News Roundup: The Child Nutrition Act

The Child Nutrition Act (CNA) is up for reauthorization in September, which has many people already talking. This act not only affects the standards for things like school breakfast and lunch, it also affects programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). 

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts discussing the Child Nutrition Act and why you should keep an eye on the CNA reauthorization over the next few months.

What is the Child Nutrition Act, and Why Should We Care?  U.S. News. “In the coming months, there’s going to be a lot of talk in the media and among politicians about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. The CNR is a law that governs nine federal nutrition programs, and any changes to it impact millions of children, most of whom come from low-income households. That law is up for review in September, but groups on all sides of the school food debate are already lobbying to influence the decision makers.”

Don't Let Food Industry Stir the Pot.  Huffington Post.Our current child nutrition policy, the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, created stricter nutrition standards for school meals. Research studies by Harvard and University of Connecticut's Rudd Center have shown that these healthier school meals are being accepted and getting student to eat more fruits and vegetables. But food industry wants the standards rolled back and are busy working with legislators to shape this policy to meet their needs."

What is the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act?  Food Research and Action Center. “Although the programs are permanently authorized, every five years Congress reviews the laws governing these programs through the reauthorization process; the current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-296), is set to expire on September 30, 2015…Reauthorization provides an opportunity to improve and strengthen the child nutrition and school meal programs so they better meet the needs of our nation’s children in pre-school, school-based and out-of-school time settings.”

Ask an Expert: Child Nutrition Reauthorization in 2015. No Kid Hungry.  “The Child Nutrition law sets federal policy for the nutrition programs at the heart of the No Kid Hungry campaign. The work we’re doing to increase the number of kids who eat school breakfast, afterschool meals, and  free summer meals is impacted by the laws Congress writes – from how much federal funding the programs will receive, to whether a kid can take a meal home from a summer meals site.”



8 Ways to set up your Kitchen in Support of Reaching and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

There are many factors that can have an impact on reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Some factors are more obvious than others. For example, most people know it isn’t a good idea to keep “junk food” in the house because it typically leads to over indulging. But, did you know that the placement of certain foods in and around your kitchen can also have an effect on the likelihood of you eating them? This is because our kitchen environment shapes our subconscious cues for eating. Below, we share with you some tips for shaping your kitchen environment so that you can reduce mindless eating and start eating more mindfully.

1.       Eliminate countertop clutter.  According to research by Dr. Brian Wansink, an expert on eating behavior, people eat 44% more snacks when their kitchen is cluttered than when it is clean and organized.  Something as simple as removing foods high in carbohydrates (i.e. cereal) from the counter tops makes it easier to eat healthier. Out of sight, out of mind, is true for the kitchen.

2.       Place a fruit bowl on the counter. Make the healthiest foods, like fruit, the most visible and easily accessible in your kitchen. Conversely, remove all unhealthy, “junk food” from the counter tops (and your house altogether, ideally). If you have a difficult time deciding what is healthy and unhealthy, a good rule of thumb is to not have any food on your counter top except fruit.

3.       Don’t buy unhealthy foods to keep in the house.  Instead, go “out” for the more unhealthy stuff. For example, if you love ice cream, don’t keep it in the house. Treat yourself to some ice cream once per week by going out to have a single serving of ice cream. This way, you will start to view ice cream as a treat that is ok to have every now and then, instead of every day.

4.       Move undesirable food to the cabinets.  Undesirable foods aren’t necessarily unhealthy, but they are foods that you have a hard time controlling the portion of (i.e. mixed nuts).  By moving these types of foods to the cabinet, you are making them harder to get to, which means you will be less likely to end up mindlessly eating them.

5.       Prepare healthy meals in advance. When hungry and in a hurry, we often choose unhealthy foods to eat. If you have ever grocery shopped while hungry, then you probably know the feeling. For a lot of people, Sunday is a good day to make a couple of healthy meals that will last through the week. By making meals ahead of time and storing them in the fridge, you will have a quick go-to healthy meal option that will make it easier to drive right past all the fast food places on your way home. 

6.       Pre-wash and prep foods when you unload groceries from the store. Wash all the fruits and vegetables as you unpack them. This will save time later. Also, if you buy meat in bulk, go ahead and put it into individual zip top bags and place in the freezer. While buying in bulk can be a good way to save money, often times it’s at the cost of increased calorie intake.  Portioning out items bought in bulk as soon as you get home allows you to get the deal without all the extra calories.

7.       Prepare portioned snacks ahead of time.  While most “snack size” foods are easy to grab when you’re in a hurry, they are also typically highly processed and full of added sugar and fat. Help yourself out by preparing some healthier, portioned snacks in your free time. You can measure out your favorite snack into a snack size zip top bag. The next time you are in a hurry and need to grab a quick snack, it will be ready. Some examples of this are popcorn, mixed nuts, unsweetened dried fruit, carrots, celery, and grapes and cheese.

8.       Serve food off the stove, not the table. People who eat with serving dishes on the table are more likely to go back for second and third helpings before their body has had enough time to comprehend if it’s still hungry or not. By keeping the serving dishes on the stove, it will take a bit more of a conscious decision to decide if you are truly hungry enough to get up for a second helping. 


8 Healthy Food Swaps


8 Healthy Food Swaps that are so Delicious, No one will know the Difference

Looking for an easy way to cut calories, fat, or sugar? We've got it covered. Check out these healthy substitutions.

1.       Avocado for vegetable oil or butter

Vegetable oil is full of saturated and trans fat which research has shown can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammation.

It may sound strange, but substituting Avocado for vegetable oil in baked goods, such as brownies, is a much healthier and equally delicious option.  Avocados have more fiber and unsaturated fats, which have been shown to decrease risk for cardiovascular disease as well as increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied).

Bonus*black beans are also a great substitute for flourless and oil-less brownies!

2.       “Alfredo sauce” made from cauliflower

The average Alfredo sauce is high in fat and calories, and many people who are lactose intolerant can’t eat it due to it being dairy based.

Try this creamy cauliflower sauce instead. Cauliflower Alfredo sauce is much lower in fat and calories. It also boasts more fiber and Vitamin C than typical Alfredo sauce. Almond milk can be substituted for a dairy free version. This is also a low-carb option for those monitoring their carbohydrate intake.

3.       Almond flour for white flour

The typical American diet includes too much white flour, which is high in refined carbohydrates and lacking protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Almond flour can easily be substituted (1:1) for white flour used in cake, muffin, pancake, and cookie recipes. It is a good low-carb option for people who need to monitor their blood sugar, such as people with diabetes.  Almond flour is also higher in protein, fiber, heart-hearty unsaturated fat, and many vitamins and minerals such as Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium.

4.       Greek yogurt for sour cream

Sour cream is high in saturated fat, calories, and cholesterol.

Try substituting fat free Greek yogurt for sour cream as a topping for chili, tacos, or whatever you would usually put sour cream on!  Greek yogurt is a super food that touts many health benefits including higher protein and lower fat content and calories, when compared to sour cream.

5.       Baked zucchini fries for French fries

French fries are high in saturated fat, carbohydrates, and calories. Plus, they lack fiber and many vitamins and minerals.

Try these baked zucchini fries which are lower in fat, refined carbohydrates, and calories. Zucchini is also a good source of Vitamin C, which can help boost immunity, repair body tissue, and also functions as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help block damage caused by free radicals, which have been linked to cancer.

6.       Dark chocolate for milk chocolate

Part of what makes milk chocolate taste so good (and have so many calories) is the combination of added sugar and fat.

Try dark chocolate instead. It is a healthier choice for those with a sweet tooth, but make sure it’s at least 70% dark. This kind is lower in sugar and fat and has more antioxidants in it which have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and some cancers.

7.       Ground turkey for ground beef

Fattier types of ground beef, such as ground chuck, contain large amounts of saturated fat which have been linked with cardiovascular disease.

Try swapping ground turkey for ground beef. Lean (99% fat-free) ground turkey breast is often cheaper than ground beef and lower in fat which is helpful in fighting cardiovascular disease. If you don’t like the taste of ground turkey, initially try swapping it out in recipes with flavoring like spaghetti and tacos, then try swapping it out for burgers once you are more acclimated to the taste.

8.       Spaghetti squash for white spaghetti pasta

Traditional spaghetti noodles are high in carbohydrates and lacking in beneficial fiber.

Spaghetti squash is much lower in calories and carbohydrates, while also containing more fiber and antioxidants, as compared to spaghetti pasta. Don’t be intimidated by cooking spaghetti squash, it’s actually really simple and requires about the same amount of work as boiling a pot of spaghetti pasta.


News Roundup: Preparing for the APFT

As discussed in our blog earlier this week, preparing for the APFT is a combination of the right nutrition, sleep, and physical fitness techniques. Your body's physical performance depends on the food you put in it, the amount of sleep you get, and the way you train. 

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts discussing tips and techniques for preparing for the APFT.

For upper-body warm-ups, stretch multiple muscles at onceReuters. “Dynamic stretches focus on getting the blood flowing and increasing range of motion by using multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Unlike static stretches, which generally involve holding a single pose for a minute or two, dynamic stretches use a series of controlled movements.”

Pre- and Post-workout Nutrition for High-Intensity Interval TrainingAce. “Due to the intensity of these workouts, it’s vital to follow a healthy nutrition plan with adequate nutrition in the days and hours leading up to a workout. Plan on a moderate- to high-carbohydrate meal that also includes protein approximately three to four hours before the HIIT workout, and then another high-carbohydrate snack within an hour after the workout.”

How Sleep Affects Athletes’ Performance. “You can help your body better consolidate memories linked to motor skills simply by hitting the sack. In fact, sleep is vital for cementing recall linked to body movements. So whether you want to be able to repeat that perfect tennis backhand from yesterday’s practice or better hone your skills when shifting gears on your bike, getting your zzz’s may be just as important as fitting in training sessions.”

Get it Right: Push-Ups.  Oxygen.  “Beginner tip: If you’re not strong enough to do a fully extended push-up, go for one on your knees. To get into the proper position, get into plank, then drop your knees to the floor. Build up to standard push-ups by adding one to three each time you train. In a few months, you should be cranking them out! “


Preparing for the APFT


Preparing for the APFT is both a mental and physical effort. If you want to reach optimal performance, it is important to take a whole-body approach, including engaging in cardiovascular exercise and strength training; eating a healthy diet; and getting adequate and quality sleep. 



When beginning your exercise program it is important to pace yourself and slowly increase your activity. This will help you avoid injury, achieve optimal benefits, and reach Army standards. Your standardized physical training program will always include the following elements: a warm-up, the main physical training, and a cool-down. This is the safest and most effective way to train and condition your heart for exercises and progression.


Warm- up

The warm-up should last approximately 15 minutes, and occur just before the activities of your physical training session. Performing consistent dynamic (moving) warm-ups can ultimately help improve performance on the APFT.  Dynamic warm-ups like walking prior to jogging and jogging prior to running, prepares the body for more vigorous conditioning activities and can decrease the risk of injury.  Soldiers should also refer to the Army Physical Readiness Training Manual FM 7-22 for the preparation drill that is a dynamic warm-up consisting of ten exercises that appropriately prepare Soldiers for physical readiness activities. 


Cardiorespiratory and Strength Training

Cardiorespiratory endurance refers to the body’s ability to utilize oxygen in the working muscles. The standard Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) involves running, so activities like Ability Group Runs (AGR), speed running, foot marching, and conditioning drills per the FM 7-22, will help you prepare for this event.  Cycling and swimming are also good choices when working on cardiorespiratory fitness.  Strength training at least twice per week is important to prepare for the push-up and sit-up portion of the test.  If your APFT goal is to improve the number of repetitions of push-ups and sit-ups, it is recommended that you perform a variety of upper body and core exercises.

 Ø  Upper Body Exercises:  There are three major muscles groups involved in a push-up: Pectorals, Triceps, and Deltoids.  Maximize your workouts by varying muscles worked and super-setting exercises so that you can combine rest time for one muscle group with work time for another muscle group.  

Ø  Core Exercises: A true core strength training program not only uses your abdominals, but also activates all the muscles stabilizing the spine, hips and pelvis.  Refer back to Army HEALTH’s fitness tool for specific exercises and instructional videos for these specific areas.  Practice will help you increase your APFT scores, but remember that rest is also important.  Incorporating upper body and core exercises into your weekly workout routine will help you reach your goals. 


Cool down

The cool down should last approximately 10-15 minutes and should occur immediately after the activities of your standardized physical training session. You should begin the cool down by walking until your heart rate returns to less than 100 beats per minute and heavy sweating stops.  



In addition to exercise, proper nutrition plays a major role in attaining and maintaining total fitness. Good dietary habits on the days leading up to, and including the day of your APFT can greatly enhance your ability to perform at your maximum potential. According to the Department of the Army Fitness Training manual, "Because foods eaten one to three days before an activity provide part of the fuel for that activity, it is important to eat foods every day that are rich in complex carbohydrates." 


The night before the test, you can benefit from drinking water and eating fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. On the day of your test, it's a good idea to eat just one light meal before the test begins. Having a light meal will help keep your energy up without feeling sluggish. Here are some ideas for staying energized and hydrated:

  • Half whole-grain bagel with light cream cheese and a cheese stick or slice of turkey breast.
  •  A piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter.
  •  Apples, bananas or carrots with hummus or peanut butter.
  • Keep water with you at all times.
  • Several hours before your scheduled cardiovascular event, drink at least 16 ounces of water.
  • Avoid rehydrating with sports drinks (if exercising for < 1 hour).
  • Drink 20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost through sweating.

*Remember: It is possible to drink too much water. Listen to your body.   


Sleep is a vital component for peak physical performance, yet it is often overlooked or not prioritized. In addition to increasing energy and endurance, getting enough sleep also aids in muscle recovery, stress reduction, and increased accuracy and reaction time. Research has shown that sleep so strongly affects physical performance, such that your body declines in physical performance by 25% for every 24 hours that your body is deprived of sleep. It is important to get enough sleep all the time, not just the day before your APFT.  Here are some tips for getting more sleep:

  •  Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours prior to bedtime (including soft drinks, tea, and chocolate)
  •  Avoid eating 2-3 hours prior to bedtime
  • Keep the bedroom cool
  • Block noise and light
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as taking a hot shower. 

The Bottom Line

Train the way you test. This is the best way to ensure that you will do well on your next APFT. Focusing on a whole body approach that includes diet, exercise, and sleep will also aid in preparation. Finally, here are some tips for the day of the test. Good luck! 

  • The night before the test, drink water and eat fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Runners also prefer the carbohydrate-boosting energy of pasta the night before a race. 
  • On the day of the test, eat a small snack that consists of a complex carbohydrate and a protein (i.e. whole grain toast with peanut butter).
  • Drink at least 16 oz. of water prior to the test. During the breaks between the tests, drink small amounts of water slowly to replenish fluids lost during sweating.
  • Wear proper running shoes with your PT uniform (i.e. no minimalist “barefoot” shoes).  Additionally, choose a running shoe that is suitable for your particular type of foot .
  • Always warm up and cool down. The warm-up should include a lighter version of your exercise activity, such as jogging before running. The cool down process allows your heart rate and breathing to return to their resting rates. 


References:,,,, and FM 7-22.