Tripler, 25th ID join forces, use nutrition to improve health, performance recovery
Army dining facilities use labels to indicate which types of food enhance a Soldier's performance and which types of food are considered for moderate performance or performance limiting.

HONOLULU -- Over the last year the Nutrition Care Division at Tripler Army Medical Center has been actively collaborating with the 25th Infantry Division and other units across the island to improve the physical and cognitive health and performance of service members.

Multiple initiatives have been launched to train service members to know what foods are best to eat, as well as how timing plays an important role in performance and recovery.

The first step to improving foods consumed is to increase the availability of quality choices. These efforts start with the military-run dining facilities, but also encompass vending machines, shoppettes, commissaries and every other outlet that sells food within the community.

Based on the results of the latest Military Nutrition Environment Assessment Tool (m-NEAT), Schofield Barracks is already making great strides.

The dining facilities are getting healthier by beginning to implement the new Department of Defense standards that call for more fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, leaner meats, and low-fat and low-sugar dessert and beverage choices.

These new options are accompanied by the implementation of the DoD initiative "Go for Green," a color-coding sytem that labels food based on nutrient, fat and calorie content.

Several dining facilities are also improving access to healthy choices by opening a "Grab and Go" counter at breakfast. The "Grab and Go" counters provide easy access to healthy, performance-enhancing foods after a Soldier's physical readiness training, or morning PT.

The "Grab and Go" counters also support the Nutrition Care Division's "PRT Ends with Breakfast" campaign, which emphasizes the importance of consuming important nutrients needed within 30-60 minutes of the completion of intense exercise to enhance recovery.

The dining facilities are not the only area making a dramatic improvement.

With the help of Army and Air Force Exchange Service, vending machines across Schofield Barracks have been converted to emphasize "Fit Pick" selections.

"Fit Pick" selections are categorized by the Department of Agriculture guidelines as "35-10-35." That means the item has less than 35 percent calories from fat, less than 10 percent calories from saturated fat and less than 35 percent of total weight in sugar.

The next step will be to modify the machines used to dispense beverages and ensure that lower-sugar options are available to go along with the typical high-sugar, high-calorie soda that most vending machines traditionally contain.

After increasing the availability of healthy food items, the second step to improving foods service members choose and the timing of those choices, is to educate them on how to eat in order to make the biggest impact on their health and performance.

As part of this initiative, a dietitian provides a block of instruction during the 25th Infantry Division's in processing. During this briefing, Soldiers of all ranks are exposed to the basics of food choices and how those choices can impact health and performance.

Soldiers learn where to go and who to turn to if they have questions about nutrition. Programs and classes the Nutrition Care Division offers include nutrition and performance, weight management, dangers and benefits of nutritional supplements, hydration, general healthy eating, and nutrition during pregnancy as part of the pregnancy PT program.

While dietitians from the Tripler Medical Center and U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks provide multiple classes each month, it is impossible to reach everyone.

With this in mind two separate programs are currently on-going that work to create pockets of knowledge within the units. By providing in-depth training to key unit representatives in the area of nutrition, performance and weight management, access to accurate and timely information is provided even when a dietitian is not available.

With these programs and more to follow, Tripler Army Medical Center and the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks will continue to positively impact the health and performance of service members on Schofield Barracks and across the island.

(Editor's Note: Lt. Col. Chad Koenig is the chief of medical nutrition therapy.)

Page last updated Wed July 11th, 2012 at 00:00