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Five tips for surviving holiday parties

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Follow these simple strategies to avoid overindulging at holiday parties.

Holiday parties provide opportunities to relax and enjoy good food and good times with family, friends, and colleagues. But they also can derail your weight and fitness goals. Buffet tables laden with calorie-rich treats and beverages can weaken the resolve of even the most committed folks. To keep yourself on track, remember these tips:

  • Never go to a party hungry. Eat a protein-rich food before you go. Protein foods tell your brain that you’re satisfied and help you avoid overindulging. Low-fat milk or yogurt or a handful of nuts are great choices.
  • Follow the MyPlate strategies for filling your party plate: Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables then fill the rest with whole grains and lean protein such as fish or chicken.
  • Choose wine over fancy mixed drinks or beer, and be sure to drink in moderation: one drink for women and two drinks for men. Sip slowly to make your drink last through the evening.
  • If it’s a potluck, you really are in luck. Offer to bring a healthy salad or entrée, and fill your plate with your own delicious creation.
  • Don’t waste your calories (and taste buds) on desserts that you don’t absolutely love. Choose your favorite and then share it with a friend. You’ll eat slower while you and your friend chat, and cherish the moment as much as the sweet!

Dinner in a pill?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
It would be great if you could meet all your nutritional needs just by popping a pill. Or would it?

In a 1960s TV cartoon series, George Jetson of The Jetsons simply popped a pill when he wanted to eat. “Dinner in a pill” was promised as the food of the future. So why hasn’t technology delivered on its promise? Simply put, no dietary supplement can reproduce the aromas, flavors, textures, or nutritional value of oven-roasted turkey, crusty, fresh-baked bread, juicy ripe pineapple, fragrant hot tea, or any other wholesome, delicious, performance-enhancing real food or beverage. And substituting dietary supplements for real food won’t help performance either – check out our video here. So skip supplements—not meals. To learn more about how real foods should come before dietary supplements, check out HPRC’s article in Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS).

Garbage in, garbage out

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
When it comes to optimizing your performance through nutrition, it’s important to choose high-quality fuels and nutrients.

The phrase “Garbage in, garbage out” was coined first by computer experts back in the 1960s. Since then, the phrase has gained a wider usage—even to the world of performance nutrition. Providing your body with high-quality fuels and nutrients is crucial to optimizing your performance. Like the poorly fueled runner in HPRC’s video, you’re likely to find that a diet of high-fat or sugary foods and drinks (“garbage in”) produces less than optimal results (“garbage out”). Instead, choose wholesome foods such as lean meats and fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, which provide high-quality fuels and nutrients.

Focus on food, not supplements

When it comes to nutritional value, dietary supplements just don’t measure up. Choose whole foods such as fruits and vegetables instead to fuel your performance.

Food and health are hot topics these days. Just turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, or glance at the margins of your social networking site and you’ll hear and read about the supposed health benefits of dietary supplements containing this or that food component and the promises that they will “burn belly fat” or some similar claim.

Many of these promising food components belong to a group of compounds referred to as phytochemicals—chemicals produced by plants as a means of protecting the plants from various diseases.

Interestingly, when you eat plants (such as fruits and vegetables), the phytochemicals they contain might protect you from disease too. Researchers have found that people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other diseases. Scientists haven’t discovered exactly how these compounds work to protect us, but they have discovered that they seem to have a synergistic effect. That is, the compounds seem to work better in combination, especially when they are supplied in their natural form—whole foods. Consuming isolated single compounds, as in dietary supplements, rarely has the same beneficial effect as eating the whole food. See these resources about fruits and vegetables and how they may impact your overall health.

Focusing on single nutrients (in pill form) is not only expensive, it just doesn’t offer the promise that a balanced, varied diet can. Focus on food, instead. For more information about the benefits of food versus dietary supplements, check out this OPSS brochure, “Nutrition: Fueled for Fitness.”

It’s National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
During the warm months of summer many fresh fruits and vegetables are at their peak. Here are some tips to help you include more fruits and vegetables in your family’s diet.

June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month. And it’s no wonder—during the warm summer months many fresh fruits and vegetables are at their peak. So take advantage of nature’s bounty and make an effort to include more fruits and vegetables into your family’s diet. Here are some tips to help:

  • Start early: Top your morning breakfast cereal with fresh berries, bananas, or peaches for added flavor and nutrition.
  • Add some crisp lettuce leaves and juicy tomato slices to a sandwich or wrap.
  • Kids love foods they can “dip,” so encourage them to dip their veggies in a delicious, healthy fresh tomato salsa.
  • Keep fresh veggies and fruits on a platter in the refrigerator so kids (and you!) can grab some any time—cooling off by the pool, reading a book, or cooking dinner.
  • Go to a farmers’ market to find the freshest, in-season produce.
  • Plant your own garden—or just a small tomato plant on the back porch. There’s nothing quite like homegrown fruits and vegetables.
  • Have some dessert! Fruits are full of natural sweetness—the perfect way to round out a meal.

Eating fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, and many other diseases. To find out how many fruits and vegetables you and your family should be eating, use this great calculator from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more information about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables as well as lots of great tips to help you incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet.

The results are in: 2011 Health Related Behaviors Survey

The results from the 2011 DoD Health Related Behaviors Survey show that active duty service members excel in many areas with regard to their health, but there is still room for improvement.

The purpose of the 2011 Department of Defense Health Related Behaviors Survey of Active Duty Military Personnel (HRB) is to assess the health practices of active-duty service members. Substance abuse, mental and physical health, and lifestyle choices are important matters, especially when you need to be at your best for the demands of military life. Certain areas of this study directly affect human performance, and results (as reported in the Executive Summary) show that health behaviors vary between services.

Physical Activity/Body composition

Here are some figures from the Physical Activity/Body Composition portion:

  • Overall, service members have lower rates of obesity (as defined by BMI) compared to the general public.
  • More than one-third of active-duty service members age 20 and older were considered to be at a healthy weight, which exceeds the Healthy People goal as well as civilian population estimates.
  • 75% of active-duty members practiced moderate to vigorous physical activity in the 30 days prior to the survey, with Army and Navy personnel having the highest rates.
  • Almost half of service members do strength training three or more days a week.

Physical health and fitness are key components to optimal fitness. While these numbers are encouraging, there is no doubt that a larger portion of the military should be at a healthy weight and fit enough to fight. Make fitness and weight management your priority for performance.

Sleep

  • Only 40% of all active-duty personnel surveyed get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Sleep is an important factor in recovery. Poor sleep habits can take a physical and mental toll on your health, your relationships, and your performance.

Tobacco and alcohol

One area where the military could improve is in the use of tobacco products and alcohol:

  • Almost one-quarter of service members reported smoking a cigarette in the 30 days prior to taking the survey, which is higher than the civilian population and the Healthy People objective.
  • Smokeless tobacco use is also prevalent in the military with 12.8% of all service members using smokeless tobacco in the month leading up to the survey.
  • Rates of binge drinking were higher in the military than in the civilian population and more prevalent in the Marine Corps than in any other branch.

Tobacco in any form is detrimental to your health. If you’re thinking about quitting smoking or would like to talk to someone about your alcohol use, there are lots of resources and professionals that can help you achieve your goal.

Stress and mental health

After more than a decade of ongoing war, troops have—and will continue to experience—significant mental stress as a result of their service. In general, 5-20% of service members reported high rates of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and/or other mental health concerns.

  • The most common military-related sources of stress were being away from family and friends and changes in workload but included financial problems and family members’ health problems.
  • Women reported experiencing personal sources of stress more often than men did.
  • Those who drank heavily were more likely to report problems with money and relationships.

Drinking, smoking, overeating, and even attempted suicide are all negative coping factors when dealing with stress. The survey found that the most effective methods of coping were planning to solve problems and talking with friends or family members. Find out how to use productive and effective methods for coping with stress and mental health.

Nutrition and dietary supplements

Being fueled to fight is an important component for anyone in the military. Proper nutrition requires consuming healthy—and avoiding bad and potentially harmful—foods and beverages.

  • According to the survey, active-duty personnel eat too many unhealthy foods such as snacks, sweets, and sugary drinks and not enough of the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • More than one-third of personnel reported daily dietary supplement use.

What you decide to put in your body now may affect your performance and your career later. For more information on nutrition for combat effectiveness, read Chapter 15 of the Warfighter Nutrition Guide. And make sure you know what you’re putting into your body. Dietary supplements are not subject to pre-market approval by the FDA, and there are many ingredients that may do more harm than help. You can learn more about dietary supplements at Operation Supplement Safety. And for more information about the Health Related Behavior Survey, visit TRICARE’s webpage.

What’s the story with carnitine?

Carnitine, a component that occurs naturally in red meat (and sometimes is added to dietary supplements and energy drinks), may help reduce complications associated with heart attacks, but new research suggests it also may contribute to heart disease.

Carnitine is a naturally occurring substance in the human body that helps cells use fat for energy. The liver and kidneys can produce carnitine from amino acids provided by the diet, but carnitine also comes from many foods, especially red meat, and is an ingredient in many dietary supplements and energy drinks.

Sometimes doctors use carnitine to treat certain heart conditions. Recent clinical trials suggest that carnitine supplements may help reduce many of the complications associated with heart attacks, such as chest pain and irregular heart rhythms.

But new research suggests that long-term consumption of dietary carnitine also may play a role in the development of atherosclerosis—“hardening of the arteries”—especially in people who eat red meat regularly. So what’s the bottom line? More research is needed to determine the risks and benefits associated with carnitine.

You can learn more about carnitine in HPRC’s Dietary Supplement Classification System.

High-flying meals for U-2 pilots

“Tube food” provides meals for U-2 pilots on long missions.

Army researchers have developed a special method of meal delivery for U-2 pilots on long flight missions, which can sometimes last up to 12 hours. Pressurized suits and bulky equipment limit pilot movement and prevent them from opening their helmet visors—so feeding themselves until now has been impossible. Chefs and nutritionists in Natick, MA, teamed up to create meals that meet a pilot’s calorie and nutrition needs. The meals are turned into a consistency similar to baby food and delivered to the pilot by way of a metallic tube about the size of a tube of toothpaste. The containers fit into a port on the pilot’s helmet in a way that doesn’t interfere with the suit’s pressure. Watch this video to see these tube meals in action!

What are the favorites among pilots? Caffeinated chocolate pudding and chicken-à-la-king are the most popular. Other meals include beef stroganoff, key lime pie, applesauce, and sloppy joe.

Small changes can pay off in a big way

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships
Resolutions don't have to daunting—making small, not big, changes that fit easily into your lifestyle are good options for family health and weight loss over time.

It’s the New Year! If you’re already despairing about resolutions, keep in mind that making small changes in behavior that fit easily into your lifestyle are good options for family health and weight loss over time. For one month, try choosing three small habits to focus on changing that you can apply to any situation, whether you’re at home, overseas, or travelling. Try setting up email or calendar reminders if that helps you, or put up tangible reminders such as sticky notes around your house. To get you started, here are some ideas:

  • Keep unhealthy foods such as potato chips, cookies, etc. out of sight so they are less tempting.
  • Put down your fork and knife between bites.
  • Portion out “snackable” foods that come in large bags/containers into smaller one-serving containers, so you don’t keep dipping in.
  • Choose water over soda.
  • Keep fresh fruit on hand to replace fatty, high-calorie snacks.

For more help, Military OneSource has a Health and Wellness Coaching Program that can help you lose weight and improve your overall fitness. Finally, for more information on making healthy food choices for you and your family, visit HPRC’s Family Nutrition section.

Caffeine in supplements – how much?

Some of the most popular dietary supplements sold on military bases may give inaccurate—or no—information about caffeine content on their labels.

A Military Times article reports on a recent study of more than 30 of the most popular dietary supplements (in capsule form) sold on military bases analyzed to determine their caffeine content. Of the 20 supplements that listed caffeine as an ingredient on their labels, six did not specify the amount. These same six contained high amounts of caffeine (210-310 mg per serving)—three or more times the amount permitted by law in soft drinks. Five others revealed significantly different amounts—some more, some less—than the quantity stated on the product label.

Consuming too much caffeine can result in health issues. And if you don’t know how much is in the supplement you’re taking, it could be easy to overdo it if you also drink coffee or energy drinks. Visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on caffeine for additional information.

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