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Become a veggie lover!

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Trying to include more veggies in your diet? Read on for clever ways to add a variety of vegetables to your healthy-eating plan.

Aim to eat five servings—about 2½ cups—of vegetables every day to boost your health and performance. Don’t like vegetables? Here are some tips to help even die-hard “veggie haters” work a few vegetables into their meal plans.

  • Grill your vegetables! Grilling adds those familiar tastes that most people enjoy. Baste vegetables with your favorite low-fat marinade for flavor. Tip: Roasting vegetables in the oven makes even bitter-tasting ones taste sweeter. Try asparagus, onions, and summer squash.
  • Add vegetables to foods you already love! Add pureed butternut squash to macaroni and cheese, chopped onions and peppers to pizza, grated zucchini or carrots to pasta sauce, or black beans to canned soup. Omelets are great vehicles for a variety of veggies: spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and more.
  • Drink up! There are lots of tasty vegetable juices in grocery stores nowadays. Look for low-sodium versions or vegetable-fruit juice blends. Try custom-blending your own by mixing bottled carrot juice with your favorite fruit juice. Or whip up a nutritious smoothie instead!
  • Challenge your taste buds. Do you truly not like broccoli, or have you just never had it prepared in a way you like? Change your cooking technique and try again. Try baking, roasting, grilling, sautéing, steaming, or eating vegetables raw for a different flavor and texture.
  • Flavor it up. A little flavor goes a long way with vegetables. Prepare veggies using a pinch of sea salt, fresh or dried herbs or spices, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, or a swirl of balsamic vinegar to turn up the flavor.
  • Get adventurous! Just because you hated something as a kid doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way about it as an adult. Visit More Matters for other ideas and recipes for vegetables.

 

Boost your meals with powerful veggies! The recommended intake of vegetables varies depending on your age, weight, and calorie needs. This chart from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will guide you.

“Winterize” your fruits and veggies

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Freezing fruits and vegetables can help you save money, have fun in the kitchen, and enjoy your summertime favorites during winter. Read on for some super-simple tips.

Freezing your favorite summertime fruits and vegetables enables you to enjoy them all winter long. It’s a popular preservation method because it’s fast and ensures your foods taste flavorful while retaining nutrients. And you can cut food costs by buying your produce at roadside stands or farmers’ markets because their offerings are often cheaper.

Check out the National Center for Food Preservation’s page to learn more and/or try your hand at other preservation methods, including pickling, drying, and canning. HPRC offers some tips to help you start “putting food by” or preserving your favorites. Read more...

Healthy twists on frozen treats

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Fruit, Nutrition, Summer
Does the thought of a frozen treat make you feel like a kid again? Start a new warm-weather tradition and make these easy treats with your friends and family!

Service members have enjoyed frozen treats at least since the Army and Navy boosted morale by serving ice cream sandwiches and sundaes to troops during World War II. However, these frozen sweets often contain excess calories and sugar, which can add to your daily calories. The good news is you can whip up healthy frozen treats at home.

The following tried-and-true favorites will delight your “inner child” and still fit nicely in a healthy meal pattern. And they include fruits and dairy—with additional calcium, potassium, fiber, protein, and other nutrients—possibly MIA from your diet. They also can be made for pennies, which is refreshing for your wallet!

  • Pudding pops. Prepare your favorite pudding recipe or powdered mix with skim milk. Add chopped peaches or berries. Freeze in molds or 4-oz paper cups for one hour. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze 2 more hours.
  • Frozen yogurt sundae. Scoop ½ cup frozen yogurt into a dish. Add one chopped banana and a handful of nuts.
  • Banana split. Lay banana halves in a dish. Add watermelon chunks and berries. Top with ½ cup frozen yogurt (any flavor) and 1 Tbsp of crunchy granola.
  • Banana pops. Insert a popsicle stick into a peeled, ripe banana. Freeze 2 hours. Put 1 tsp chocolate chips in the bottom corner of a small plastic bag. Melt in microwave for approximately 90 seconds. Cut off the corner of the bag and drizzle chocolate over frozen fruit. Quickly press with 1 tsp crushed nuts.
  • Frozen fruit. Portion canned fruit (in 100% juice) or fresh fruit (with juice) into 4-oz paper cups. Or use single-serving fruit cups. Freeze 1 hour. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze 2 more hours.
  • Frozen smoothie. Extra smoothie on hand? Freeze any leftovers in ice cube trays for 2 hours. Pop out.

Enjoy and stay cool!

Image from Naval Institute and must have following photo credit when used: "Photo from U.S. Naval Institute"

Photo from U.S. Naval Institute

Can Olympians motivate your eating?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Many of us will be glued to our TVs, watching the Olympic Games over the next several days. What can we learn about nourishing our bodies from these elite athletes?

Olympic athletes follow a rigorous training schedule with their eyes on the Gold, and what they eat and drink can make a winning difference! Most of them work with sports dietitians to help reach their nutrition goals. However, others can learn from their examples as well:

  • Food fuels and nourishes your body to help you perform well. Olympic athletes teach the importance of nutritious fueling every day by including the right balance of foods and beverages for each workout and event.
  • Successful Olympians jump-start their days with breakfasts that include protein and carbohydrate-rich foods. This keeps them energized and ready for the next challenge.
  • It’s important to keep a healthy relationship with food. Food is more than fuel. Even after eating to meet a specific goal, sometimes it’s still healthy to eat a favorite food just because you’re in the mood. However, some Olympians are at greater risk of eating disorders, especially those who become too focused on body image and develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to calorie needs. Some endurance athletes take in over 5,000 calories daily. The United States Olympic Committee provides helpful eating guidelines for its athletes.

Remember that the goal for a healthy lifestyle is something greater than Gold: your wellness!

Fun facts: Did you know that the Armed Forces Sports (AFS) program paves the way for service members to compete in national, Olympic, and international athletic competitions?

Let’s cheer on the 16 Armed Forces members participating in Rio’s Olympic Games and those who will compete in the Paralympics next month.

Go team USA!

World Hepatitis Day

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Filed under: Hepatitis, Nutrition
World Hepatitis Day is on July 28. Learn about raising worldwide awareness to influence changes in disease prevention, testing, and treatment.

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.

Image of World Hepatitis Day 2016 infographic

Free summer meals for kids

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Some children and teens are vulnerable to hunger and poor nutrition, especially during the summer months when school is out. Learn how the Summer Meals Program keeps them healthy.

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. 

 

Raw or cooked produce: What’s healthier?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn when you should turn the flame up—or down—on your favorite fruits and vegetables.

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’s in your smoothie?

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Before you whip up or grab your next smoothie, make sure it’s got “the right stuff” to meet your nutritional needs.

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 “new” Nutrition Facts panel

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The Nutrition Facts panel for packaged food labels is getting an update! It’s easier to read and can help you make more-informed decisions when choosing foods.

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.

Thumbnail for May 2016 Nutrition Facts Label

“Smart snacking” for kids

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
In the past 25 years, young children have greatly increased the number of snacks they consume. Try these “smart snacking” tips to help keep your kids healthy.

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.

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