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March is Nutrition Awareness Month: Healthy eating advances AF readiness and mission success

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Think twice before biting in. Are you making a smart food choice?  

Healthy eating coupled with active living, is the foundation for healthy living, which is critical to maintaining a ready and deployable force. 

Optimal nutrition keeps Airmen performance ready –mentally and physically prepared for mission success. It enables faster recovery from injury, exercise and stress. 

Healthy eating promotes healthy Airmen and healthy communities. “A lot of our initiatives focus on how to make the healthy choice the easy choice. This requires improving access to and availability of healthy food options,” explains Lt. Col. Deborah Robinson, senior leader of Air Force Reserve (AFR) Dietetics. Committed to championing an environment supportive of healthy eating and active living, the Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) has developed specific initiatives that promote healthier choices for Airmen and their communities.

Healthy Airmen

Take these steps to help incorporate healthy eating into your daily routine:

  1. At the commissary, shop the perimeter, where healthier choices are found (fruits, vegetables, whole grain, low-fat/nonfat dairy and lean protein)
  2. Read nutrition facts labels to help identify nutrition content and food serving size
  3. Plan meals in advance
  4. Track your food and drink intak
  5. Consider employing tools such as the USDA’s MyPlate or SuperTracker

Healthy Communities

Take these steps to cultivate community-wide healthy eating:

 1. Go for Green® (G4G) in dining facilities:

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) G4G program uses a stoplight system of green, yellow and red to identify nutritious foods.  Foods are color-coded based on their nutrition quality, which can impact an Airman’s fitness, strength and health.  Green signifies performance enhancing foods. When selecting from menu offerings, keep in mind the significance of these labels:

  • Green (eat often)
  • Yellow (eat occasionally)
  • Red (eat rarely) 

The DoD is working to improve the G4G system through three specific goals. The first is to increase availability and variety of green-coded food recipes. The second goal is to make green-coded foods attractive and delicious. The final focused goal is to revamp existing green-coded food recipes.

 2. Exercise dietary supplement safety:

Supplements can have strong effects in the body.  It is important to keep in mind that the FDA does not approve dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness.  A supplement can be marketed without being proven safe, effective or free from adulterants.  The FDA received 6,307 dietary supplement adverse event reports from 2008-2011, including 92 deaths (GAO Report, March 2013).

Some supplements can increase the risk of bleeding.  There is also the potential for adverse reactions when supplements are combined with prescription drugs. It is important to remain vigilant about the possibility of unexpected side effects when taking dietary supplements.  If you use supplements, choose brands that have undergone “third party certification.”  Third party certification does not guarantee the supplement is safe or effective, but validates manufacturing practices, purity or quality.

Stay educated. Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) is a DoD campaign that educates the warfighter and healthcare provider on responsible supplement use.  OPSS provides a list of ‘red flag’ high-risk supplements and hosts an “Ask an Expert” forum to address specific concerns.  For tips on exercising dietary supplement safety, visit OPSS.

 3. Follow 5210, to improve children’s health:

5210 Healthy Military Children is a community-wide program to improve children’s health. 5210 promotes healthy behaviors, to put into practice each day:

  • Five (5) or more fruits and vegetables
  • Two (2) or less hours of screen time
  • One (1) or more hour of physical activity
  • Zero (0) sugar-sweetened beverages 
For more information on 5210, check out the 5210 toolkit.

 4. Incorporate Operation Live Well:

Operation Live Well is the DoD’s initiative to promote healthy living throughout our communities. For more tips on healthy eating, visit Operation Live Well: Nutrition.

Crews Into Shape Challenge

During Nutrition Awareness Month, Airmen are invited to participate in NMCPHC’s 16th Annual Crews Into Shape Challenge.  The challenge offers Airmen the opportunity to practice healthy eating and active living, through a four week, team-oriented challenge that combines the support of colleagues and family members, to promote a healthier lifestyle. Crews Into Shape will take place March 6 – April 2, 2016. Registration ends  March 8. For more information, visit http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcphc/health-promotion/Pages/crews-into-shape.aspx

AFMS Healthy Living Recipes

Healthy eating promotes readiness, optimal performance, better health and better care –all key factors to the success of Full Spectrum Readiness. For nutritious and tasty recipes, check out AFMS Healthy Living Recipes

For additional health improvement resources, visit your local AFB health promotion office.

For more AFMS guidelines on nutrition and exercise, visit the Air Force Medical Service Health Living page