs to be stressful? Worrying about choosing appropriate food gifts? How about gaining weight and never taking it off—again? These concerns are often on our minds at this time of year. So here are some tips to enjoy a healthy holiday.

  • Make recipes more nutritious. Use evaporated skim milk in place of heavy cream in soups, quiches, pies, and other recipes. Substitute whole-wheat for white flour in bread, gravy, and cookie recipes.
  • Reduce your calorie intake. Choose more fruits and vegetables at each meal. Don’t skip a meal—because you could overeat at the next meal. Eat smaller portions instead.
  • Pick healthy gifts. Offer a welcome basket of fresh fruit or assorted packages of nuts and dried fruit. Put together a basket of healthy ingredients for a quick meal. Give a personal favorite such as a special bread, olive oil, or jam.

Challenge yourself by putting at least one tip into practice. It guarantees your holidays will be less stressful!

There is (almost) free lunch!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
Whip up these “tried and true” soups for pennies.

We all want to use our food resources and time wisely. Let’s talk about ways to save minutes and money. As the holidays approach, we want quick, easy meals to fortify us. Using the bones from our holiday meats can make an almost “free” extra meal or two. Helpful hint: store the bones in the freezer until you are ready to get cooking!

These tasty soups are healthy and affordable:

  • Bean Soup. Put a ham bone in a crockpot. Cover with 8 cups of water. Add one pound of rinsed, dried pinto beans. Season as desired—jalapeno peppers and cilantro are especially good. Cook on High for 5–6 hours or Low for 11–12 hours. Skim the layer of fat from the top. Chop and add any leftover ham to the soup.
  • Turkey Vegetable Soup. Put turkey bones in a large pot. Cover with 6­–8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bones and strain the broth. Add frozen corn, green beans, grated carrots, and instant brown rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add chopped pieces of turkey meat if desired. Season with black pepper.

Who knew making soups could be so simple? These meals just might become a mainstay of your recipe toolkit! 

Eating on the road again

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, Travel
Taking a holiday road trip? Make sure your car isn’t the only “vehicle” that’s properly fueled.

A critical part of any road trip is making sure you are nourished for the journey. Vacation leave is approved, your pet is at the sitter, and suitcases are in the trunk. Are you ready to get in your car and drive? Your car is fueled but you are not. BIG mistake! As you prepare to travel, here are some ways to help you go the distance:

  • Eat before you go. However, foods such as coffee, doughnuts, energy drinks, and candy bars aren’t the right fuel. These types of foods can cause your energy levels to crash.
  • Pack a travel meal if you are going to be on the road for a while. It can be as easy as a peanut-butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread plus a banana.
  • Bring tasty snacks. Examples include popcorn, homemade trail mix (whole-wheat cereals such as wheat squares or toasty oats, nuts, dried fruit, cheese crackers, and chocolate pieces), fruit, and nuts. Sugar-free gum makes a great addition to your stash.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring along a water supply for each traveler.
  • Eat small amounts of food every 2–3 hours to stave off sleepiness. Instead of eating while you drive, take a break at a rest stop. You can also switch drivers if needed.

These tips can help you save money and time. In addition, you won’t be as tempted by the high-calorie, fatty, sugary foods offered at travel centers and gas stations. What’s more, you’ll arrive feeling refreshed and ready for the next adventure!

Cooking with herbs for health

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Need a way to spice up your meals? Learn more about the benefits of cooking with herbs.

Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and basil add a flavorful punch to meals, but they also may provide health benefits. Many herbs contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. As plants, herbs contain beneficial phytochemicals, which are being researched for their role in cancer prevention. Here are some tips on using culinary herbs to make your meals both tastier and healthier.

  • Pre-seasoned, pre-flavored foods (such as rice) often cost more than the basics. Buy unseasoned, plain staples for your pantry, and then add your own variety by using different herbs.
  • If you’re trying to follow a low-sodium eating plan, substitute herbs in place of or in addition to a small amount of salt to season your meal.
  • Can’t use up fresh herbs fast enough? Purchase dried or frozen herbs, which have a longer shelf life. Just check your recipe, as you probably need to use less of dried herbs than fresh.

Ready to test your green thumb? Place potted herbs on your patio, deck, or windowsill for fresh herbs whenever you need them. Adding herbs to your meat, fish, vegetable, and grains not only adds color and flavor, but it also may be good for your health. Learn more about herb and food combinations.  

Fast food fix

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
If you’re going to eat fast food, have it your way for better health.

Fast food is often overloaded with calories, fat, and sodium, so it’s best to choose it less often and eat nutritious meals made at home or in the dining facilities. But juggling the demands of active-duty service, family, friends, and life in general can leave little time to shop, cook, and clean. Sometimes fast food might be your only option, so follow these tips to avoid the pitfalls:

  • Make substitutions. Choose grilled chicken for your sandwich instead of fried chicken, and ask for a wheat bun. For your sides, trade in fries or onion rings for a side salad, fruit cup, or plain baked potato.
  • Watch your toppings. Toppings such as bacon, cheese, and even sauces provide more fat and calories than you might realize. Skip these toppings and ask for extra veggies on your burger or sandwich. If you want a sauce, stick with ketchup or mustard.
  • Go for greens. More and more restaurants offer salads as entrees, which is a great way to increase your veggie intake. But just beware of high-calorie additions such as bacon bits, croutons, fried tortilla strips, and creamy dressings. Instead, look for nutrient-rich toppings such as nuts, seeds, beans, fruit, and lean protein, and ask for a light dressing such as vinaigrette on the side.
  • Keep your portion sizes small. Bigger portions mean more calories. Opt for the smallest size when it comes to burgers, fries, sodas, and desserts, and avoid value-sized meals. Doing so can save you a couple hundred calories or more! Check out this infographic on portion sizes to help you.

Fueling with fast food every day isn’t ideal, especially if you want to perform well. Just keep in mind that when you do eat it, making small changes such as these can have a big impact on your health.

Coconut oil: health or hype?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, Weight
Coconut oil is a popular alternative to butter and other oils, but does the research confirm promises of weight loss and improved performance?

Coconut oil is popular for use with everything from moisturizing skin, losing weight, and lowering cholesterol to providing energy and endurance, but research has yet to prove many of these claims. Unlike other oils, which are mostly unsaturated fats, coconut oil is 90% saturated fat. Commonly found in animal products such as meat and dairy, saturated fats have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Although coconut oil is highly saturated, it contains different types of saturated fats. One of these is called “medium chain fatty acids” (MCFAs), which the body processes differently than it does other kinds of saturated fats. Importantly, MCFAs are digested more rapidly and absorbed quickly to become available as an energy source. But does this add up to advantages in performance or as a tool for weight loss?

  • Athletic performance. MCFAs help protect and maintain stored glycogen (a form of glucose), which suggests they might improve endurance. However, a 2010 review showed the majority of research did not find performance benefits with MCFAs.  
  • Weight management. MCFAs metabolize quickly, so they’re less likely than other types of fats to be stored as fat. Some research suggests this means MCFAs can lower body mass index (BMI) and improve body composition (percentage of fat).

The bottom line is there isn’t enough scientific evidence at this time to recommend coconut oil for weight loss or performance benefits. Just as with any fat, if you choose to cook with coconut oil, do so in moderation. 

How much protein?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition
Every body’s protein needs are different. Find out how to calculate your own protein needs to optimize your performance.

Whether you’re an endurance athlete, a strength athlete, or doing a bit of both to stay in fighting shape, the optimal amount of protein for your daily needs depends on your activity level and body weight. Regardless of the amounts, the best sources of protein are always whole foods such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, nuts/seeds, beans, and legumes.

Check out HPRC’s Protein Infosheet and protein calculator to determine the amounts that are right for you. Eating more protein than your body needs isn’t necessarily better. Going beyond these protein recommendations won’t provide any additional benefit to your performance.

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