Healthy eating starts with taking small steps

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends each meal should include whole grains, lean protein and half of your plate should be vegetables and fruits.  A simple first step toward healthier eating can start with incorporating more fruits and vegetables to your diet. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Stacey Geiger)

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends each meal should include whole grains, lean protein and half of your plate should be vegetables and fruits. A simple first step toward healthier eating can start with incorporating more fruits and vegetables to your diet. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Stacey Geiger)

Lt. Col. Amanda Denton, Nutritional Medicine Flight commander and AFMC nutrition consultant, and Kendra Schmuck nutrition clinic manager, can help patients achieve their personal nutrition goals for a healthier lifestyle. The 88th Medical Group nutrition clinic provides medical nutritional therapy for active duty members, retirees and their dependents offering classes and individual appointments to provide nutritional guidance. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Stacey Geiger)

Lt. Col. Amanda Denton, Nutritional Medicine Flight commander and AFMC nutrition consultant, and Kendra Schmuck nutrition clinic manager, can help patients achieve their personal nutrition goals for a healthier lifestyle. The 88th Medical Group nutrition clinic provides medical nutritional therapy for active duty members, retirees and their dependents offering classes and individual appointments to provide nutritional guidance. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Stacey Geiger)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – In conjunction with March’s National Nutrition Month, the 88th Medical Group Nutrition Clinic is offering tips on how to achieve a healthier eating lifestyle.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends each meal should include whole grains, lean protein and half of your plate should be vegetables and fruits.

A simple first step toward healthier eating can start with incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet.

“A great start to eating healthy is to not think about what you shouldn’t be eating initially but think about what you could add in. Are you eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day?” said Lt. Col. Amanda Denton, Nutritional Medicine Flight commander and Air Force Materiel Command nutrition consultant. “There are so many ways to eat the foods you love while still supporting your efforts at weight management, it just takes tweaking a few ingredients or preparation methods.”

Denton said there are beneficial physiological effects when eating healthy foods. People will feel the difference in their sharpness and energy levels.

The USDA has the following tips to help you achieve healthier eating habits:

• Eat nutrient-packed foods such as whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Eat less food high in solid fats, added sugars and sodium.

• Power up with protein for building and repairing muscle by choosing lean or low-fat cuts of beef, pork, or seafood and skinless chicken or turkey. Plant-based foods such as beans, peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds are also great sources of protein.

• Vary fruits and vegetables by eating a variety of colors in various ways. Try blue, red, or black berries, red and yellow peppers and dark greens like spinach and kale.

• Build and maintain strong bones by consuming foods like fat-free and low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt and fortified soy beverages.

• Know how much to eat. Get personalized nutrition information by using the Super Tracker at www.SuperTracker.usda.gov to determine your calorie needs, plan a diet that is right for you and track progress of your goals.

Kendra Schmuck, Nutrition Clinic manager, said healthy eating is all about balance, moderation and portion control but warns people they should especially be mindful of portions sizes and how you prepare your food.

“Some foods that are typically healthy for you can also potentially become unhealthy if the suggested serving size is ignored,” said Schmuck. “For example, dried fruits and nuts are great sources of fruits and protein. However, the serving size is very small and eating too much will result in eating too much fat and sugars. Also, adding too much oil, butter or sauces to your foods can make it unhealthy.”

Both Schmuck and Denton agree that indulging in a little junk food here and there is not going to hurt as long as it can be part of a balanced diet.

“If 80 percent of your diet is healthy, it is not going to throw you off,” said Denton. “We encourage people to use food journaling to track their habits so they can be aware of their true patterns. If 10 to 20 percent of your diet is cookies and other ‘junk’ and that creeps up to 40 percent or more managing weight becomes more difficult. Setting up a healthy home and work environment to make it easier to choose healthy foods is also a powerful tool. We eat what we see and also tend to have easy access to those unhealthy foods. Remember that all foods, even healthy ones, must be consumed in moderation. Even good things can be overdone.”

Managed by the nutrition department, the 88th Medical Group Cafeteria, located in the basement of the hospital, is a great option for healthy eating. Open from 6:30-8 a.m. for breakfast and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for lunch, food items offered in the cafeteria are identified and categorized in three groups: green for nutrient-packed choices, yellow for moderately-healthy choices, and red for items that are the most processed and least health promoting. The cafeteria is open to anyone who has base access.

Available to active-duty members, retirees and their dependents (over six weeks old), the nutrition clinic offers classes and one-on-one nutrition counseling to address nutritional needs such as weight loss, meal planning; heart-healthy, plant-based nutrition; and diabetes nutrition. The clinic is located in the hospital basement near the dining facility and main elevators in room BN10. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, closed for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and on all federal holidays.

“It takes work to think about what you are going to choose at your next meal and that what you choose is going to be healthy.” Denton said. “It is those little decisions you make; do I grab this bag of chips or pack fruit and have it with me? Every day you are going to be hungry, and every day you are going to need to eat, so we help people learn how to plan ahead. You have a lot of power to make positive changes to your health. You can empower yourself to feel healthy and be healthy.”

For additional information on nutrition and healthy eating, go to choosemyplate.gov. For additional information on the services the nutrition clinic offers, call (937) 257-8815.