Grocery Guide

Grocery shopping can be a pretty daunting task for most of us. Misleading health claims, deceptive packaging, and simply being low on time can all add to the difficulty of making the healthiest purchases. That’s why we’ve created a grocery guide to help you decipher which foods to pick and which foods to ditch. We’ve also included some healthy alternatives and bargains for those savvy shoppers!

A quick rule is to primarily shop the perimeter of the store. This is where you will usually find the healthiest and freshest foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and low-fat dairy. The less healthy, processed foods are usually located on the inner aisles.

Produce Section

Shop the rainbow. Each differently colored fruit or vegetable represents a variety of vitamins and minerals. Try to buy something from each color category as you pass through the produce section.

Grocery Guide

Healthy Alternative: Try making baked fruit or veggie chips with apples, kale, spinach, eggplant, or zucchini. Simply toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake at 425°F for 10 minutes or longer. 

Bargain Buy: As your produce starts to over-ripen (bananas, strawberries, blueberries) throw them in the freezer and mix with low-fat milk to make a smoothie. Don’t waste money on not-so-healthy- frozen smoothie mixes or ice cream.

Quick Tip: When it comes to buying salad greens, the darker the leaf, the more nutrient dense the food. For example, spinach has 19 times more Vitamin A and 3 times as much protein as iceberg lettuce.

Meat, Fish, and Deli

Quick Tip: In general, the lighter the color, the leaner the meat.

Beef: 93% lean ground beef, eye, top and bottom round, sirloin, and flank steak are all a great source of protein that offers less fat and cholesterol in comparison to other popular cuts.

Healthy Alternative: 99% fat-free ground turkey breast is often cheaper than ground beef and lower in fat which is helpful in fighting cardiovascular disease.

Boneless skinless chicken breast: Is a great source of protein. Try to get “all natural” or non-enhanced chicken breasts if you can because enhanced chicken is injected with saltwater to keep it moist; 3 ounces can pack more than 300 mg of sodium.

Healthy Alternative: Tofu and beans are a great source of protein that is usually cheaper and a great option for vegetarians.

Healthy Food Phony: Deli meat and canned meat are usually much higher in sodium and preservatives such as nitrites which have been linked to certain cancers.

Pantry Aisle

Mustard: Toss the mayo and try mustard. Dijon and spicy mustard are both much lower in calories and fat, but pack a powerful flavor punch.

Healthy Alternative: Avocado offers heart healthy unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats found in mayonnaise.

Vinaigrette-based salad dressing: Go for vinaigrette-based dressings instead of mayonnaise-based dressings like ranch or bleu cheese and you’ll save calories and fat.

Whole grain cereal: Check for less than 200 calories per serving, ≤8 grams of sugar per serving, and aim for a cereal with more fiber than sugar per serving.

Healthy Food Phony: Granola. Many granola-based cereals want to be perceived as healthy but contain more calories, sugar, and fat in comparison to other cereals.

Snacks

Popcorn: Ditch the pre-bagged kind that is high in fat and unhealthy preservatives. Instead, pop your own.

Cheese sticks: Reduced fat, often called “light” string cheese sticks are a great source of protein for kids and adults alike.

Hummus: Made from protein packed chickpeas, hummus is also a good source of fiber. Try eating with carrots, celery, or bell peppers instead of potato chips.

70% Dark chocolate: 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.

Nuts: (especially walnuts) have heart healthy omega- 3 fatty acids and protein. If you need some help enjoying these in moderation, try the pre-packaged individual serving sizes. Or to save money, buy the larger container and package them into smaller snack-size bags yourself.  Just make sure to avoid sugar coated, honey-roasted varieties. Stick to the raw form.

Drinks

1% Low-fat milk: Is a great source of lean protein, calcium, and vitamin D.

Healthy substitute: Try soy, almond or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. Just make sure you get the unsweetened kind to avoid too much added sugar.

Tea: Black, green, and herbal teas are all high in antioxidants. Just don’t add too much sugar or honey. Opt for the caffeine free option for afternoons and evenings.

Healthy Food Phony: Sport Drinks. On average, sport drinks contain 20 grams of sugar in one 12 oz. serving. Not to mention a plethora of other UFOs (Unidentifiable Food-Like Objects). Unless you’re engaging in endurance sports, water is sufficient for hydration.

Refrigerator/Freezer Aisle

Quick Tip: Frozen fruits and vegetables are often packaged at their peak ripeness which makes them just as nutrient dense if not more than fresh fruits and vegetables, and often at a fraction of the price. Just check the ingredients label to make sure there is no added sugar, preservatives, sodium, etc.

Low-fat cottage cheese: This is a great source of protein and calcium. Jazz it up with some fruit!

Low-fat cheese: Try goat, feta, or ricotta instead of American which is heavily processed and often contains the most salt and fat of all cheese!

Healthy Food Phony: Smoothie kits. Often these ready to go kits have added sugar and other junk. Try making your own instead.

Bargain Buy: A one pound package of cooked frozen spinach is inexpensive and packed full of nutrients. It takes about 1 ½ pounds of fresh spinach to make one standard 10 ounce package of frozen spinach...now that’s a bargain!

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Depression

 

Mental health and well-being in the military are critical areas that must be addressed with understanding and compassion. Today, our focus is depression.

Some Facts

Suicide rates among the military population used to be less prevalent than in the civilian population. However, in 2005 suicide within the military, particularly the Army, steadily began increasing to record levels every year, until in 2008 it exceeded the civilian matched population rates. Defense Department officials are hopeful those rates are in a state of decline.

Contrary to the popular belief that mental illness and suicide in the military is largely attributed to stressors from deployment, the largest study of mental health risk and resilience ever conducted among U.S. military personnel found that approximately one-third of post-enlistment suicide attempts tied back to pre-enlistment mental disorders.

The results of the same research study also indicated that pre- and post-enlistment mental disorders accounted for 60% of first suicide attempts in the Army. This further highlights the importance of addressing the current status of mental health present in today’s military service member population.

Active Duty: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among U.S. military personnel, according to data from the Department of Defense. In 2012, a record 350 service members took their own lives. That total was twice as many as the decade before and surpassed not only the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan but also the number who died in transportation accidents in the same year.

Veterans: Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That’s 1 suicide every 65 minutes, and that’s not including deaths that occurred in several states such as California and Texas.

National Guard: Suicide rates in the National Guard are higher than for full time troops. In 2012, 34.2 per 100,000 Guard soldiers took their own lives in comparison to 22.7 per 100,000 full time soldiers. At any given time, troops on active-duty rolls include not only full-time soldiers, sailors, Marines and Airmen; but also include National Guard or reservists who are temporarily called up to full duty status. So- while the exact numbers are hard to decipher, more than likely, the numbers are higher.

 

 

As we move toward a better understanding of emotional health, we must remain in compassionate space, refrain from judgment, and never assume that we can adequately contemplate the intensity of the battle that individuals are fighting within themselves.

 

The environment for the Soldier and their family members can be stressful at times. Soldiers are being deployed, leaving their spouse at home to take care of their family and the home.  Soldiers are placed in a situation that can increase rates of anxiety and result in symptoms of depression once they have completed deployment and are trying to reintegrate with their family and adjust to being home.  The family is placed in a situation where they often feel overwhelmed with demands and possibly guilty for feeling any sense of resentment towards the situation. Symptoms of depression are common. Recognizing these symptoms and whether they are interfering with daily life is important in this vulnerable population. It wasn’t too long ago that the Department of Veterans Affairs released data suggesting that rates of veterans taking their own lives are increasing. Learning the symptoms of depression and treating them early is the best way to prevent tragedy from occurring.

Depression is one of the most common and most treatable mental disorders. The problem lies in not knowing how to recognize depression and/or not taking action to treat the depression. At times, there may be perceived stigma associated with being “labeled” with a “mental” problem, and/or with seeking treatment for that problem. This is even more prevalent in the military population. Soldiers may feel that they just need to “be strong” and deal with issues themselves or feel they will be judged for getting mental health treatment. Failing to take appropriate action can result in a downward spiral with symptoms getting worse. A movement towards empowering soldiers to take action on symptoms of depression without repercussion will result in more of those needing help actually getting it. This movement includes family members, peers, and friends getting on board to support individuals seeking appropriate treatment.

What To Look For

Depression includes a variety of symptoms that can vary from one person to the next that continue day to day. If you notice some of these symptoms continuing for more than just a few days, it may be time to think about seeking help. Common symptoms can include but are not limited to:

1) Feeling fatigued or having no energy almost every day

2) Inability to start or finish daily tasks (cleaning the house, basic hygiene, running errands)

3) A feeling of hopelessness…like there is no reason to live, nothing to look forward to

4) Loss of concentration or inability to remember things

5) Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or not enough)

6) Significant changes in weight (weight gain or loss)

7) Thoughts of death or suicide

It is not advised that you or someone you know use this checklist as a way to “diagnose” depression. This checklist should be used as a tool in recognizing when outside help is needed. We have also included several resources for further information on depression and depression in the military.

Resources

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Service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, along with their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at www.MilitaryCrisisLine.net, or send a text message to 838255 to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  

A hotline has been established specifically for the military called the “Let’s Talk” Deployment Health Helpline: 1-800-796-9699. Available from 7:30-4:30 p.m. EST. 

For additional information, check out Recovery.org, which provides further resources for suicidal thought treatment and recovery.  


Omega Fatty Acids

You’ve probably heard about Omega fatty acids, and that they are good for your health. What many people may not know, however, is that there are two types of Omega fatty acids and both play a role in the necessary processes of inflammation and blood clotting, but in a very different way.

What are Omega fatty acids?

Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Both of these types of unsaturated fats are healthy and essential in the diet. Both are biologically active in the body, unlike most fats which are used for energy or stored. This means that they play important roles in sustaining health, specifically in blood clotting and inflammation. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, and Omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect. The inflammatory process is a normal and healthy function of the body, specifically when an injury occurs. The early stages of inflammation enlist the immune system to help control infection, and wound healing and tissue re-growth occur in the later stages of inflammation. It is also necessary for blood to have the ability to clot in order to prevent excessive bleeding. The problem occurs when there is excessive inflammation and clotting in the body, which can lead to heart disease, arthritis, and other serious diseases. The key is to balance the consumption of Omega-6 and Omega-3.

How much do I need?

Health experts do not endorse a daily recommended intake for Omega-6 or Omega-3, rather, the emphasis is on the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Most people consume a diet that is too high in Omega-6 fatty acids, and lacks in Omega-3s. This unbalanced ratio has a damaging effect on the body, and is one of the most negative aspects of the typical American diet. Anthropological studies show that humans evolved eating a ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3 somewhere around 1:1. The typical diet today has a ratio of 16:1!

To better balance the ratio of Omega fatty acids in your diet, follow these tips:

  • Processed oils are loaded with Omega-6s, so limit or avoid them. The oils highest in Omega-6s include sunflower, corn, sesame, and peanut oil. These are typically found in highly processed or fried foods because they are inexpensive and readily available. Limiting these foods in your diet will reduce the overall amount of Omega-6 consumed.
  • Omega-3s are found in seafood such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, anchovies, and halibut. Other sources are beans, nuts, and spinach. Some foods are fortified or enriched with Omega-3s, such as bread, cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt. Choose canola, flaxseed, soybean and olive oils when cooking.
  • The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (like salmon) at least twice a week. Eating a variety of non-processed foods in place of processed or fried foods will also help to improve the ratio of fatty acid consumption in your diet.
  • If you feel that your diet lacks in Omega-3s, consider taking a Fish Oil Supplement to get these beneficial fatty acids. Supplements will vary in the amount of fatty acids they contain, so look for one with at least 600mg of DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid, the primary form of fatty acid found in fish that offers health benefits). Let your doctor know if you are taking a Fish Oil Supplement.
omega

A Calorie is a Calorie Myth

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It has been well understood that in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, one must reduce overall calorie consumption and increase calorie expenditure through physical activity. One pound of body weight equals 3500 calories (so to lose one pound a week, one must decrease food intake by 500 cals/day), but not all calories are created equal!

Get the Most Bang For Your Buck

When trying to lose or maintain weight, it is best to choose your calories wisely; this means that in order to get "more bang for your caloric buck", choose foods that will positively affect your health. If most of your calories come from fatty foods like red meat, sausage, fried foods, baked goods, and creamy dishes, then blood cholesterol levels tend to be higher, which in turn can lead to clogged arteries and other cardiovascular diseases. Consuming most of your calories from healthier sources like lean protein (beans, nuts, white meats), vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy, and whole grains will have a positive effect on cholesterol and blood sugar levels which leads to a steady release of energy and an overall feeling of wellness.

Another benefit of selecting healthier foods towards your daily calorie goal is that you will feel full (not hungry!) even while losing weight. Calories that come from sugary, refined foods like candy, white breads, sugary cereals, and white potatoes will cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels followed by a surge of insulin to bring blood sugar levels back down. When blood sugar rises and falls at rapid rates, you tend to feel hungry more often and have less energy. On the other hand, a diet that is rich in whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy (unsaturated) fats will allow blood sugar levels to rise and fall at a steadier, more controlled pace, leaving you feeling satisfied between meals and more energetic. 

UFO’s

Beware of dietary “UFOs”, or Unidentifiable Food-like Objects. This term refers to foods that are highly processed, contain many chemicals, and offer very little (if any) nutritional value for the calories they contain. Choosing whole foods that are closer to their natural state will help maximize the health benefits of the foods you are eating. The calories that come from whole, natural foods will help you in meeting your health goals and feeling the best you can.

 

 

A Calorie is a Calorie Myth Graphic

image sources: http://www.ihearexercisewillkillyou.com/2013/05/peanut-free-chewy-granola-bars.html, http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/rabbis-without-borders/2013/02/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SnackWells, http://talesfromthelou.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/the-nasty-nine-food-additives-to-avoid/

Your Brain on Sleep

sleepgraphic

Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and the Army Performance Triad. Signs of sleep deficiency such as lack of energy and concentration are usually pretty apparent. However, research has demonstrated the negative effects of sleep loss extend much further than feeling a little tired. Sleep plays a crucial role in both mental and physical performance. Without the proper amount of sleep, the body is prone to injury, fatigue, stress, muscle weakness, and poor focus. In fact, the body declines in physical performance by 25% every 24 hours that it is deprived of sleep. Conversely, a fully rested body can think more clearly, make better decisions, and perform at a physically optimal level.

Sleep and Mental Performance

Memory

During sleep, the brain consolidates long-term memory into storage, removing the short-term memory stores to allow for the absorption of more information. Being well-rested also improves working memory.

Mood

A lack of sleep can increase irritability and mood swings. A general absence of emotion can also result from not getting enough sleep. During sleep, the body releases hormones. Premature waking can disrupt the delivery of these hormones, causing moodiness.

Focus and Concentration

Having a full night of rest increases the brain’s ability to concentrate. Sleep also improves alertness and reaction times.

Multitasking

During sleep, the brain prioritizes information. Sleep is also important in the formation of new ideas and the ability to multitask.

Logical Reasoning

Without sleep, it is harder for the brain to perform higher level cognitive functions, such as mathematical concepts. A well-rested brain is able to reason and think more clearly.

Sleep and Physical Performance

Energy and endurance

Sleep increases energy stores in the body used to fuel physical activity and exercise.  Without enough sleep, insulin resistance and a decrease in glucose tolerance occurs. This means the body cannot readily utilize fuel for physical activity as efficiently as when it gets a full night’s sleep.

Muscle recovery

During sleep, the body is able to recover and repair damaged muscles and bones.

Stress

Sleep reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Without enough sleep, cortisol levels increase, which can lead to slowed healing, increased risk of injury, and poor memory.

Accuracy and reaction time

Sleep can also improve brain function, which helps improve accuracy and reaction time related to focus and athletic performance.

Bottom Line

Sleep loss impairs both mental and physical performance. After 24 hours without sleep, mental and motor skills are impaired at the same level as someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10-legally drunk in all 50 states. For those who are struggling with sleep or simply not prioritizing it to the top of their list, start by setting some simple goals tonight!

Try to keep these sleep practices on a regular basis:*

· Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.

· Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual (such as a hot bath).

· Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.

· Avoid caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening.

· Wind down. Spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.

 

*Resource: The National Sleep Foundation