FORT EUSTIS, Va. – In the Department of Defense Total Force Fitness diagram, nutrition represents one of the eight main concepts of fitness.
National Nutrition Month takes place during March, and Service members looking to improve their nutritional fitness have options to change their habits in healthy, easy-to-manage ways, said Mary Rewinski, McDonald Army Health Center dietician.
“Our culture has evolved into this fast-paced, fast-food society in the past decade, and that level of nutritional mismanagement has shown through,” explained Rewinski. “However, it isn’t too late to change, and there are multiple ways to do so.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of all adults in the U.S. are obese. Rewinski ties that statistic to a lack of understanding concerning prevention methods and dieting.
“Dieting doesn’t mean starving yourself or clearing your fridge of all the foods you love,” said Rewinski. “Just like exercise, dieting is a slow and steady change in our habits. We don’t want to burn ourselves out and revert back to old practices.”
Rewinski said most Americans have developed a certain taste for high-sodium, high-saturated fat and sugary food. However, after a slow progression away from these foods, people will actually change their tastes and crave a healthier diet.
“If you only drink whole milk, and then you slowly go down to skim, when you drink whole milk again it will taste too creamy and thick,” said Rewinski. “That doesn’t mean you have to go from whole to skim, but if we wean off of whole milk by drinking 2 percent and 1 percent milk, tastes will evolve. This same concept can be used virtually everywhere in the kitchen.”
For instance, if a family brings in the weekend with a fried chicken dinner on Friday, they can switch from deep-frying to lightly-battered, pan-fried chicken tenders instead. Afterwards, they can expand into grilling and baking chicken until they have changed their habits and dynamic without ruining their ritual of a Friday dinner.
“We use meals as social gatherings, and it is important for our relationships to maintain those gatherings while we transition into a healthier lifestyle,” said Rewinski. “Changing the nature of our dinners from ‘spaghetti and ketchup’ to a more exotic meal is a way to keep those family meals special, expand our flavors and stay healthy.”
Rewinski believes families who try to cook more ethnic foods will discover a whole new realm of tasty alternatives to more “traditional” American cuisine.
“Many ethnic foods contain nutrient-dense ingredients foreign to a typical American’s diet,” said Rewinski. “Utilizing those ingredients accomplishes two different goals: a healthy diet and a tasty meal.”
Whether driving past the drive-thru or setting down the soda, everyone has an opportunity to improve their nutrition, and by doing so Rewinski believes we can reverse our current trends.
“Together, Americans can change our culture’s diet,” she said. “We can eliminate obesity, cardiovascular disease and other diseases, one bite at a time.”
For more tips on healthy nutrition, go to www.choosemyplate.gov.