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Family Nutrition

General nutrition guidelines for the families of Warfighters.

General Guidelines

Warfighters often have specific, heavy nutritional requirements based on their mission-essential functions. For the rest of us not engaged in missions, the USDA and the HHS (Department of Health & Human Services) have published the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 to promote healthy lifestyles.

The Dietary Guidelines suggest the following:

  • Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables—especially dark-green, red, and orange vegetables, as well as beans and peas.
  • Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains.
  • Increase intake of fat-free (or low-fat) milk and milk products. Recommended amounts are: 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk for adults and for children and adolescents ages nine to 18 years; 2 ½ cups per day for children ages four to eight years; and 2 cups for children ages two to three years.
  • Choose a variety of protein-rich foods (i.e., seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds).
  • Increase the amount and variety of seafood you eat.
  • Eat proteins that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or that are sources of oils.
  • Use oils to replace solid fats (such as butter) where possible.
  • Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D (i.e., vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk, and milk products).

They suggest avoiding or reducing the following:

  • Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg.
  • Further reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg for people who are 51 or older and for those we are in other higher-risk categories (see the Dietary Guidelines for more information).
  • Consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids such as butter and lard (solid fats).
  • Consume less than 300 mg per day of cholesterol.
  • Limit foods that contain trans fats (e.g., partially hydrogenated oils). Dietary fat comes from plants and animals. There are "good" fats and "bad" fats that are linked to disease risk. The good fats—polyunsaturated and monounsaturated—are linked with lower disease risk. The bad fats—saturated and trans—are linked to increased risk. Everyone should limit their intakes of saturated fats and trans fats, as they are linked with increased blood LDL (bad) cholesterol, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Trans fats (also referred to on labels as partially hydrogenated oils or vegetable shortening) are typically found in processed and fried foods (because the partially hydrogenated oils don't spoil as easily as the non-hydrogenated oils).
  • Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.
  • Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains.
  • Consume alcohol in moderation.

Healthy nutrition for different age groups

The USDA has compiled resources that describe the nutritional needs of infants and toddlers, preschool and elementary kids, preteens and teenagers, adults, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and seniors.

Nutrition Guide for Parents
Provided by Navy Fitness. This 24-page guide discusses nutritional needs for pregnancy, birth, babies, childhood, and teenagers. Note that it mentions the USDA’s My Pyramid, which was replaced in June 2011 with MyPlate.

Nutritional content of food

Online Calorie Calculator
The USDA allows you to type in the name of a food, for which it returns basic nutritional information.

What Counts as a Cup?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) helps you learn appropriate portion sizes for fruits and vegetables (i.e., what does one cup of something look like?).

Nutrition Information for Raw Fruits, Vegetables, and Fish
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has downloadable/printable posters with nutrition facts for the 20 most frequently consumed fruits, vegetables, and fish in the U.S.

Interactive Tools

Click on the links below to jump to each section.
How to calculate your daily calorie needs
How to calculate your specific nutritional needs
Online tools your kid can use to learn how to eat healthy

How to calculate your daily calorie needs

In order to maintain a healthy weight or know how much to eat to lose weight, we need to know our daily caloric needs.

The American Council on Exercise's free calculator allows you to enter your weight (lbs), your height (inches), age, sex, and activity level in order to calculate your estimated daily caloric needs to maintain your weight.

How to calculate your specific nutritional needs

For information on how to calculate your specific nutritional needs, visit the Nutrition section of the HPRC website.

HPRC provides resources that show you how to:

Calculate Your Daily Nutrient Requirements

Calculate Your BMI

Figure Out Your Nutrition Requirements [XLS]

Calculate Your Protein Needs [XLS]

Calculate Your Daily Carbohydrate Needs [XLS]

Calculate Your Carbohydrate Intake Before and After Exercise [XLS]

Calculate Your Resting Energy Expenditure [XLS]

Determine How Many Fruits and Vegetables You Need Each Day

Calculate the Calories in Your Food [XLS]

How Much Do You Know About Protein? [XLS]

    Online tools your kids can use to learn how to eat healthy

    Small Step Kids
    The U.S. Department of Health & Human Service's website just for kids.

    • Small Step Kids' Fun Food & Awesome Activities includes pictures of different foods and activities with captions that describe what each will do for you.
    • Small Step Kids' Small Step challenge. You and your child can take a quiz.
    • Small Step Kids' Watch TV Ads is about how healthy food and exercise can work for him/her.
    • Small Step Kids' Great Web Links. For more healthy tips and games.

    Small Step Adult & Teen
    The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is developing a website for teenagers and adults. They have an online fitness tracker you can use, an area where you can Get the Facts about healthy eating, tips for how to Eat Better with Recipes, tips for how to Get Active, an area on Portion Control, and an area where you can see if there is a Small Step program in your state.

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    Family Meal Planning

    Click on the links below to jump to each section.
    Healthy Family Recipes
    Healthy Menu Planning
    Specific nutrition information for pregnant or breastfeeding moms

    Healthy Family Recipes
    The new USDA website helps you plan healthy meals and menus for your family. You can look up food or get a customized Daily Food Plan from MyPlate. If you are interested in maintaining, losing, or gaining weight, the website provides more information. You can even track your progress and "Steps to a Healthier Weight" through their online Food Tracker. There is also information for vegetarians.

    Let’s Move
    A program dedicated to healthy nutrition.

    The American Council on Exercise has healthy recipes you can try with your family. They list the portion sizes, calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, and other important nutritional information per recipe serving.

    The CDC’s Nutrition Basics
    For information about nutrition basics such as fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water. The CDC also has a recipe builder for fruits and vegetables—you can type in the name of a fruit or vegetable and what kind of dish you want, and it comes up with recipes.

    Healthy Menu Planning
    The U.S. Department of Health & Human Service's (HHS) website with a list of tools that can help you plan menus.

    Analyze My Plate
    Examine what you are eating through this online tool.

    Daily Food and Activity Diary
    HHS's online diary worksheet that you can print out and use to help keep track of your daily food and activities.

    Interactive Menu Planner
    The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has an online interactive menu planner where you can enter the number of calories you need and plan/record your menu selections.

    Create healthy versions of your favorite recipes
    The Centers for Disease Control has an interactive tool called "Recipe Remix" that revamps your existing recipes with healthier additions/substitutions.

      Specific nutrition information for pregnant or breastfeeding moms

      Daily Food Plan for Moms
      Provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Answer questions and get resources relevant for your situation.

      WIC Program
      A supplemental nutrition program for low-income women, infants, and children up to age five. For more information on eligibility criteria, visit the WIC website. They provide information, referrals to health care, and nutritious food.

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      Military Resources

      Military Resources for Eating Healthy

      USAF FitFamily
      The Air Force's website provides healthy recipes and nutrition information. Air Force families can sign up for a regular log-in. You can choose topics to learn more for you and your family.

      Fitness, Sports and Deployed Forces Support
      A Navy website that provides a Nutrition Guide covering child care from pregnancy to the teen years, plus additional information such as healthy recipes and a meal planner. The Navy and Marine Corps share a Public Health Center website where you can get additional tips on healthy eating.

      Fitness & Health
      The Marine Corps' website with a nutrition section that describes how to work towards a healthy weight, offers handouts on nutrition topics like hydration, and has general nutrition information.

      The Army's website has information on nutrition, including a weight management tracker, information on lifestyle changes, family health information, and a Hooah 4 a Healthy Body section.

      Research Findings

      Parents who are more active tend to have children who are more active.9

      • Not only can parents shape their children’s good habits, such as being physically fit, they can influence their children’s behavior just by being supportive of physical activity, without necessarily having to engage in it themselves.10-12

      Nutrition behavior is established in the family.13-15

      Strong predictors of a person’s body weight as an adult is (1) his or her body weight as a child and (2) the body weights of both parents.

      • Children who are overweight are more likely to be obese as adults.
      • 26-41% of obese preschoolers become obese adults, and 42-63% of obese school-age children become obese adults.16
      • Children who have one obese parent are between two and five times more likely to be obese as an adult than those with “normal weight” parents.17-18
      • When both parents have high body weight (BMI over 30), children and teenagers are 60-80% more likely to be overweight or obese.13
      • Teenagers who have an obese mother become obese at an earlier age than those with a non-obese mother.19

      The body weights of couples tend to be highly correlated.

      • Individuals who cohabit or who are married are more likely to become obese over time than those who are single or dating.8
      • Married couples living together for more than two years report lower levels of physical activity and more time watching TV than single or dating individuals—factors that play into weight gain.8


      1. Latham, B.C., et al., Family functioning and motivation for childbearing among HIV-infected women at increased risk for pregnancy. Journal of Family Nursing, 2001. 7(4): p. 345-370.
      2. Lehman, B.J., et al., Relation of childhood socioeconomic status and family environment to adult metabolic functioning in the CARDIA study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2005. 67(6): p. 846-854
      3. Pearson, N., S.J.H. Biddle, and T. Gorely, Family correlates of breakfast consumption among children and adolescents. A systematic review. Appetite, 2009. 52(1): p. 1-7.
      4. Turner, R.A., C.E. Irwin, and S.G. Millstein, Family structure, family processes, and experimenting with substances during adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 1991. 1(1): p. 93-106.
      5. Gross, S.M., E.D. Pollock, and B. Braun, Family Influence: Key to Fruit and Vegetable Consumption among Fourth- and Fifth-grade Students. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2010. 42(4): p. 235-241.
      6. Price, J.L.S., R.D. Day, and J.B. Yorgason, A longitudinal examination of family processes, demographic variables, and adolescent weight. Marriage & Family Review, 2009. 45(2-3): p. 310-330.
      7. Markey, C.N., P.M. Markey, and H.F. Gray, Romantic relationships and health: An examination of individuals' perceptions of their romantic partners' influences on their health. Sex Roles, 2007. 57(5-6): p. 435-445.
      8. The, N.S. and P. Gordon-Larsen, Entry into romantic partnership is associated with obesity. Obesity, 2009. 17(7): p. 1441-1447.
      9. Loprinzi, P.D. and S.G. Trost, Parental influences on physical activity behavior in preschool children. Preventive Medicine, 2010. 50(3): p. 129-133.
      10. Sallis, J.F., et al., Correlates of physical activity in a national sample of girls and boys in Grades 4 through 12. Health Psychology, 1999. 18(4): p. 410-415.
      11. Cleland, V., et al., A longitudinal study of the family physical activity environment and physical activity among youth. American Journal of Health Promotion, 2011. 25(3): p. 159-167.
      12. Edwardson, C.L. and T. Gorely, Parental influences on different types and intensities of physical activity in youth: A systematic review. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 2010. 11(6): p. 522-535.
      13. Garn, S.M., M. LaVelle, and J.J. Pilkington, Obesity and living together. Marriage & Family Review, 1984. 7(1-2): p. 33-47.
      14. Crossman, A., D.A. Sullivan, and M. Benin, The family environment and American adolescents' risk of obesity as young adults. Social Science & Medicine, 2006. 63(9): p. 2255-2267.
      15. Skinner, J.D., et al., Do food-related experiences in the first 2 years of life predict dietary variety in school-aged children? Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2002. 34(6): p. 310-315.
      16. Serdula, M.K., et al., Do Obese Children Become Obese Adults? A Review of the Literature. Preventive Medicine, 1993. 22(2): p. 167-177.
      17. Hooper, L.M., J.J. Burnham, and R. Richey, Select parent and family system correlates of adolescent current weight status: A pilot study. The Family Journal, 2009. 17(1): p. 14-21.
      18. Yoon, P.W., M.T. Scheuner, and M.J. Khoury, Research Priorities for Evaluating Family History in the Prevention of Common Chronic Diseases. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2003. 24(2): p. 128-135.
      19. Gordon-Larsen, P., L.S. Adair, and C.M. Suchindran, Maternal obesity is associated with younger age at obesity onset in U.S. adolescent offspring followed into adulthood. Obesity, 2007. 15(11): p. 2790-3796.