Filed under: Nutrition
On World Hepatitis Day, millions of people help raise awareness about preventing and treating viral hepatitis. The disease—inflammation of the liver caused by virus—results in 1.4 million deaths worldwide each year. Over 5 million Americans are infected with the most common forms: Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. And an estimated 4–17% of veterans don’t know they’re infected. However, unless you or someone you know has the virus, you’re a healthcare provider, or travel internationally, you probably know little about this disease.
Left untreated, hepatitis can damage your liver, a vital organ that filters blood and produces important proteins. Jaundice—yellowing of the skin and eyes—is a major symptom. Other symptoms can include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal issues. It’s harder to diagnose hepatitis because many of these symptoms are common to other ailments too. The good news is that vaccination, early testing, diagnosis, and treatment can help save lives.
Take the necessary steps to prevent hepatitis. Practice safe food handling. Wash your hands well or use an alcohol-based gel sanitizer. Avoid blood-to-blood contact: Don’t share razors or needles. If you decide to get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure the facility uses sterile needles. Check with your doctor about available vaccines too.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis, then follow a healthy-eating plan to boost your liver health. Work towards achieving and maintaining an ideal body weight. Being overweight is linked to fatty liver, which can put you at higher risk of cirrhosis. Limit alcohol because it also can lead to serious liver disease. Eat a nutritious diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Coffee consumption can lower the risk of liver disease progression and cirrhosis. And it can help improve your response to hepatitis treatment. So, drink it if you like it. And check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplements because some can further damage your liver.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page to learn more about viral hepatitis. Remember to help raise awareness about World Hepatitis Day too. And ask your healthcare provider about getting tested if you suspect you might be infected. Seek treatment early.
Some children go hungry during the summer months, especially those who receive free meals during the school year. Poor nutrition makes them prone to illness and other health issues too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to fill this nutrition gap—by providing free meals to eligible kids and teens (up to age 18) at summer meal sites—through its Summer Meals Program.
Sites include schools, community centers, libraries, parks, playgrounds, and faith-based centers. Some also offer activities, games, music, and crafts to help kids learn about the benefits of healthy nutrition and physical fitness. Check out USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder or call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-348-6479 to learn more. Follow the USDA’s Eat Smart to Play Hard recommendations and take the “Family Challenge” to stay healthy too.
- Drink smart to play hard. Avoid sugary drinks and drink water often.
- Try more fruits and vegetables. On “Try-day Fridays,” eat a new fruit or vegetable, or enjoy one prepared in a new way.
- Limit screen time to 2 hours each day. Read books, play board games, or work on art projects instead.
- Move more—at least 60 minutes each day. Go outside for a family walk or hike. Or cool off at a public swimming pool.
Reward your family’s healthy moves with a picnic or visit to a local park. And have fun experiencing new ways to feel your best this summer.
Many raw fruits and vegetables are tasty, low in calories and fat, and high in fiber. And eating them might help you feel fuller and consume less, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. However, some cooked produce can be just as delicious—and even more nutritious.
Many cooked fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes, corn, spinach, carrots, and asparagus) provide more antioxidants, which protect cells and help your body function properly. For example, cooked tomatoes and asparagus release vitamin-rich lycopene, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. And cooked spinach provides greater amounts of calcium, iron, and fiber.
However, broccoli is best eaten raw because myrosinase, a valuable enzyme, is damaged during the cooking process. Vitamin C can be lost during cooking too. But you can find it in citrus and other foods. In the warmer months, eating raw produce can save time as well as keep your kitchen cooler since you won’t be cooking! Still, raw fruits and vegetables might be hard to find when you’re on a mission or in a smaller dining facility. So instead, choose from what’s offered—whether it’s dried, canned, frozen, or dehydrated.
Try to include a variety of produce in your meal plan, aiming for 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of veggies each day. Choose fruits and vegetables from the rainbow of colors (red, blue/purple, green, yellow, orange, and white) to maximize nutrient intake. Eat both cooked and raw varieties to make sure you’re getting nutrients, antioxidants, and more. For example, eat raw carrot sticks one day and cook them on a different day. And enjoy the benefit of obtaining all that nature intended to provide!
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.