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Health and Fitness

Nutrition: Why should we care?

Your diet effects how you live and perform

Ok, be honest, when was the last time you ate or drank something you knew you shouldn't have? As members of the military, it's crucial to be able to perform at work.

So, fueling from the inside out, being selective regarding what you eat and the timing of your meals can have a significant effect on your body and brain's performance.

Nutrition plays an important role in our everyday lives. For instance, how will the decision to skip breakfast as you rush to work impact the rest of your day?

"Definitely don't skip a meal," said Capt. Michael Noyes, chief of outpatient services, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Registered Dietitian. "When you're trying to do anything with nutrition, skipping your meal is the worst thing you can do. I'd rather you just have a smaller meal than just go to bed."

If sleep is to be sacrificed, energy drinks are the answer, right? Not so, says Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Wallinger, Registered Dietitian, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

"There is no substitute for sleep, however, if choosing something to increase your alertness and concentration; natural forms of caffeine tend to have more of a benefit than the synthetic ones," said Wallinger.

So, alternatives to energy drinks would be the natural forms of caffeine which are your unsweetened teas and coffee without all the sugar and fat added.

If nutrition is so simple then why do we make it complicated?

Statistics show that now there are more obese and overweight Americans than ever and yet diet books continue to be bestsellers.

"If it's asking you to change or leave out whole food groups and what not, and it's only for a certain amount of time, that's really something you want to avoid constantly," said Noyes. "Mainly for the fact that, yeah you might lose some weight and you might improve with it, but then what's going to happen when you are done with that period of time? It's a short term solution to a long term problem."

Keep in mind the average adult should consume around 2,000 calories per day. Gender, height, weight and exercise levels can affect these numbers. Note, a single meal at fast food restaurants can be almost a full day's calories. In fact, one large serving of french fries alone can total up to 500 calories.

Just because you exercise doesn't mean you burn off those extra calories from that fast food restaurant.

To put that into context, you would have to do over 400 burpees in order to compensate for that one large order of french fries and over 200 burpees for the average slice of pepporoni pizza.

Let's also keep in mind that the calorie comparison from fast food restaurants versus a dietitian- recommended lunch could reduce your calorie intake significantly.

The importance of dietitians in the Navy, and DOD at large, comes down to one word: readiness. Dietitians play a key role whether it's educating and counseling service members around the globe or advocating for programs and policies. So, if you feel like you need to see one, look them up at your current command or installation and set up an appointment.

If you do not have access to a dietician and are looking to make improvements with your nutrition there are some great resources available online. ChooseMyPlate.gov can help develop a meal plan based on your activity and you current and desired weight or you can go to navyfitness.org to read up on even more interesting dieting and nutrition facts.

It seems we're calendar-based in our "good decision" choices - think New Year's Resolutions. Perhaps that's why March is dedicated to nutrition. "This year's National Nutrition Month's theme is 'Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,' said Wallinger. "It's a month where we can refocus our goals on nutrition and support each other."

The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year's campaign focuses on consuming fewer calories and making more informed food choices through eating and physical activity plans. It's also promoting the importance of daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health. To find out more about the campaign visit eatright.org.