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How to gauge food portion sizes

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Keeping portion sizes in check is key to managing your weight. Learn how to use your hand as a guide.

One of the most important things you can do to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to become aware of “portion sizes.” That refers to the actual amount of food you eat at a single time. It isn’t necessarily the same as the “serving size” that you see on a food label, but especially if you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to compare. In any case, it isn’t always practical to use a measuring cup when you’re dishing up a plate of food or spreading peanut butter on your toast.

A more realistic way to gauge your portion sizes is to “eyeball” them—that is, to visually compare your food portions to a familiar frame of reference. The graphic below uses your hand as your guide to keep portion sizes in check. Of course, your hand might be larger or smaller than someone else’s, but your hand size generally equates to your body size and, as a result, your portion needs. What’s more, it’s one measuring device you’ll always have on hand.

Your handy guide to portion sizes: Your fist about equals a one-cup serving of milk or raw vegetables. Your thumb about equals one 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter or salad dressing. Your cupped palm about equals one half-cup serving of cooked fruit, vegetables, beans, or starch. Your thumbnail about equals a one-teaspoon serving of butter or margarine. And your open palm about equals one 3-ounce serving of cooked meat, fish, or poultry.

Try the African Heritage Diet

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition
The African Heritage Diet pyramid is an eating guide based on the healthy food traditions of Americans and Caribbean people with African roots. Learn more.

Enjoy a flavorful diet, feel healthier, boost your performance, and lower health risks with the “African Heritage Diet.” The ancestors of African Americans brought wonderful food traditions to America, but many of these traditions have been lost over time. And health has suffered as ways of eating have changed.

African Americans struggle with high rates of obesity, putting them at a disproportionally higher risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers. The good news is you can improve your health and performance by including the African Heritage Diet principles in your healthy eating plan—whether or not you’re African American. Keep reading to learn more about this diet. Read more...

Perk up your day with oatmeal

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Oatmeal is a heart-healthy food that can be enjoyed any time of day. Try these deliciously easy recipes.

Oatmeal is a comfort food that can be prepared in a variety of ways. It contains soluble fiber, which can help lower your blood cholesterol, keep you fuller longer, and boost your performance.

Choose steel-cut oats (regular or quick-cooking), which provide a nutty texture, or rolled oats, which are available in a variety of thicknesses: regular or old-fashioned (thickest), quick-cooking (thinner), and instant (thinnest). There really isn’t much of a difference in cooking times, so choose whichever texture you prefer. And limit instant varieties, which can pack large amounts of sodium and sugar. Read more...

SuperTrack nutrition for fitness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn how keeping an online food diary can help you stay motivated and on track to getting in shape.

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.

Help your partner lose weight

Learn how to help your loved one lose weight as he or she goes through the “Stages of Change.”

If you’re concerned about your partner’s weight but she or he doesn’t seem worried, there are things you can do to create a healthy eating environment at home. Pushing or pressuring your loved one won’t work and might make things worse.

Instead, consider where your partner is in the “Stages of Change.” These are the stages one goes through on his or her journey to making a behavior change. Keep in mind that he or she has to be the one to initiate the change. Read more...

Nutrition tips for preventing birth defects

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Learn how to help protect your unborn baby by preventing infections and maintaining good nutrition during pregnancy.

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.

Raspberry ketone for weight loss?

What is raspberry ketone, and does it help with weight loss?

Some dietary supplements marketed for weight loss contain “raspberry ketone.” This ingredient is one of several naturally occurring chemicals found in red raspberries that contribute to their aroma; it also occurs in other fruits such as cranberries and blackberries. Raspberry ketone is used in some foods as a flavoring agent and in other products such as cosmetics. Because the amount of raspberry ketone found naturally is so low, it is produced synthetically in a laboratory for use in commercial products.

The limited number of studies done on cells, mice, rats, and other small animals indicate that raspberry ketone might improve fat metabolism. However, the same effect has yet to be established in humans, and currently there is insufficient scientific evidence that supplemental raspberry ketone is effective for weight loss.

“Smart snacking” for adults

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Food, Nutrition
Make sure the next snack attack doesn’t ambush your healthy eating plans. Learn more.

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 scoop on lentils, peas, and beans

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Fiber, Nutrition, Protein
Beans, once thought of as a poor man’s food, are trending. Learn 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.

Soup in a hurry

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Looking for ways to get nourishing, comforting meals on your table in minutes? Just add vegetables and other ingredients to canned soups and dried soup mixes. Learn more.

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!

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