Living in the barracks doesn’t have to be unhealthy

| September 9, 2010 | 0 Comments

Trish Muntean
Army News Service

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska — It really is possible to live in the barracks and still have a healthy lifestyle, said Capt. Thomas Johnston, officer in charge of the Nutrition Care Division at Bassett Army Community Hospital, here.

“Every Soldier has a choice,” Johnston said. “We all have a choice. It our responsibility of which choice we make. We can choose to get out and do physical training every day, or we can choose to overeat every day. It is really about making the right decision and that decision will really either make us or break us.”

With microwave ovens often being the only choice for cooking in the barracks, Soldiers need to educate themselves what some quick-and-easy healthy choices are for when browsing the freezer section at the commissary.

When shopping for microwave dinners “the number one thing folks should look for is calorie content,” Johnston said. 

People need about 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day, and he recommends that that they should get between 500 and 600 calories per meal. 

Johnston said that many meals meant for hearty appetites have more than 1,000 calories and high sodium content as well. If those meals are eaten on a regular basis, they could lead to weight gain, problems with blood pressure and other health problems. 

Eating right doesn’t mean giving up snacking. 

There are healthy snack options in the barracks even without a refrigerator. 

“A handful of nuts is a great option,” Johnston said. “You can also have fruit.”

People don’t often think of dried foods such as beef jerky as a healthy snack, but Johnston said that it is very high in protein and very low in fat. However, he recommends watching portion size and sodium content. Another snack option is popcorn. 

“Popcorn is healthy, as long as you restrain how much butter you put on it,” Johnston said. “Popcorn itself is fairly low in calories, without the butter. If you put too much butter on, it is like putting too much salad dressing on a salad; you’re going to make it very calorie-dense and increase your likelihood of weight gain.”

Choosing what to drink is just as important as what you eat, Johnston said. 

“While fruit juices are nutrient-dense, they are also very calorie-dense as well,” he said. “Alcohol is calorie-dense, just like soda. Most sodas are about 150 calories for 12 ounces. Beer is about 110 calories for a light beer, to about 190 calories for a darker beer. If you’re having two or three of those a day, those calories add up. 

“Weight control is very important,” Johnston added. “Anyone who has good weight control is more likely to have good stamina, good cardiovascular capacity and be able to endure situations on the battlefield or in a training environment. You’re just more physically fit if you’re an appropriate weight for your size.” 

(Editor’s Note: Muntean works for Public Affairs at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.)

Category: Army News Service, Community, Single Soldiers

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