NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., — What you eat matters, especially if you want to perform your best.
Food and nutrition play an important role in military capability. Appropriate food, in terms of both quality and quantity, and adequate hydration are required to ensure that the physical capability and mental performance of military personnel remain at optimal levels.
Nutrition plays such an important role in one’s overall health and wellness, and with March being National Nutrition Month® it is important to understand what is and isn’t healthy. With varying opinions on the internet, television shows and by so-called nutrition “experts” it’s hard to know where to begin to look for trustworthy health information.
The 99th Medical Support Squadron is here to answer nutrition questions, provide accurate nutrition information and give the tools needed to help one establish a healthier eating style.
“A part of our mission is to be ready to fight and a part of being ready to fight is to live a healthy lifestyle,” said Senior Airman Erise Shannon, 99th MDSS diet therapist. “A healthy lifestyle not only encompasses exercising but a big part of it is what you eat.”
“We have a pretty diverse mission,” said Maj. Saunya Bright, 99th MDSS flight commander and Air Combat Command nutrition consultant. “We have an inpatient feeding mission where we provide therapeutic diets to patients who have been admitted to the hospital. We cater the diet to what the patient’s conditions are and their diets can run the gamut. We have about 38 different diets that we provide and they can range from people who have diabetes to renal disease or cardiac issues and more.
“Secondly, we have a staff and outpatient feeding mission which is our dining facility located in the Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center. The dining facility is open from breakfast to lunch and we serve about 200 to 300 people a day. Our goal is to provide healthy wholesome meals and promote our Go-for-Green program (G4G).
“Our other mission is the outpatient nutrition clinic. Patients are referred to us by their primary care provider for conditions that are not generally seen at the health promotion area in the Health and Wellness Center. It is more individualized care and then we also support the larger groups with the better body better life program and the hypertension class that go on at the HAWC.”
The G4G is a Department of Defense program that promotes healthful food and beverage choices in order to optimize performance, readiness, and the health of our service members.
By identifying nutrient-rich foods and beverages and placing of foods in prominent places in the dining facility, G4G prompts service members to make better choices, more often. The program enables dining facilities to create and offer more nutrient-rich food and beverage choices that are easy to identify and appealing.
“The G4G program uses a color based labeling to identify the nutritional quality of the food,” said Shannon. “If the item has a green label that means that it is a high-performance food and should be eaten most often. If the item has a yellow label that means that it is a moderate-performance food and should be eaten in moderation. If an item has a red label then it is a low-performance food and should be eaten rarely.”
By helping dining facilities serve and promote more nutrient-rich green-coded food choices and educating service members, G4G can impact diner behavior and, in turn, the nutritional fitness of the services.
Another program that the 99th MDSS offers is the MyPlate class, which offers tips and information on eating right.
The MyPlate is a reminder to find one’s healthy eating style and build it throughout one’s lifetime. Everything you eat and drink matters, and with the right mix can help one be healthier now and in the future. This can be accomplished by focusing on the variety, amount, and nutrition of the food one eats. It is important to choose foods and beverages with less saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. Also, start with small changes to build healthier eating styles and support healthy eating for everyone.
Eating healthy is a journey shaped by many factors, including our stages of life, situations, preferences, access to foods, cultures, traditions, and the personal decisions we make over time. All your food and beverage choices count, and MyPlate offers ideas and tips to help one create a healthier eating style that meets one’s individual needs and improves one’s health.
There are many resources at our disposal that provides accurate information on nutrition and provide the tools to help get on track with having a healthier eating lifestyle. A site that Maj. Bright highly recommends utilizing is the Human Performance Research Center website (www.hprc-online.org).
The HPRC’s human performance optimization (HPO) website is for U.S. Warfighters, their families, and those in the field of HPO who support them. The goal is Total Force Fitness: Warfighters optimized to carry out their mission as safely and effectively as possible.
“The HPRC site has a lot of tools,” said Bright. “It even includes an ask the expert link to answer any question one might have and has the natural comprehensive database where you can go and plug in any supplement that you are taking or want to do research on. It lets you know whether or not that supplement is truly something that is safe to take.
“The database is accessible to active duty members with a common access card and provides a ranking on a scale from one to ten on how reliable the supplement or product is. It gives the ingredient list, effectiveness and whether or not there are any safety concerns.
“Our goal is for people to truly try the products that have a high reliability and are closer to that ten ranking. I think this is a resource that people can capitalize from if they knew that it was out there. All these tools are located on the HPRC website.”
For those looking to improve their nutrition, Airman Shannon had three easy tips to follow to help achieve the goal of living a healthier lifestyle.
“First, use the MyPlate program,” said Shannon. “It is there for a reason and it works. Second, Exercise. It is important because you can’t just eat right and not exercise, you have to do both to be healthy. Finally, stay focused. Find a healthy nutritional plan and stick with it. Don’t lose sight of your goals.”
“Most of us spend more than half our waking hours on the job,” said Weart. “During this time we’re faced with many demands that can test our physical and mental energy. To be the best you can be, at work and at home you need to take care of yourself. This can be accomplished just by standing whenever you can. The less you sit, the longer you live. It’s that simple.”
Health Promotion Operations offers a variety of free exercise and nutrition classes every week at the HAWC. The programs are available to all active duty, dependents, retirees, and DoD civilian employees. Personnel are also available to come to your squadron to brief topics on nutrition, fitness, stress management and other health topics.