FORT LEE, Va. – March is National Nutrition Month, a time to emphasize the benefits of improving one’s eating habits as well as those of the entire family if the person reading this is the meal planner in the house. The 2022 theme is “Celebrate a World of Flavors.”
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – the sponsor of the information campaign – Nutrition Month is a time to “focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.”
It encourages everyone to adopt eating and physical activity plans that are focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health.
Let’s take a look at some of the recommended actions for improving one’s diet.
A hugely important first step is to eat real food. In other words, think closer to the farm than the factory when you are making food choices. Fresh fruit and vegetables are a great start. Avoiding boxed or frozen “convenience meals” that are usually high in salt, unhealthy saturated fats and cholesterol is another good move.
Remember also that many food distributors use words like “natural” and “organic” as marketing gimmicks. The best way to know what’s in the product is to read the ingredient and nutritional label. Pay attention to serving sizes as well. Companies can get away with promoting a product as “good for you” or “healthy choice” by simply lowering the recommended amount eaten instead of increasing beneficial contents.
The following are additional suggestions to support this “cleaner” way of thinking about food choices:
· Select real sliced or whole apples instead of processed applesauce
· Choose fresh chicken legs or thighs (remove skin and bake) instead of chicken nuggets
· Get bacon from the butcher case; be wary of “thick cut” brands and “healthy option” turkey varieties
· Cook whole oats and add frozen/fresh berries instead of dissolving instant berry-flavored oatmeal
· Opt for fresh nut and raisins snacks instead of a trail mix bar
· Prepare actual wild or brown rice instead of prepackaged substitute brands that often include high-salt “spice” packets
· Consider sweet or baked potatoes instead of pasta
· Eat whole fruits and vegetables; they produce far more health benefits than fruit or vegetable juices.
· Choose nuts or air-popped popcorn to snack on instead of chips and crackers.
· Add pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds to salads for crunch instead of croutons and bacon bits.
Another good way to improve one’s diet is to eat less animal-based foods. Make a commitment to eat one completely plant-based meal, like a salad with no cheese or diced meats, daily. Limit the intake of cheese to no more than 1 ounce per day (one snack stick or four cubes). Eat fish that’s high in Omega-3 fatty acids at least two-to-three times per week. Reduce meat portions to 3-4 ounces (size of a deck of cards). Incorporate plant-based dairy products like almond or soymilk. Cut down (no more than 3-4 ounces per week) on the consumption of high-fat processed meats like bologna, hot dogs and sausage.
Eating healthy is a choice that requires careful meal planning, smart shopping (reading labels and avoiding packaging gimmicks) and discipline at snack time. Getting started is probably the biggest challenge, followed by maintaining it for a lifetime.
To make it easier, strive for an 80-20 split. Make at least 80 percent of the meals consumed healthy, nutrient-rich foods that promote energy and well-being. Allot the other 20 percent to “fun food” choices that may not fall into the healthy category but are good for one’s mood and satisfaction level.
The Army Wellness Center and KAHC dietitian are easily accessible resources focused on assisting service members with physical readiness and generally promoting the overall health of the community. The dietitian, located within Kenner, offers services regarding weight loss, weight gain, eating disorders, diabetes, various diseases, diet plants and other nutritional needs.
The AWC, located at 9205 Mahone Avenue, provides programs and services to promote enhanced and sustained healthy lifestyles, which is one of the cornerstones to Total Army readiness. Health Educators are prepared to facilitate behavior change opportunities using their extensive experience and the following methods of assessment:
· “BodPod” composition testing, accurately measuring body fat percentages.
· Metabolic Testing, which analyzes oxygen levels to determine an individual’s caloric needs to reach weight loss, gain, or maintenance goals.
· Fitness Testing using sub-maximal VO2 (heart rate) measurements on either a stationary bike or treadmill to achieve a measure of strength and flexibility. Results from the calculated heart rate training zones are ideal for exercise planning.
· Virtual Health Coaching through which an AWC educator maintains routine contact with a client to address the many facets of an effective fitness plan ranging from exercise and diet to sleep hygiene and stress management.
To schedule an appointment with the Army Wellness Center, call 804-734-9925. To set up a consultation with the registered dietician, call 1-866-533-5242 (the Kenner appointment line).
Services are available to all military members and their families (age 18 and older), retirees and their spouses, and DOD Civilian employees. The AWC hours of operation are 7 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday thru Friday. Walk-in BodPod appointments are available every Friday from 7:30-11:30 a.m.