FORT SILL, Okla., May 31, 2018 -- With Healthy Army Communities, new motivations may arise that prompt people to improve their diets, and there's many plans to choose from, but which would you trust?

1st. Lt. Rachel Ayala, Nutrition Care Division chief at Reynolds Army Health Clinic, is one key resource to help people make health-promoting decisions.

Ayala completed the Army Graduate Program of Nutrition and had a master's degree in kinesiology before joining the Army. Before her arrival at Fort Sill, she was stationed at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

She said she enjoys applying her knowledge for customer needs that vary from one day to the next.

"Everyone who comes to us for help is completely different." Though different, all are treated the same. "We tailor programs to each individual as it's really about their goals and what they want to change," she said.

Ayala said she has a special appreciation to help her brothers and sisters in arms.

"I love working with Soldiers -- I love that when they come in I happen to know something I've studied that may help them," she said. "I love sharing information, and helping people feel like they have a powerful tool to make the kind of changes they are seeking."

In terms of what answers Nutrition Care may offer, don't expect a detailed consultation weighing the merits and discrepancies of various diets.

"If someone wants to lose weight and improve their appearance, I would encourage them to have a mindset for long-term change. That isn't just based on wanting to get ready for the summer, but wanting to be a healthier person and looking better every day of their life," she said.

Another consideration is whether or not to discuss a change with one's primary care manager.

"If they have a disease, yes, they should contact their PCM," said Ayala. "If they are already a healthy person, go right ahead."

Ayala said normally the changes people are seeking take time to happen.

"Think about how long did it take me to get in this bad shape? It didn't occur overnight," she said. "It takes that same amount of time to get into good shape."

It's just a matter of having a good plan to make it happen.

"I recommend setting realistic goals and developing healthy habits lifelong," she said.

These goals aren't necessarily some far-off vision, but can be linked to immediate actions. Ayala said people should look at their existing barriers to eating healthy, and the, "How can they become healthier step by step?"

That will lead to weight loss, toning and whatever else a person is seeking to achieve, she said.

Though not recommending specific diets, Ayala did mention the Mediterranean diet as one that can work for some people who have certain pre-existing diseases. She said this can be then be viewed as a healthy lifelong diet and can recommend someone be on that diet.

She said the main difference with this diet and the "normal way" most people eat, is the Mediterranean diet uses heart-healthy fats. Also, it recommends eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. It doesn't cut out any food group, which is good.

"We don't want to cut out a whole food group," she said.

Ayala believes this point is important because "every food group has its list of nutrients that it is specifically good for. Such as let's cut out dairy, well, what about calcium?"

She said it's difficult to get sufficient calcium from vegetables, but for those people who eat primarily fruits and vegetables, there are ways to make up for lost calcium should people go that route.

Another diet that has caught a measure of popularity is the Keto diet, which focuses caloric intake to be 70-90 percent from fat, said Ayala.

"People can lose weight on that diet, but it's not sustainable lifelong," she said. "When they come off it, they tend to gain the weight back, plus 10 percent."

Getting back to developing good habits, Ayala mentioned fruits and vegetables as a "lost food group" that many people don't eat near enough.

"Goverment guidance suggests half the dinner plate should be fruits and vegetables. As a dietitian, I emphasis only a quarter should be fruit, or have the fruit on the side and half the plate is vegetables," she said.

Water is another necessity to factor in. Ayala said most people don't drink enough water, but a good way to gauge this is urine should be a pale yellow color.

She didn't recommend fruit or energy drinks and said sports drinks should only be consumed in a hot environment or after intense activity. Otherwise, water is sufficient.

Cravings can be a reality for many people, and Ayala said not all are bad, such as, "people may crave carbohydrates because the body is really saying it needs them."

She added if they become a problem, dietitians can help with counseling.

"If cravings are a big problem, that's a good time to consult with a dietitian who can help," she said.