Children, Schools and Families Initiatives, Promising Practices, Tools and Resources

Little girl in a tug a rope exercise

A fit and healthy fighting force is the foundation of a strong national defense. In the United States, poor nutrition, obesity, lack of physical fitness and tobacco use pose a growing threat to the military’s four “Rs”: recruitment, retention, readiness and resilience. To address these threats, the Department of Defense launched a Healthy Base Initiative to make healthy living the easy choice for service members and their families. The military supports programs that protect the well-being of our military families, including:

Initiatives

  • Alliance for a Healthier Generation – This program targets the prevalence of childhood obesity and empowers kids to develop lifelong, healthy habits.
  • Share our Strength – Shopping and cooking classes empower families to purchase and prepare healthy food on a budget.
  • Operation Kid Fit – This is a military-adapted, evidence-based child obesity program.
  • 5210 Healthy Military Children campaign – This educational campaign is aimed at increasing activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables, while reducing sugar-sweetened beverages and recreational screen time. See the Club 2150 curriculum adopted at an after-school wellness program at Yokota Air Force Base.

Promising Practices

  • Baby Hot Wheels – This free circuit-training program is also a social outlet for mothers and babies alike. Sessions are rain or shine in the gym or on the track.
  • Club 2150 – This after-school program setting targets childhood obesity through the concepts of 5210.
  • Recess Before Lunch – The initiative improves child nutrition and reduces waste by implementing a school schedule change for recess prior to lunch.
  • Youth sports program – This comprehensive, year-round youth sports program for kids ages 3-15 at 29 Palms teaches participants skills in a variety of sports and overall functional movement while instilling lessons of leadership and responsibility.

Tools

  • Initiative Program Fidelity Tool template – Program Fidelity Tools are short, checklist-style surveys tailored to each program implemented under the Healthy Base Initiative. The surveys assess fidelity on a semi-annual basis, as appropriate to the specific program, based on the intervention’s HBI start date.

Resources

  • The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition– The president’s council engages, educates, and empowers all Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles, including regular physical activity and good nutrition. The council is made up of athletes, chefs, physicians, fitness professionals and educators who are appointed by the president to serve in an advisory capacity through the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • Human Performance Resource Center – The center’s human performance optimization website is for U.S. warfighters, their families and those who support them. The goal is total force fitness: warfighters optimized to carry out their mission as safely and effectively as possible.

Practicing Good Nutrition Boosts Personal Performance

Mother and son at farmers market

Military members need to stay in shape so that they can perform their duties. One of the best ways to build strength and stamina is by eating nutritious foods. Here are some tips on how to start.

Develop new habits

Eating healthy 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. Try drinking water instead of soda or sugary sports drinks.
  • Lower your sodium. Start reading labels to see how much sodium is in a certain food. Buy “reduced sodium” items whenever possible.
  • Eat lean protein. Eat less fatty red meat and more chicken, seafood, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
  • Choose whole grains. Whenever possible, eat whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat over “refined grains” like white bread, pasta, and anything made with flour.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables. Instead of reaching for the chips, try cutting up some carrots or eating an apple instead.

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, you’ll want to find a farmers market near you. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • The food is as fresh as you’ll find anywhere. Most produce is brought to market within hours of being picked.
  • You’re getting nutrition to the max. Eating food grown close to home and recently harvested has many health benefits.
  • Local farmers grow seasonal foods, which tend to be less expensive and are fun to cook with.
  • You get to speak with food experts — the farmers — who can teach you how to use the produce, grow your own food or share some great recipes.
  • You can find a list of farmers markets in the U.S. in this National Farmers Market Directory.

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 savings of more than 30 percent. 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.
  • Make your shopping list with the My Shopping List tool.
  • Review the Savings Aisle to see what’s on sale for the week and preview the promotional prices before making your shopping list.

Sharing your healthy lifestyle with your children

Share your nutrition goals with your children. The 5210 Healthy Military Children program can help you put a concrete plan into action by providing tip sheets and other resources. The number “5210” stands for:

  • 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables. Prepare meals and snacks at home using fruits and vegetables, and teach kids how to make healthy foods.
  • 2 or fewer hours of screen time. Make television, video games and the internet less convenient to use, turn them off during meals, and make sure children are doing activities that don’t involve screens.
  • 1 or more hours of physical activity. Look for fun activities your family can enjoy together and use the activities as incentives instead of food.
  • 0 sweetened beverages. Sweetened beverages add extra sugar and calories to the diet, so encourage children to drink water or low-fat milk instead.

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 advice, check out the Military OneSource Health and Wellness Coaching program, a free resource for eligible service members and family members.

The Healthy Base Initiative

Group of children skipping

Since 2013, the Healthy Base Initiative — part of the overarching Operation Live Well program — has brought healthy living initiatives to service members and their families at 14 pilot installations.

A fit and healthy fighting force is the foundation of a strong national defense. In the United States, poor nutrition, obesity, lack of physical fitness and tobacco use pose a growing threat to the military’s four “Rs”: recruitment, retention, readiness and resilience.

To help combat this problem, the Department of Defense implemented the Healthy Base Initiative to help create an environment that encourages good nutrition, active lifestyles and tobacco-free living — and make healthy living the easy choice.

Here are the components of the Healthy Base Initiative:

Physical Activity

  • Initiatives, Promising Practices and Tools
  • Physical Activity Policies

Children, Schools and Families

  • Initiatives, Promising Practices, Tools, Resources
  • Children, Schools and Families Policies

Healthy Food Options

  • Initiatives, Promising Practices, Tools, Resources
  • Healthy Food Option Policies

Physical Environment

  • Initiatives, Tools
  • Physical Environment Policies

Health and Wellness

  • Initiatives, Promising Practices
  • Health and Wellness Policies

Tobacco Cessation Programs

  • Initiatives, Promising Practices, Tools
  • Tobacco Cessation Policies

Farmers Market Guide — starting an on-installation farmers market

Recipe Book  — healthy recipes for foodservice operations.

Meeting Military Fitness Standards

U.S. Army Soldiers conduct their two-mile run during the Army Physical Fitness Test

Physical fitness is a big part of life in the military. It’s required. To make sure our military force is mission ready, each service member – regardless of age, grade or duty assignment – is regularly tested. While there are some exceptions to the rule, you’ll have to prove your physical fitness on a regular basis.

What to expect

Each service branch requires its own unique fitness test, but generally they include:

  • Push-ups, between one and two minutes, timed
  • Sit-ups, one and two minutes, timed
  • A 1.5-, two- or three-mile timed run
  • Other fitness requirements such as pull-ups, flexed-arm hang and lifts

The New Army Combat Fitness Test

The Army is changing its physical fitness test. Make sure you’re ready.

How to prepare yourself in advance

Be ready to perform. Here’s how to prepare:

Improve your endurance. Take advantage of your installation’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, fitness centers and swimming pools.

Have a fitness plan. Put your training plan in place at least six weeks before the test. Track your progress in writing. Note where you need to improve. Have a backup plan for temporary interruptions.

Train with a buddy. The support and encouragement are priceless.

Pre-test yourself. Do it weekly. Time yourself on each of the events in the test. Work hard on improving your score.

Cut down on fast food. Or you’ll wish you did. Stay hydrated. Get good sleep.

Test day: what to expect

Doing the right things before the test will make a big difference. Follow these tips:

Don’t test on sore muscles. Relax up to two days before the test. Or up to five days if you’re older than 40.

Drink and eat right the night before. Drink plenty of water. Eat fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.

Just one light meal on the day of your test. If you need immediate energy, eat an apple, banana or carrots.

Dress right. Wear a T-shirt, shorts and running shoes.

Get the hydration right. Drink two to three cups of water two to three hours before the test. Then:

  • Drink one cup of water just before the test.
  • Drink small amounts of water slowly during breaks.
  • After the test drink two to three cups of water in the first two hours.

Warm up. Do a lighter version of each exercise, such as jogging before running.

Cool down. After the test, cool-down exercises help your heart and breathing return to their resting rates.

Understanding your results

Your raw score for each event will be converted to a point value according to your age. To pass the test, your new score will need to exceed a predetermined number. If you have to retake the test, reassess your training and work your way back into top condition.

Need help or inspiration to get ready for your next fitness test? Contact Military OneSource’s Health and Wellness Coaching online or call 800-342-9647 and a Military OneSource consultant will register you and schedule your first session with a health and wellness coach.