FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - It really is possible to live in the barracks and have a healthy lifestyle, said Capt. Thomas Johnston, the officer in charge of the Nutrition Care Division at Bassett Army Community Hospital.

"Every soldier has a choice. We all have a choice. It our responsibility of which choice we make. We can choose to get out and do physical training every day, or we can choose to overeat every day. It is really about making the right decision and that decision will really either make us or break us," Johnston said.

With microwave ovens often being the only choice for cooking in the barracks, Soldiers need to educate themselves what are healthy choices when browsing the freezer section at the commissary for something quick and easy.

When shopping for microwave dinners "the number one thing folks should look for is calorie content," Johnston said. People need about 1600 to 1800 calories a day and he recommends that that they should get between 500 and 600 calories in a meal.

Johnston said that many meals meant for hearty appetites have over 1000 calories and high sodium content as well. If those meals are eaten on a regular basis they will lead to weight gain and possible problems with blood pressure and other health problems as well.

Just because you're trying to eat right, doesn't mean you have to give up snacking.
There are healthy snack options in the barracks even without a refrigerator. "A handful of nuts is a great option," Johnston said. "You can also have fruits."

People don't often think of dried foods such as beef jerky as a healthy snack, but Johnston said that it is very high in protein and very low in fat. He recommends watching portion size and sodium content.

Another snack option is popcorn. "Popcorn is healthy, as long as you restrain how much butter you put on it," Johnston said. "Popcorn itself is fairly low in calories, without the butter. If you put too much butter on, it is like putting too much salad dressing on a salad, you're going to make it very calorie-dense and increase your likelihood of weight gain."

Choosing what to drink is just as important as what you eat, Johnston said. "While fruit juices are nutrient--dense, they are also very calorie-dense as well. Alcohol is calorie-dense, just like soda. Most sodas are about 150 calories for 12 ounces. Beer is about 110 calories for a light beer to about 190 calories for a darker beer. If you're having two or three of those a day, those calories add up."

"Weight control is very important," Johnston said "Anyone who has good weight control is more likely to have good stamina, good cardiovascular capacity and be able to endure situations on the battlefield or in a training environment. You're just more physically fit if you're of an appropriate weight for your size."

Johnston has developed a training to educate Soldiers about the different options that are available to them, even with the limitations of barracks living. To schedule training for your unit contact him at 361-5247.

Page last updated Thu August 19th, 2010 at 16:11