Tripler, 25th ID target diet to performance recovery

| July 20, 2012 | 0 Comments
Army dining facilities use labels to indicate which types of food enhance a Soldier’s performance and which types of food are considered for moderate performance. (U.S. Army Photo)

Army dining facilities use labels to indicate which types of food enhance a Soldier’s performance and which types of food are considered for moderate performance. (U.S. Army Photo)

Lt. Col. Chad Koenig
Nutrition Care Division, Tripler Army Medical Center

HONOLULU — During the last year, the Nutrition Care Division at Tripler Army Medical Center has been actively collaborating with the 25th Infantry Division and other units across the island to improve the physical and cognitive health and performance of service members.

Multiple initiatives have been launched to train service members to know what foods are best to eat, as well as how timing plays an important role in performance and recovery.

Availability of healthy food choices

The first step to improving foods consumed is to increase the availability of quality choices. These efforts start with military-run dining facilities and also encompass vending machines, shoppettes, commissaries and every other outlet that sells food within the community.

Based on the results of the latest Military Nutrition Environment Assessment Tool, or m-NEAT, Schofield Barracks is already making great strides. Dining facilities are getting healthier by beginning to implement new Department of Defense standards that call for more fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and leaner meats, and low-fat and low-sugar dessert and beverage choices.

These new options are accompanied by the implementation of the DOD initiative ‘Go for Green,’ a color-coding sytem that labels food based on nutrient, fat and calorie content.

Several dining facilities are also improving access to healthy choices by opening a “Grab and Go” counter at breakfast. These areas provide easy access to healthy, performance-enhancing foods after a Soldier’s physical readiness training, or morning PT.

The Grab and Go counters also support the Nutrition Care Division’s “PRT Ends with Breakfast” campaign, which emphasizes the importance of consuming important nutrients needed within 30-60 minutes of the completion of intense exercise to enhance recovery.

The dining facilities, however, are not the only areas making a dramatic improvement. With the help of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, vending machines across Schofield Barracks have been converted to emphasize “Fit Pick” selections.

Fit Pick selections are categorized by Department of Agriculture guidelines as “35-10-35.” That means the item has less than 35 percent calories from fat, less than 10 percent calories from saturated fat and less than 35 percent of total weight in sugar.

The next step will be to modify vending machines to dispense beverages with lower-sugar options in addition to typically high-sugar, high-calorie soda options.

How to eat to impact health and performance

After increasing the availability of healthy food items, the second step toward improving foods service members choose, and the timing of those choices, is to educate them on how to eat in order to make the biggest impact on their health and performance.

As part of this initiative, a dietitian provides a block of instruction during the 25th ID’s in-processing briefing. Soldiers of all ranks are exposed to the basics of food choices and how those choices can impact their health and performance. Soldiers learn where to go and who to turn to if they have questions about nutrition.

Programs and classes the Nutrition Care Division offers include nutrition and performance, weight management, dangers and benefits of nutritional supplements, hydration, generalhealthy eating, and nutrition during pregnancy as part of the pregnancy PT program.

While dietitians from TAMC and the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks provide multiple classes each month, it is impossible to reach everyone. With this in mind, two separate programs are currently ongoing to create pockets of knowledge within units.

By providing in-depth training to key unit representatives in the area of nutrition, performance and weight management, access to accurate and timely information is provided even when a dietitian is not available.

With these programs and more to follow, TAMC and USAHC-Schofield Barracks will continue to positively impact the health and performance of service members on Schofield Barracks.

(Editor’s Note: Koenig is the chief of medical nutrition therapy.)

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Category: Community, Health

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