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Good health and peak physical fitness are key to our military community’s force readiness. One of the best ways to build strength and stamina is to eat nutritious foods that will provide your body the energy and nutrients it needs in order for you to perform at your best. Here are some tips on how to build a better diet and improve your overall well-being.
Develop and maintain healthy habits
Healthy eating usually requires developing new dietary habits, but that doesn’t have to happen overnight. Small changes over time can make a big difference. You might begin with some of these suggestions:
- Limit your sugar. Water is essential to keep the body hydrated. Sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugar in American diets. Replace soda, sugary sports drinks and large quantities of juice with water. Add berries or slices of lemon, lime or cucumber for flavor.
- Lower your sodium. High sodium consumption can raise blood pressure, which can contribute to stroke and heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans consume an average of 3,400 mg of sodium per day versus the recommended 2,300 mg, and 70% of that sodium comes from processed foods. Start reading labels to raise your awareness of hidden sodium, and buy reduced sodium items whenever possible. When possible, avoid packaged snacks and opt for lower sodium substitutes you can make at home, such as air-popped popcorn, vegetables with hummus, apple slices with peanut butter or homemade baked kale chips.
- Eat lean protein. Reducing fatty red meat and increasing lean proteins such as chicken, seafood, beans and legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds can aid in building muscle, losing weight and maintaining a healthy heart.
- Choose whole grains. Whole grains are packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Whenever possible, eat whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat over refined grains like white bread, pasta and anything made with bleached flour. Whole grains don’t have to break the bank. Oats, brown rice and whole-grain millet are economic options.
- Snack on fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and their high fiber content can help you maintain a healthy gut. Replace high fat, high sodium snacks such as chips or roasted peanuts with sliced carrots or an apple.
A healthy eating routine is important at every stage of life and can have positive effects that add up over time. Focus on eating a balanced diet, and tap into resources like MyPlate for nutrition guidance and tools for budget-friendly meal planning and shopping.
Explore the farmers market
Not all foods are equal when it comes to nutrients. The fresher your produce is, the more nutrition it offers. Your local farmers market is a great place to shop for fresh produce at a reasonable price. Whether it’s just a roadside stand or a gathering place for local producers, these farmers markets will help you build a better diet. Find local farmers markets in the United States by searching the National Farmers Market Directory. Some of the benefits of buying local include:
- The food is as fresh as you’ll find anywhere. Most produce is brought to market within hours of being picked.
- Eating food grown close to home and recently harvested has many health benefits, including increased nutrients.
- Local farmers grow seasonal foods, which tend to be less expensive and allow you to cook seasonal dishes.
- Farmers — your food experts — can teach you how to use the produce, grow your own food or share some great recipes.
Check out the commissary
Another great resource for eating healthy on a budget is the military commissary, which sells groceries and household goods at an average of 30% less than other markets and stores. Before your grocery run, visit the commissary website, a great network of information where you can:
- Snag simple, healthy recipes for your meal planning or last-minute meal ideas. Narrow your recipe search by selecting Dietitian Approved under the Browse Recipes section.
- Review the Savings Aisle to see what’s on sale for the week and preview the promotional prices before making your shopping list.
- Scan your commissary shelves for products tagged with the Dietician-Approved Thumb, or DAT logo, for nutritionally sound selections.
- Order online with curbside pickup using the Commissary CLICK2GO Online Ordering tool. The tool offers convenient access from your desktop or mobile device, recipe features, and featured sales and promotions to help you budget your week. Plus, sticking to a preplanned shopping list helps you avoid impulse purchases that might not align with your financial and wellness goals.
Share your healthy lifestyle with your children
Share your nutrition goals with your children. Check out the “Faster Than Fast Food” video to get ideas for quick and healthy meals. Help your family establish healthy habits that include:
- Enjoy five or more servings of fruit and vegetables. The Mayo Clinic recommends the 1-2-3 approach — one serving of fruits or vegetables at breakfast, two servings at lunch and three servings as part of dinner or snacks throughout the day. Center your meals and snacks at home around fruits and vegetables, and teach children how to make healthy foods.
- Serve whole grain breads and cereals that are high in fiber. Make healthier, less processed alternatives available at all meals and for snack time.
- Encourage your children to eliminate sweetened beverages. Sweetened beverages, such as soda and sports drinks, add extra sugar and calories to the diet. Encourage children to reduce juice consumption as well. Drinking water or low-fat milk instead is a healthy choice for the entire family.
As a service member — or part of the military family — you need the right fuel to stay energized. Eating well allows you to perform your job to the best of your ability. These suggestions can get you started on a path to good nutrition and good health.
For more healthy information, learn how to take command of your health and well-being and check out the Military OneSource health and wellness coaching program, a free resource for eligible service members and family members. If financial restrictions are impacting your health and wellness goals, tap into these resources to help manage financial stress. Military OneSource is here 24/7 to assist you with your questions. Call 800-342-9647, view international calling options or schedule a live chat.