During March, conversations typically involve basketball, growing mustaches or the beginning of spring, but this month, the McDonald Army Health Center staff at Fort Eustis, aims to make nutrition a normal conversation topic.
Each year, March marks National Nutrition month, and Mary Jane Rewinski, MCAHC registered dietician, said she uses it to encourage U.S. Service members and their families to evaluate their eating habits and take a step toward eating healthy.
“What is really challenging in our society today is the fact that we have become so accustomed to larger portions and foods that are high in fat and sugar,” said Rewinksi. “Once we become interested in improving our health through nutrition, we have to retrain our minds and make a decision to stick with a change for the better.”
Rewinksi said she encourages Service members and their families to visit www.choosemyplate.org
, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website which aims to help consumers make healthier food choices. The MyPlate icon illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet using a familiar image - a place setting for a meal. The icon encourages consumers to focus on three daily meals with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, protein and calcium-rich dairy products.
“To make a positive change in eating habits, Service members and their families need to focus on getting three meals a day with the right amounts of the five food groups,” said Rewinski. “A lot of people skip breakfast or lunch and think they feel fine, but once they focus on three meals a day with the five food groups, they notice a major improvement in their energy, focus, sleeping habits and overall health.”
Rewinski believes the first place to start is to prepare more meals at home. She encourages everyone to make a list of the meals they cook at home and add one to two home-cooked meals each week.
“[Service members] can find some easy recipes that often require five ingredients or less to start building a library of recipes they can make and enjoy,” said Rewinski. “They can build on that list of options and how often they prepare meals at home until they have enough to map out a two-week or one-month plan.”
According to the MyPlate site, creating a meal plan allows consumers to prepare a grocery list and keep within a set budget. The site includes healthy eating on a budget tips for making low-cost meals, tricks for every aisle of the grocery store, making smarter choices using the food labels and how to find the best deals.
Rewinski provided these tips for grocery shopping:
- To combat the costliness of fresh produce that can spoil, try frozen and canned produce; drain the liquid or syrup off the produce and rinse it under running water to remove the remaining sugar.
- When shopping, stay at the perimeter of the grocery store where more of the nutrient-dense food is.
- Children mimic their parents, so set an example by purchasing the same healthy foods for adults and children.
- Snacking is okay every once in a while, but make sure they are low-fat and low in sugar.
Although change may not always be easy, Rewinski believes the most important part of leading a healthier lifestyle is keeping a positive attitude and sticking to a goal to eat healthier.
“Change occurs slowly. It takes time and perseverance, so don’t get discouraged if you’re not eating healthy at every meal right away,” said Rewinski. “We have to decide we want to change, then decide how we are going to change, then take small steps with the intention of building on them slowly.”