MISAWA AIR BASE, AOMORI, JAPAN
Story by Airman 1st Class Collette Brooks
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
According to researchers at Cornell University an individual makes 226 choices each day on just food alone. These decisions create a ripple effect for our taste buds, energy level and overall health.
Since these accumulated choices work together over a span of a lifetime, health professionals urge consumers to be mindful of the consequences associated with their food intake. While remembering the motto, “You are what you eat!” health care professionals recommend putting the most energy, thought and effort into personal food consumption.
The Military Nutrition Environment Assessment Tool assesses the environment and policies related to supporting healthy eating within workplaces, public facilities, restaurants, and grocery stores. When an Airmen assesses his or her eating habits, this tool can be used to decide if they are not only maintaining a healthy lifestyle but a well-balanced diet. Team Misawa members can consume fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, lean proteins and non-sweetened beverages to stay aligned with the m-NEAT program recommendations.
“The m-NEAT program evaluates the availability of nutritious foods such as vegetables, low fat and low sodium items,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Izabela Smith, the 35th Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge. “In 2017, the Grissom Dining Facility achieved the highest score for healthy food items on Misawa Air Base.”
The Grissom DFAC offers a wide variety of nutritious based foods which aids in keeping Team Misawa members in ideal physical condition.
“A supportive environment enhances healthy eating practices and prevents weight gain, which aids in meeting mission requirements and delivering a fit force,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jennifer Randolph, the 35th MDSS nutritional medicine section chief. “It’s important to have this program in place because it provides Airmen and their families the ability to make informed decisions when eating around base. A healthy environment can create healthier behaviors which in turns gives us healthier Airmen. It’s all about quality of life and this tool aids in giving Team Misawa members knowledge and the power to make decisions based off that information.”
The m-NEAT is an appraisal system that uses the Department of Defense food program standards and other evidence-based recommendations to identify where commands are doing well and areas for improvement. Assessments can be conducted by installation or base food service managers, registered dietitians, nutrition care specialists and food service managers.
“Annual assessments are performed to allow healthier changes to be implemented over a period of time,” said Randolph. “We all know where people live, work and play affects their health which in turn affects their weight, so having this program in place is crucial.”
Smith added that creating and implementing a local action plan may be the most important step in the m-NEAT assessment process. With the goal of empowering consumers to make more informed foods choices, the m-NEAT not only gathers information to identify areas of improvement, but also to support decision making and strategic planning through an actionable plan for each eating establishment to increase their accessibility and availability of healthier food options.
“The program not only recommends goals to achieve, but the necessary steps needed to meet these nutrition based goals which in turn keeps the installation on track,” said Smith. “It may take months to complete these given tasks, but the end result is well worth the wait because progress towards a healthier nutrition environment on our installation is vital to mission success.”
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