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Filed under: Nutrition

Put aside the pills and powders

Think you need that dietary supplement? Think again. National Nutrition Month reminds us to choose real foods first.

March is National Nutrition Month, a good reminder to eat healthfully and choose the best foods to fuel our bodies. This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which isn’t something we can often say about dietary supplements that come in the forms of pills and powders. If you’re looking for a supplement to lose weight, build muscle, or enhance your performance, HPRC always recommends choosing nutrient-rich foods first. They taste better and are better for you. Use the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) “Real Food” poster to see what foods can help you meet your goals.

If you’re still considering dietary supplements, be sure to visit OPSS where you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions, infosheets, videos, and other educational materials to help you make an informed decision. And remember to always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.

7 steps to total fitness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
The American Heart Association recommends 7 steps to better health. Learn how HPRC can help you every step of the way.

HPRC’s foundation is Total Force Fitness—“The state in which the individual, family, and organization can sustain optimal well-being and performance under all conditions.” The American Heart Association recommends 7 simple steps that demonstrate how HPRC’s domains can combine for your health and performance:

  1. Don’t smoke. Visit HPRC’s Tobacco resources for help quitting.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Explore HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies for ideas on maintaining a healthy body weight and condition. Don’t rely on dietary supplements as a short cut; visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) Weight Loss FAQs to learn why.
  3. Move more. Visit HPRC’s Physical Fitness Exercise pages for enough fitness programs to keep your workouts going. Information from HPRC’s Environment domain can keep you going any time, any place.
  4. Eat a nourishing diet. Start with HPRC’s ABCs of Nutrition and move on to Performance Nutrition to achieve your best performance.
  5. Manage your blood pressure. In addition to diet, keep your stress levels down. Visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Stress Management pages to learn how.
  6. Take charge of your cholesterol. That means staying away from saturated fats. To learn more, read HPRC’s Nutrition FAQ about fats, and while you’re there explore other Nutrition FAQs.
  7. Keep your blood glucose at healthy levels. Watch your carbs and sugar. Use HPRC’s carbohydrate needs calculator to make sure you don’t get more than you need. As for sugar, save it for special occasions. Learn how to read Nutrition Facts labels and spot hidden sources.

If you follow these steps, get your own personal health plan from My Life Check® – Life's Simple 7, and combine information from HPRC’s domains, you’ll be well on your way to total fitness. Pass it on. Practiced by all service members and their families, it’s a huge step toward Total Force Fitness.

Find your best eating plan

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
You might have recently seen an athlete’s or movie star’s eating plan. Could following their diet make you a star?

Want to eat healthy and perform as well as the rich and famous? Often an elite athlete or entertainer has a dietitian or chef to plan meals and even do their grocery shopping. But is following someone else’s eating plan a wise idea?

  • Some superstars eat mostly organic vegetables and less fruit. A diet rich in vegetables is healthy, but can be taken to extremes. Eating entirely organic foods isn’t essential. Fruit contains numerous vitamins and minerals plus fiber. The current daily recommendation is 2–3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. It’s also unnecessary to avoid nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and mushrooms), as it’s not proven that they cause inflammation.
  • A lot of performers pick proteins. Their pattern might include only specialty proteins such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, free-range chicken, and duck. These are good sources of protein but duck and beef should be eaten a few times per week, as they can be very fatty. Other good protein sources include eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Nuts and seeds are higher in fat but contain healthy oils and other key nutrients.
  • Many icons avoid sugar and white flour. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sugar and refined grains but it’s unnecessary to completely avoid these foods. It’s best to eat at least 3 whole grains each day: whole-wheat products, brown rice, oatmeal, or popcorn are good choices.
  • Some celebrities only eat foods cooked with coconut oil. It’s better to include a variety of unsaturated fats in your nutrition plan.
  • Several VIPs dodge dairy. This isn’t recommended unless you have an allergy or intolerance. Dairy contains valuable nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, protein, and potassium.

Want to be ready for the locker room or the red carpet? Follow a balanced plan and eat what works best for you.

Omega-3s and brain health

Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain health, but beware of products marketed for concussions or traumatic brain injuries.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain development and function, but they also may help protect against damage from concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Several animal studies have shown that omega-3 supplements given before or after a traumatic event not only reduce the severity of damage in certain parts of the brain but also improve mental performance during recovery. Similar studies haven’t been conducted with humans yet, and although the results of these animal studies are promising, there isn’t enough current evidence to recommend taking omega-3 or fish oil supplements to reduce the risk of or assist in the recovery from concussions or TBIs. In addition, FDA has warned consumers to avoid using products marketed for these purposes. For more information, please read FDA’s Consumer Update.

Although omega-3 supplements haven’t been proven to help with TBIs, omega-3s are still important for your brain, heart, and overall health. It’s best to get your omega-3s from food, but if you choose to take supplements, do so under the supervision of your doctor. For more information on omega-3 supplements, please visit “Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth” from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

New Dietary Guidelines for Americans

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, USDA
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were recently released. They offer the government’s best advice on healthy eating. How can they help you?

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) just released the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines help shape policies for school lunch and breakfast programs, Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC), and nourishment programs for the elderly and military. The skinny is that they’re based on evolving nutrition science. They offer practical guidance on how to develop a nutrition plan too. Remember you can also seek a dietitian’s help to meet your goals towards healthy eating and performing well. Read more here

Chia seeds and drug testing

Will chia seeds cause a positive drug test? Read more and find out what you really need to avoid.

Chia (Salvia hispanica) seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. As such, they have become a popular food item, and you can also find chia (seeds and oil) in many dietary supplements marketed to support heart and digestive health. On its own, chia will not produce a positive drug test. However, when you look at ingredient lists on product labels, don’t confuse Salvia hispanica (chia) with Salvia divinorum (Diviner’s sage), which is banned by some services. There are many types of salvia, so please read the OPSS FAQ about salvia for more information. If you’re interested in learning more about chia seeds, visit this webpage from MedlinePlus.

Peak nutrition in cold weather

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Just because the outside temperature is dropping doesn’t mean your performance has to tumble too.

Daily exposure to cold weather increases your nutritional needs. But if you only PT outside for an hour or so a day, workout in a gym, and spend the rest of your time indoors, your daily food and fluid needs don’t change much—even when it’s cold outside. If you’re training in the cold for long periods of time, such as during field deployment or cold weather operations, here are a few ways to help maintain peak performance:

  • Calories. Moving through snow and icy terrain while wearing heavy gear causes your body to use more energy. Consume three to four standard MREs or three MCW/LRP rations per day to meet your energy needs. (At times you may have to force yourself to eat.)
  • Carbohydrates. Carbs are your body’s first choice for energy. When your caloric needs increase, you’ll need to eat more carbs. Be sure to eat high-carb foods such as rice, noodles, bread, First Strike Bar, fruit or sports bars, crackers, granola, pretzels, and carb-fortified drink mixes from your MRE or MCW/LRP rations. Store snacks in your pockets so you can fuel on the go, between meals, and before bed.
  • Hydration. Yes, you can still get dehydrated in the cold. Cold temperatures increase your fluid loss through increased urine output, breathing, and sweating (due to insulated clothing and intensity and duration of exercise). Fuel with fluids (excluding alcohol) even when you’re not thirsty. Make sure to monitor your hydration status by checking your urine color.

Remember, this isn’t the time to start a new diet (such as a low-carb diet) or lose weight, so fuel up to perform well.

 

Football season fitness

Ready for some football? Get off the couch and in the game with these fitness tips.

For many fans, watching football means indulging in comfort food and drinks—and lounging around on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s a way to round out the weekend and relax before the start of another workweek. But even one day of binging on game-day food and relaxation can ruin your regular healthy routine. The average football game consists of about 11 minutes of actual play—so you’re watching huddles, replays, and commercials in-between. Use that downtime to your advantage, call an audible, and get moving during time-outs!

  • Play some flag football at halftime.
  • Complete a quick workout during commercial breaks.
  • Remember to make healthy food choices too.

Check out A Football Fan’s Guide to Food and Fitness for ways to stay healthy and active during football season.

 

There is (almost) free lunch!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
Whip up these “tried and true” soups for pennies.

We all want to use our food resources and time wisely. Let’s talk about ways to save minutes and money. As the holidays approach, we want quick, easy meals to fortify us. Using the bones from our holiday meats can make an almost “free” extra meal or two. Helpful hint: store the bones in the freezer until you are ready to get cooking!

These tasty soups are healthy and affordable:

  • Bean Soup. Put a ham bone in a crockpot. Cover with 8 cups of water. Add one pound of rinsed, dried pinto beans. Season as desired—jalapeno peppers and cilantro are especially good. Cook on High for 5–6 hours or Low for 11–12 hours. Skim the layer of fat from the top. Chop and add any leftover ham to the soup.
  • Turkey Vegetable Soup. Put turkey bones in a large pot. Cover with 6­–8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bones and strain the broth. Add frozen corn, green beans, grated carrots, and instant brown rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add chopped pieces of turkey meat if desired. Season with black pepper.

Who knew making soups could be so simple? These meals just might become a mainstay of your recipe toolkit! 

Eating on the road again

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, Travel
Taking a holiday road trip? Make sure your car isn’t the only “vehicle” that’s properly fueled.

A critical part of any road trip is making sure you are nourished for the journey. Vacation leave is approved, your pet is at the sitter, and suitcases are in the trunk. Are you ready to get in your car and drive? Your car is fueled but you are not. BIG mistake! As you prepare to travel, here are some ways to help you go the distance:

  • Eat before you go. However, foods such as coffee, doughnuts, energy drinks, and candy bars aren’t the right fuel. These types of foods can cause your energy levels to crash.
  • Pack a travel meal if you are going to be on the road for a while. It can be as easy as a peanut-butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread plus a banana.
  • Bring tasty snacks. Examples include popcorn, homemade trail mix (whole-wheat cereals such as wheat squares or toasty oats, nuts, dried fruit, cheese crackers, and chocolate pieces), fruit, and nuts. Sugar-free gum makes a great addition to your stash.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring along a water supply for each traveler.
  • Eat small amounts of food every 2–3 hours to stave off sleepiness. Instead of eating while you drive, take a break at a rest stop. You can also switch drivers if needed.

These tips can help you save money and time. In addition, you won’t be as tempted by the high-calorie, fatty, sugary foods offered at travel centers and gas stations. What’s more, you’ll arrive feeling refreshed and ready for the next adventure!

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