The Truth About What You Eat



The term “you are what you eat” applies to even the fittest of service members. Air Force Lt. Col. Saunya N. Bright said the food in military dining facilities has improved dramatically during her 18 years in the service, both in terms of nutritional value and healthy eating choices.

Fueling the SOF human weapon system

Bright is a dietitian with the Air Force Medical Support Agency in Falls Church, Virginia. She said eating healthy, balanced meals, along with adequate sleep and physical fitness, are key to improving physical stamina, injury reduction and good health. These are key to producing elite athletes as well as elite soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, she added, noting that the benefit to the military is higher combat readiness.

March is National Nutrition Month and citing information from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sonja Simzak, a dietitian at DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, addressed common misconceptions about nutrition.

Separating Fact From Fiction

An Airman eats a Bosc pear, which is high in fiber and vitamin C, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 17, 2017. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, also known as micronutrients, which are vital for the human body’s many functions such as digestion, metabolism, and healing.

FICTION: Sugars found naturally in fruit and milk are the same as sugars added to foods like candy and cake.FACT: Foods that contain naturally occurring sugars, like fruit and nonsweetened yogurt contribute important nutrients. Desserts and soft drinks, on the other hand, often contain no nutrients — just calories.

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)

FICTION: Portion sizes have not increased over the years for the average American.

FACT: The size of portions for both food and drinks have increased. Now, many people consume in one sitting what is considered to be several servings. The good news is new nutrition facts labels will help consumers determine the total amount of calories and nutrients contained in food products.

A service member uses a salad bar.

FICTION: Only fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritious.

FACT: All fruits and vegetables — fresh, canned, frozen and dried, as well as 100 percent juices — are healthy. Tip: Look for produce in water or in its own juice without added sugars and for canned vegetables with no added salt or reduced sodium.

A hand pours olive oil from a bottle into a saucepan.

FICTION: Oils and fats should be avoided and are not nutritious.

FACT: Oils and fats are good nutritional sources. Two tips: Try to use fats that are liquid, not solid, at room temperature. These liquid fats, such as vegetable oils, are the healthier choice. Second, all fats are high in calories, so portions for most people should be limited to just a few teaspoons per day.

Ratatouille -stuffed leeks are displayed on a white plate.

FICTION: Vegetarian diets are unhealthy because meats are required for good health.

FACT: Well-planned vegetarian and vegan eating plans that include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes can be just as nutritious as non-vegan diets.

So what’s fact vs. fiction when it comes to nutritional information online? Should you take vitamins? Why does eating right mean playing detective? Click here if you have an appetite for more good information on nutrition.

A sailor prepares food in the mess deck of the USS Lake Champlain in the Pacific Ocean, Feb. 5, 2017. The ship is part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of the U.S. 3rd Fleet in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan K. Serpico

Did You Know?​

Most people think of military dietitians as planning healthy meals for troops in dining facilities. But they also are important on the combat front lines. For example, service members who are ill, injured or wounded may require a banana bag, which is intravenous fluids containing vitamins and minerals. Dietitians are trained to know the types and quantities required in each particular case.

Air Force Lt. Col. Saunya N. Bright, Dietitian

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