Filed under: Nutrition
What role does a smoothie play in your meal plan: meal, snack, or post-workout fuel? If it’s a meal-replacement, then choose one that includes dairy, some fruit, and maybe vegetables. Is it a snack? Then go lighter and pick one with fruits, vegetables, and ice. And if you’re replenishing fuel after your workout, then make sure your smoothie includes protein—and choose the protein source wisely.
Make them quickly: Just dump your ingredients into a blender, hit start, and blend to desired consistency. That’s it! They can include any combination of fruits—such as berries, cherries, apples, melons, bananas, and grapes—and vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and cucumbers). Try freezing some ingredients for an icier drink. You also can use frozen bags of smoothie ingredients, saving time and decision-making. But avoid adding juice because it contains little (or no) fiber and extra calories.
There are many protein options too. Milk (dairy or nondairy) and plain (or Greek) yogurt also provide calcium. Nut butters can be flavorful as well. But remember 2 tablespoons add an extra 200 calories.
Choosing ready-to-drink dairy or juice smoothies? Some contain added sugar, and others with mostly apple juice aren’t as nutrient-dense as ones made with other fruits and vegetables. And check the Nutrition Facts panel because some bottles contain two (or more) servings. This is especially important because you’ll want to get the proper nutrients without going over your daily calorie needs.
Tip: Try a refreshing blend that includes 1 cup watermelon, ½ cup strawberries, 4 ice cubes, and ½ tsp lemon juice. Make sure to experiment with multiple combinations and flavors, and include more fruits and vegetables! And read HPRC’s FAQ about juicing to learn more.
The Food and Drug Administration just unveiled an updated Nutrition Facts panel, which is easier to read and reflects the 2015–2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Recently revised after 20 years, this new format must appear on all packaged foods by July 2018 (with some exceptions). These are the facts to know:
- Highlighted calories, servings per container, and serving sizes. This information is larger and bold, making it easier to find at a glance.
- Vitamin D and potassium. These are now listed, since many Americans don’t get enough of these important minerals. Vitamin D maintains bone health, and potassium can help reduce blood pressure. Vitamins A and C are no longer included since deficiencies of these are rare.
- Added sugars. “Total Sugars” includes what’s added and what’s naturally occurring (but with “Added Sugars” also noted separately). This new information is especially important for those who are managing their nutritional needs and limiting their calories to less than 10% from added sugars.
- Updated “Serving size.” These now match what people typically eat or drink. For example, a single serving of soda might be 12 or 20 oz., depending on the packaging.
- Clearer footnote. The footnote better explains what “% Daily Value” means.
- Multiple serving sizes. Some packages, such as a pint of ice cream, include two columns: “per serving” and “per package.” This makes it easier to choose whether to eat or drink one serving—or the entire package—at one time.
Watch for the new Nutrition Facts panel to appear on your favorite packages soon. In the meantime, you can view it below.
Almost 1 in 3 children starts school either overweight or obese—but giving healthy snacks to your preschoolers can get them off to a good start. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends healthy snacks as part of early childhood nutrition, especially since younger kids have small stomachs and might not be able to get all their nutrients at mealtime.
Over half of children ages 2–6 eat 3–5 snacks daily. Sweet and salty snacks (including sugary drinks) make up nearly 30% of their daily calories. These energy-dense foods also are linked to excess weight gain.
But there are ways to get the proper nutrients into their little bodies without going over their daily calorie needs. 2–3 healthful snacks can be just the ticket. Here are some helpful hints for “smart snacking.”
- Think food groups. Many traditional snacks are carb-based with little nutrition and empty calories. Include 2 food groups per snack, such as whole-grain cereal with dried fruit, peanut butter on apple slices, plain yogurt with chopped fruit, or nut butter on whole-wheat bread or cracker.
- Fill in the gaps. Young children can be picky eaters, especially at mealtime. Eating a snack in-between—such as fruit, vegetable, or protein (for example, chicken, egg, or nut butter)—can make up for what they’ve missed.
- Timing is important. Limit snack time to 10–15 minutes to prevent overeating. And avoid eating too close to mealtime.
- Portion size matters. Kids are small so their portions should be too. Limit portion sizes to half of adult ones, except they’ll still need about 2–2½ cups of dairy daily.
- Think easy access. Store healthy-snack portions in baggies or containers at home. Take them on the go too!
Visit HPRC’s Family Nutrition page for helpful resources on nutrition, healthy recipes, and more.
“Fueling” your body with good nutrition can help calm your nerves—and your stomach—before giving your next speech or presentation. Try these tips to help prepare for the challenge.
- Be mindful of what you drink. Avoid carbonated drinks that could cause bloating or gas. Don’t drink alcohol thinking it could calm your nerves—as it could backfire badly. And the jury’s still out on whether drinking dairy causes phlegm and should be avoided before a speaking engagement. Tip: Drink cool or room-temperature water. Or a warm beverage such as tea with honey to help soothe your throat.
- Be mindful of what you eat. Eating fatty and/or sugary foods won’t provide staying power to help you feel your best. Avoid spicy foods that could cause stomach upset, especially if you’re already experiencing nervousness. And eating a heavy meal can make you sleepy. Tip: Eat something light such as lean protein and/or healthy carbohydrates to boost your energy.
Don’t skip drinking and eating due to nerves. You could be experiencing some of the same adrenaline hormones as when you participate in athletic events.
HPRC’s Going the Distance section offers helpful nutrition tips to prepare for endurance events. Use some of these strategies to stay fueled during “speech time” too.
A ketogenic diet (KD) is one that’s very high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. Traditionally, KDs have been used to help treat children with epilepsy (seizure disorder), but over the past few years they have gained popularity in the athletic community for purported performance-enhancing effects. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the use of KDs to improve performance; in some cases, it can even decrease performance. It also can be difficult to maintain a ketogenic diet due to its extreme dietary constrictions, which come with potential negative side effects. Read more...
Those TV ads your children enjoy watching impact their food choices and their health. Kids see many commercials that advertise foods high in fat, sodium, and/or added sugars, especially during Saturday-morning children’s TV programming. The more kids are exposed to advertisements of unhealthy foods, the more likely they are to request—or sometimes beg—to eat them.
TV commercial viewing has also been linked to children’s weight problems. Kids who watch these commercials have an increased chance of eating foods containing too many calories and few nutrients. And the impact of TV commercials on kids’ food choices extends beyond what they eat at home. It’s also been linked to how often families eat at fast-food restaurants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 years old avoid all TV and screens, while children 3 and over watch no more then 2 hours of TV each day. Limiting the amount of time your kids watch TV means more time for them to be physically active. And less TV time means kids are exposed to fewer commercials that encourage unhealthy food choices.
Make sure to watch what your kids are watching—that means the shows and the commercials. When possible, watch TV together and move more during commercial breaks. Encourage them to get active by doing some jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups!
Remember that commercials can influence kids’ food choices, so teach them to spot advertising tricks too. Keep the conversation going about the importance of healthy eating habits. Heading to the grocery store? Point out nutritious alternatives to your little ones, and ask older kids to help compare labels.
While there has been some discussion about whether adults should drink milk, most reliable scientific evidence shows that drinking milk offers many benefits. There are some important facts to consider when deciding whether to include milk in your meal plan.
- Milk contains calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Most Americans don’t consume enough of these 3 essential nutrients, especially those who don’t drink milk. These all-important nutrients are necessary for bone growth, most of which takes place by the age of 18. However, they’re also needed to maintain bone as you age.
- It’s low-calorie! If your goal is weight maintenance or weight loss, fat-free (skim) and no-added-sugar flavored choices contain relatively few calories. And they’re rich in nutrients.
- Digestion problems? If you’re lactose intolerant, lactose-free milk and fortified soy milk are great alternatives.
- Chocolate milk makes an excellent post-workout beverage. It helps with refueling because it contains protein to rebuild muscles and carbohydrates to replenish energy stores.
The jury’s still out on whether milk-fat content matters, so follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations on consuming low-fat and/or fat-free choices. And stay within the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendations for 3 daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods for anyone 9 and older. If you like milk, keep drinking it.
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Eating cereal with milk, for example, nourishes your body with potassium, calcium, and vitamin D. Since 50% of all milk is consumed during breakfast, you might fall behind nutritionally if you skip your morning serving.
Studies show that breakfast eaters often weigh less and feel less hungry later in the day than those who skip breakfast. They often have improved concentration, problem-solving abilities, and hand-eye coordination too. If you’re an endurance athlete, fuel up at breakfast for peak performance.
Aim for a well-balanced meal by including any 3 of the following: grains, dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Read more...
Since the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. is heart disease, it’s important to know your cholesterol numbers. Cholesterol, an important substance made by your liver, forms cell structures, produces hormones, and helps with digestion. Here are the cholesterol numbers to know:
- Good, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), cholesterol helps prevent fat and cholesterol from clogging your arteries. Know your HDL: Think H for healthy! A healthy number is greater than 60 mg/dL.
- Bad, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), cholesterol can cause cholesterol buildup and block your arteries. Know your LDL: Think L for lousy! A healthy number is less than 100 mg/dL.
- Your total cholesterol score should be less than 200 mg/dL.
Starting at age 20, get your cholesterol checked every 5 years. Doctors use these numbers along with your age, blood pressure, and weight to help you manage your cardiac health. Smoking, diabetes, and heredity play important roles too.
There are ways to manage your cholesterol and heart health! Regular physical activity can lower LDL and raise HDL. A diet low in saturated fats can help as well, so make sure to check out the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The Performance Triad is an Army program that focuses on 3 key areas to enhance the health and performance of Soldiers and their families: sleep, activity, and nutrition. HPRC has featured articles about the Performance Triad since it was launched in 2013, but the program has been growing steadily. That means it’s time for a visit to explore the wealth of materials now available, including information and graphic products about:
- personal health assessment
- back-to-school tips
- nutrition and oral health
- fitness activities for families
- sleep, travel, and time zones
- goal setting
- advice for leaders
- Army-specific resources
Whether you’ve been there before, or you’re just finding out, take time now to visit HPRC’s introduction to the Performance Triad to get started. Look for links on the Performance Triad home page to their Facebook and Twitter feeds too. Learn how these 3 performance areas can contribute to your total fitness.