The Performance Triad: Nutrition - The connective link in your lifespace

By Valecia Dunbar, MEDCOM Public AffairsAugust 7, 2013

Nutrition is one of the three components which make up the Performance Triad. The focus of the Performance Triad is on three key areas that affect cognitive and physical performance in the Army: Activity, Nutrition, and Sleep. By improving Soldiers' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors in these three areas, it is expected that performance and resilience will improve, thus improving Soldier and Unit Readiness.

Attention to these daily activities can positively affect the Lifespace - the time when beneficiaries are not seeing a healthcare professional; the time when they make choices which impact their performance and health.

"Each healthcare encounter is an average of 20 minutes, approximately 5 times per year. Therefore, the average annual amount of time with each patient is 100 minutes; this represents a very small fraction of one's life. We want to partner with our patients regarding the other 525,500 minutes of the year where they live their lives," says Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho.

Now, more than ever, proper nutrition is an important piece of the Army's system for health. In the past, active military members have been considered immune to the U.S. obesity epidemic due to the physical training, periodic fitness testing and the requirements to comply with Army weight standards. However, data suggests that the number of overweight/obese military members has increased in the past decade.

Good nutrition is more than just weight management. "Good nutrition is essential for peak cognitive and physical performance. Proper food choices and timing maximizes performance in the gym, during a combat mission, in the office, at home --- everywhere in the Lifespace. In addition, good nutrition is essential for long-term health and disease prevention. A healthy diet can reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease (the number one killer in the U.S.)" says Col. Laurie E. Sweet, USAMEDCOM nutrition program manager and nutrition consultant to the Army Surgeon General.

March is National Nutrition Month®. This year's theme is: "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day" and encourages personalized eating styles while recognizing factors that impact individual food choices. Incorporate these nutrition tips into your Lifespace to improve your nutritional fitness:

• Choose it your way: You don't have to give up your favorite foods. There are no bad foods, just some you should eat less often and many you should eat more often. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend: 1) eating more foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, 2) eating less foods with sodium (salt), saturated and trans-fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains and, 3) balance calories with physical activity to manage weight.

• Plan it Your Way. Planning is important. If you wait until you are hungry, it's too easy to overeat and make unhealthy choices. Keep quick and easy healthy recipes, meals, or snacks on hand. Use the MyPlate icon to help you build a healthy diet. Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl. Start the day off by right by eating breakfast every day. When dining out - Read the menu. Words to watch out for include fried, deep fried, crispy, smothered, creamy, breaded, battered and rich; they are always high in fat. Healthier words to look for include steamed, baked, broiled, boiled, and grilled. When eating in the Dining Facility, use "Go for Green" food labels and choose "Green" options frequently.

For personalized assistance on improving your diet -- see a Registered Dietitian (RD). RDs are the food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living. They are the nutrition experts and can help you make unique, positive lifestyle changes.

Related Links:

Human Performance Resource Center

Public Health Command

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

STAND-TO!: Performance Triad: Nutrition

STAND-TO: Performance Triad Pilot Program

USDA My Plate

Operation Live Well

USFDA, Protecting/Prompting Health

Department of Veteran's Affairs