Nutrition 101

Keeping yourself motivated throughout the weight loss process is often times challenging.
Always remember why you want to lose weight, write it down, post it where you will see it,
read it when you want to quit. Never give up on something you think about every single day!

Nutritional Guidelines from USAF LivingFit

Knowing what to eat and how much to eat can get pretty complicated, especially when
you are trying to lose weight and feed a family.  Here are some nutrition basics to help
you get started.

Give thanks for the nutritional benefits of turkey

As we think about the showpiece of our Thanksgiving table, we can take comfort in knowing that turkey is low in fat and high in protein, even though many of the side dishes are not! Turkey is also a source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins. A 3.5 ounce serving of turkey breast without skin has 161 calories, 4 grams of fat and 30 grams of protein. Dark meat without skin has 192 calories, 8 grams of fat and 28 grams of protein. Dark meat has more iron and vitamin B12 than white.

Don’t skimp on protein in your diet

Protein in your daily diet helps to build and repair organs, muscles, skin, hair, nails, bones and certain hormones. Eating protein-rich foods also makes you feel full. Consider adding these food items to your meals: hard-boiled eggs; roasted or grilled chicken breast; pre-cooked frozen shrimp or a cup of Great Northern, red kidney or cannellini beans.

Choose your summer salad greens wisely

Eating salads is a great way to boost nutrition if you put the most beneficial greens on your plate. Specifically, kale and spinach are far superior to iceberg and even romaine lettuce. Why? You’ll dramatically increase your Vitamin K, necessary for helping blood to clot. You’ll have a tremendous increase in antioxidant Vitamin C. And your intake of Vitamin A, beneficial for healthy skin, teeth and tissue, will soar.

Are you eating enough superfruits?

Superfruits are those rich in the nutritional goodness of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants—and promoted as delivering more power per punch than other fruits. Make sure you include some of these fresh, raw fruits in your diet every day: apples, avocados, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapes, kiwi, oranges, raspberries, strawberries and tomatoes.

Help kids make wise food choices

In support of the Month of the Military Child, let’s focus on how we can help children develop healthy eating habits. According to the American Public Health Association, nearly one in three U.S. kids are either overweight or obese and at risk of developing a chronic illness. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows most U.S. youth don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables or whole grains, with many exceeding the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium and sugar. Families can help address nutrition and hunger by providing children with healthy meals while they’re at school, reading nutrition information on menus when eating out and cutting back on sugary drinks.

Foods that help build strong bones

To keep your bones healthy and strong, you should have about 1,000 mg of calcium a day. Include some of the following foods—especially those labeled calcium fortified--in your diet to ensure you’re meeting your calcium requirements: cereal, milk, soy milk, yogurt, orange juice, cheese, fish and greens.

Remember these foods to nourish your brain

Start the new year by eating foods that can give your memory a boost! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage and dark leafy greens fall into the sharper recall category, as do fruits such as blackberries, blueberries and cherries. Don’t forget seafood for omega-3 fatty acids and walnuts to improve working memory.

Place healthy snacks in plain sight

During the holiday season, people often fill decorative bowls with colorfully wrapped candies and chocolates. Avoid the temptation of those sugary goodies by keeping nutritious snacks within easy reach instead. Mandarin and Clementine oranges are plentiful in the produce section of your grocery right now, as are many varieties of apples. Cut a fresh pineapple into chunks and keep them handy for snacking. Almonds are a good source of Vitamin E as well as other nutrients and make a great snack food.

How to control portions at holiday meals

Fill up your plate at Thanksgiving—once—and keep it colorful. The more fruits, vegetables and lean meats the better. Curb the carbs such as potatoes and rolls. Don’t come to the table hungry. Make sure you’ve had a healthy breakfast with protein and fiber. Plan on drinking lots of water and taking a walk during the day. If you’re doing the cooking, consider healthier ingredients such as whole wheat flour in breads and desserts, low fat milk instead of whole or evaporated, and Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Enjoy the health benefits that apples provide

The U. S. Apple Association reports that research has linked apples and apple products to helping with everything from weight loss to different types of cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even asthma. Some of the most recent studies have linked apples with improving the symptoms of Alzheimer´s disease and possibly decreasing your risk for developing it, as well as improved immunity and gut health due to the pectin (soluble fiber) found in the apples peel. Apples are full of antioxidants and contain 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving.

Make sure food in school lunch bags stays fresh

Pack lunch bags with foods that don’t spoil easily and that can withstand being in a locker or backpack for several hours. Perishable foods should not be out of refrigeration for more than two hours, says The organization recommends healthy, shelf-stable foods such as trail mix, granola bars, bagels, carrot and celery sticks, whole fruit, single-serve applesauce, cans of tuna or peanut butter.

Easy ways to stick to your meal plan, even at the beach

Stay fit during your vacation at the beach, lake, cabin or wherever your travels take you. Drink plenty of liquids, such as unsweetened homemade iced green tea and bottles of chilled water. If you like beer, opt for the low calorie type. Load your cooler with fresh fruit, lean meat sandwiches or wraps, carrot sticks, hummus, whole grain chips and low fat yogurt.

Visit a farmer’s market for healthy foods and a fun family activity.

Take advantage of the delicious fruits and vegetables available throughout the U.S. in summer. Visit a farmer’s market for the freshest locally grown foods available. You will probably have a good selection of tomatoes, squash, greens, cucumbers, carrots, corn, berries, melons, peaches, apples and more. At least 3 servings each of fruits and vegetables are recommended daily as part of a healthy lifestyle.

A good night’s sleep may keep you from overeating

The National Sleep Foundation outlines the connection between enough sleep and good nutrition by stating that: “Food is also related to sleep by appetite and metabolism…people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have bigger appetites due to the fact that their leptin levels (leptin is an appetite regulating hormone) fall, promoting appetite increase. This link between appetite and sleep provides further evidence that sleep and obesity are linked. To top it off, the psychological manifestations of fatigue, sleep and hunger are similar. Thus, when you’re feeling sleepy you might feel like you need to head for the fridge instead of bed.”

Is ground turkey better for you than ground beef?

You may think you’re making the right choice when you opt for ground turkey over ground beef at the supermarket. A pound of ground turkey contains 12g saturated fat. A pound of ground sirloin contains 10g saturated fat. How can turkey contain more saturated fat? Because the dark meat in turkey is more fatty than the white meat. Make sure what you’re buying is ground turkey breast, with just 2g saturated fat per pound.

Increase your water intake

We’ve been told for ages that it’s healthy to drink 8 glasses of water a day. But why? Here’s what water can do for you: It provides the hydration your body needs, keeps you feeling full, assists in maintaining a balance of body fluids, improves the look of your skin and it energizes your muscles to help you burn calories when you exercise. If plain water isn’t exciting enough for you, jazz it up with sliced lemon, lime, or cucumber, or add a sprig of mint. 

Balancing the vegetarian diet for good nutrition

Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients, but the key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs. Follow the food group recommendations for your age, gender and activity level to get the serving size and variety of food needed for nutrient adequacy. Nutrients that vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12.

Stop when you’re had enough

Eat nutrition-rich foods first, such as salads, fruits and vegetables. They will help you feel full and should fill about half of your plate at each meal. One quarter of your plate should contain protein such as lean meat, poultry or fish, and the fourth portion of your plate should have whole grains. Include dairy products such as skim milk, yogurt or cheese. Stop eating before you feel full. Do not eat too fast. It requires about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your body is getting food. You stop feeling hungry when your brain gets this message. 

How to avoid added sugar

As you probably know, food that contains added sugars has fewer nutrients than foods with sugars that occur naturally. If you see ingredients such as corn sweetener, corn syrup, sucrose, lactose, fructose, dextrose, fruit juice concentrates, honey, molasses, brown sugar, sugar, raw sugar, glucose, maltose or high fructose corn syrup on an ingredients list, you know the food has added sugars. The closer an item is to the top of the list, the more of that sugar is in the food.

The CDC offers these tips for avoiding added sugars—
  • Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened sodas.
  • Choose 4 fluid ounces (1/2 cup) of 100% fruit juice rather than a fruit drink.
  • Have a piece of fruit for dessert and skip desserts with added sugar.
  • Choose breakfast cereals that contain no or less added sugars.

Lose weight and make healthy lifestyle changes 

Sign up today to start reaching your goals

Login every week to
check your progress!

We recommend that participants weigh themselves each week. You will receive an automated email each week to remind you to enter your weight into your password-protected LivingFit page.

Not a LivingFit participant yet?
Click here to get started!

Click here for entire 
list of color coded 

To lose 1 pound of body fat per week, you need to burn 3500 calories.

If we break it down, you will need to CUT OUT or BURN an extra
500 calories per day.

Identify foods/food combos AND activities that equal 500 calories.
Multipy these times 7 for the week and you’ve lost one pound!
For example:

Here are some high calorie foods to be aware of and/or cut out to get your 500 calorie deficit for the day

Peanut butter
Candy Bar    
Large French Fries    
French Dressing    
Pizza Hut Breadstick    
Slice Pepperoni Pizza    
Soft Drink    
Grande Mocha Frappucino    
Blueberry Muffin    
Hot Dog    
Orange Juice

94 cals/Tbsp
130 cals/oz
260 cals
573 cals
500 cals/4oz
88 cals/ Tbsp
180 cals
340 cals
90 cals/1 can
227 cals
610 cals
80 cals
224 cals/16 oz

Activity examples equivalent to burning 500 calories in one hour

Boot Camp
Circuit Training
Crossfit Workout
Dance Revolution
Elliptical Trainer
Family Hike
Flag Football
Ice Skating
Jumping Jacks

Jumping Rope
Line Dancing
Pogo Sticks
Pull ups / Push ups
Shovel Snow
Spinning Class
Stair Step Machine
Step Aerobics
Swimming Laps
Zumba Class

If you missed some of our
Nutrition 101 Basics tips
visit the archives.

The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Air Force of the information, products, or services contained therein.