All servicemembers need to be fit and ready to perform their missions. Eating right is one way to stay fully mission capable.

March is National Nutrition Month, and a good time to remind all Soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines that good nutrition is a combat multiplier.

Deployment is often a challenging environment in which to eat right. Difficulties include irregular work schedules, long hours of duty, extreme temperatures affecting appetite, and less availability of "healthy" foods.

"Some Soldiers find the large selection of foods in the dining facility to be a challenge when maintaining their weight," said Army Lt. Col. Beverly D. Patton, specialty consultant in dietetics, Multi-National Corps - Iraq.

"People easily gain weight by eating fried foods and drinking too much Gatorade and soft drinks," she said.

"I have a friend who calls Dr. Pepper liquid candy," Patton said. "Remember, a bottle of cranberry juice, two bottles of Gatorade, and one Dr. Pepper will add 600 calories to your daily intake."

A recent New York Times science article noted that the 'average American gets 21 percent of his calories from beverages.

Look for healthier beverage choices such as skim milk and 100 percent juice, but even these beverages have calories.

Drink water, unsweetened ice tea or diet sodas. You can also add Crystal Light or sugar-free Tang to bottled water for a low calorie flavored drink, Patton said.

Not all nutrition damage comes from the foods you eat. Sometimes you can damage your health with other things you put in your body.

"A recent survey of military personnel showed that Soldiers tend to take more supplements than the general American population," Patton said.

The types of supplements ingested range anywhere from multi-vitamins to protein pills.

Servicemembers should keep in mind that supplements are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration, Patton said.

Clinical trials are not required to test the safety or effectiveness of a supplement before it goes on the market.

Testimonials by body builders or sports figures are not fact when it comes to supplements, she said.

You can't be the ultimate warfighter if you do not have the energy to complete your mission. Proper nutrition is essential to keeping fit and ready.

Page last updated Wed March 19th, 2008 at 11:04