Practicing Good Nutrition Boosts Personal Performance

Woman shopping at food market

Good healthy 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

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. Water is essential to keep the body hydrated. Replace soda, sugary sports drinks and large quantities of juice with water.
  • Lower your sodium.  High sodium consumption can raise blood pressure, which can contribute to stroke and heart disease. Start reading labels to raise your awareness of hidden sodium. Buy reduced sodium items whenever possible.
  • Eat lean protein. Reducing fatty red meat and increasing lean proteins such as chicken, seafood, beans, 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.
  • 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.

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 beneftis 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. 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.
  • Make your shopping list or order online with curbside pickup by using the My Shopping List tool.

Share your healthy lifestyle with your children

Share your nutrition goals with your children and 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, check out the Military OneSource Health and Wellness Coaching program, a free resource for eligible service members and family members. My MilLife Guide is also a great way to keep your family’s health goals on target. When you sign up for My MilLife Guide as a service member or a military spouse, expert content pertaining to your goals will be delivered right to your mobile device.

Military and Family Life Counseling: There for Your Service Member

Service member talking on phone

Military families face unique challenges. Deployments can be hard on relationships. Frequent moves may cause stress. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can help.

As a friend or family member, you are an important source of support, whether it’s pitching in with packing or simply being there to listen. But some issues require the help of a professional. Military and family life counselors are among the benefits available to help service members overcome challenges and thrive in their military lives.

What is the MFLC Program?

The Military and Family Life Counseling Program is on-installation support that offers free, short-term, confidential non-medical counseling to service members and their families. Licensed, master’s- or doctorate-level counselors are available for one-on-one, couple or group sessions to help your service member with:

  • Managing stress, including difficulties due to COVID-19
  • Adjusting to deployment
  • Preparing to move or getting settled after a move
  • Strengthening relationships
  • Managing problems at work
  • Grieving the death of a loved one or colleague

Counseling is available by telephone and video in areas where face-to-face support has been restricted due to COVID-19. Military and family life counseling is also available for children and youth.

How military and family life counselors can help

In addition to being available by appointment for individual or couple counseling, military and family life counselors help in other ways. The program is an important tool for leaders, who may request a unit briefing and grief counseling for its members if the unit experiences a loss or other difficult event. Leaders may also call upon the MFLC program for briefings and presentations on topics including:

  • Anger management
  • Assertiveness training
  • Deployment survival
  • Grief and loss
  • Building healthy marriages
  • Reintegration
  • Stress management

Connecting with a non-medical counselor

If your service member feels overwhelmed or is facing a difficult challenge, remind them that the MFLC program is standing by, ready to help. Your service member can schedule an appointment with a non-medical counselor by contacting their installation’s Military and Family Support Center. Or, they can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for contact information and a warm handoff. If your loved one is outside the continental United States, they can click here for calling options.

How the Military Supports Diversity and Inclusion

Service members folding the American flag

The diverse makeup of the armed forces is one of its greatest assets. When service members of different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and other identities unite for a common mission, the result is a stronger and more effective force.

As someone who cares about a service member, you may have questions about how the military ensures equal opportunity and acceptance of individual differences among all its members. The DOD has taken steps to root out bias, ensure the military reflects the nation’s diversity and promote an environment in which every member is treated with dignity and respect.

Over the coming months, there will be an effort to get input from service members – both officers and enlisted – to hear their views and concerns about diversity and inclusion in the military.

Some changes have been implemented to advance diversity and inclusion

Military leaders have been charged with making equal opportunity and inclusion a priority. Your service member may have already benefited from some recent changes, including:

  • Removing photographs and references to race, ethnicity and gender from personnel files in promotion and selection processes. This eliminates the risk of bias when considering a candidate for a promotion, assignment, training, education or command.
  • Enacting stronger protections against harassment and discrimination including prohibiting discrimination because of pregnancy.
  • Training to detect and respond appropriately to bias – both conscious and unconscious. Service members and leaders are also receiving training on recognizing and understanding the impact of their own biases and prejudices.
  • Reviewing hairstyle and grooming policies for racial bias.
  • Training for commanders on guiding discussions on discrimination, prejudice and bias.

As an ongoing effort, the DOD collects and analyzes information to identify prejudice and bias, measure the effectiveness of its actions and expose areas requiring improvement.

Longer-term steps toward diversity and inclusion

Building upon the above, the Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion has recommended further steps to improve racial and ethnic diversity and broaden equal opportunity in the military. These recommendations include:

  • Updating recruiting content annually to reflect the nation’s racial and ethnic makeup.
  • Diversifying senior-level positions so they reflect the nation’s racial and ethnic makeup.
  • Identifying and removing barriers to diversity in aptitude tests while retaining a rigorous screening process.
  • Identifying and removing barriers to senior leadership for diverse candidates.
  • Disclosing demographic information about promotion selection rates. This will improve transparency and reinforce the DOD’s focus on achieving equity across all grades.
  • Creating a diversity and inclusion mobile app and website that will allow service members to easily connect with each other and locate resources.
  • Prohibiting involvement with extremist or hate group activity.

To ensure continued progress, the DOD has established the independent Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Services. This committee will continue the work of examining any and all issues that will improve equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion in the military.

Diverse and inclusive ranks are essential to morale, force cohesion and readiness. Your service member plays an important role in maintaining an environment that values and respects individual differences.

Military OneSource MilTax – Benefits

Military OneSource provides service members and their families with easy access to a suite of tax services, including easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software designed to address military-specific situations, and information and resources on a variety of tax-related topics. And it’s all free.

MilTax assistance includes providing answers to any questions about your economic impact payment or coronavirus disease 2019 tax implications, such as if you are a military spouse and experienced job or wage loss due to  COVID-19. With MilTax, there are no hidden surprises.

MilTax consultations

MilTax consultants have extensive knowledge of the tax benefits for military members, families and survivors, and can help you get all the tax credits and deductions you qualify for. MilTax consultants are specially trained to understand all kinds of military tax situations. Assistance includes:

  • Alerting you to tax requirements and deductions related to military life
  • Identifying important tax regulations that apply to service members
  • Answering your questions so you can confidently complete federal and state tax forms
  • Addressing any tax-related questions you have while preparing your federal and state tax returns
  • Connecting you to MilTax software for secure online preparation and free tax filing.

MilTax software is available mid-January through mid-October. Get virtual support anywhere, anytime. Call 800-342-9647, 24/7 to schedule an appointment to speak with a MilTax consultant. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

MilTax tax preparation and filing services

MilTax free preparation and e-filing software is made to be convenient for the military community. It was developed with the realities of military life in mind – scenarios that civilians rarely encounter – including deployments, combat pay, multiple moves and multi-state filing. This self-paced tax software allows you to:

  • Complete and electronically file your federal return and up to three state tax forms.
  • Check on your electronic filing status.
  • Rest easy knowing that a tax software provider is by your side if you get audited.
  • Get 100% accurate calculations, or the tax software provider will reimburse you up to $10,000. Terms and conditions apply.

MilTax e-filing software is easy to use, and free technical assistance is available if you need it. The system protects and safeguards the security and confidentiality of your personal information by using industry-recognized safeguards.

For technical assistance, such as login issues, using the software, printing returns, etc., call 855-897-8639 and follow the prompts.

Earned income tax credit

Understand whether you can obtain an Earned Income Tax Credit to put more money in your pocket. These are federal income tax credits for low- and moderate- income working individuals and families. Be aware that:

  • The credit can generate a refund if you do not have any taxes to pay.
  • Service members and families may have an easier time qualifying for the credit because some forms of military income – such as pay earned during service in a combat zone or basic allowances for housing – are non-taxable and aren’t included as part of your total income.

To find out more about the credit or tax help for military members and veterans, visit the IRS website.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

  • You can meet with a military tax consultant for face-to-face assistance via the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at no cost – for tax advice and preparation, return filing and other tax assistance.
  • This IRS program offers free tax preparation and e-filing at sites on and off base. It also has sites overseas to help military members and their families.

Find a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location near you.

Financial counseling

Should MilTax consultants help you get a tax refund, schedule a free financial counseling session with Military OneSource to figure out the best way to apply that refund to long-term savings goals.

According to the IRS, filers received on average $2,577 in direct deposit tax refunds in 2019. So if you are expecting to get a refund this year, file early and replenish your savings.

And you don’t have to wait for your refund in the mail. Through Military OneSource MilTax, you can sign up to get your refund sent straight to your bank account through direct deposit.

To take advantage of MilTax and other potential tax benefits, call 800-342-9647 or live chat to schedule a free consultation today.  CONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

MilTax: Free Tax Return Filing Help for Your Service Member

Service member works on her laptop.

If your service member has recently entered the military, you may now lose the ability to claim them as a dependent. On top of that, this may be the first time your loved one has ever had to file a tax return.

All service members have access to Military OneSource MilTax, a suite of free tax services designed specifically for military personnel, to help save them money and let them file their tax return quickly and confidently ‒ increasing their chances of scoring a nice tax refund.

MilTax includes:

  • Easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software
  • Personalized support from tax consultants
  • Current information about filing taxes in the military

Your service member has a range of support.

MilTax is just one way Military OneSource supports your service member. Discover all the ways your service member is supported – so they can live their best military life.

MilTax is designed to address the realities of military life, such as deployments, combat and training pay, housing and rentals and multistate filings.

Best of all, MilTax is 100% free for service members. There are no hidden surprises. That’s a lot of savings compared to a commercial tax preparation company. Most people spend an average of $132.93 per person on tax preparation services alone – that’s money back in your service member’s pocket.

Easy-to-use tax software with guaranteed results

MilTax preparation and e-filing software is available mid-January through mid-October. It’s easy to use, walking your service member through a series of questions to complete their return. The software allows users to securely e-file federal returns and up to three state tax forms. All calculations are guaranteed accurate by the software provider, so your service member can use MilTax with confidence.

Easy, accessible tax support from military experts

If your service member has questions about taxes or just needs help getting started, MilTax consultants are available by appointment over the phone to help with tax situations specific to military service, such as how to report deployment and combat pay, filing deadlines and extensions.

Our tax consultant was fantastic! Last year I was on the phone with the IRS for hours. This year, with a simple 10-minute call, he solved all of our issues.

MilTax user

In-person support is also available at Volunteer Income Tax Support Assistance offices on many military installations.

MilTax services are always 100% free, and they’re available 24/7 through Military OneSource. Encourage your service member to learn more about MilTax software and tax consultations.

Your service member also has access to free financial counseling to make the most out of their tax refund or for assistance on any financial matter. They can call 800-342-9647 for 24/7 help. OCONUS/International? View calling options.

An eNewsletter for Friends and Extended Family

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Health and Wellness Coaching Consultation

Covid-19 Health and Wellness

Current as of November 16, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has led to gym closures and disrupted other ways people stay fit and manage stress. At the same time, boredom at home can lead to unhealthy snacking. Good nutrition and fitness are key to withstanding the stress of uncertain times.

If you need a hand getting back on track, free Military OneSource health and wellness coaching can help. Coaches can also help you tackle stress and deal with life transitions.

Health and wellness coaching

Your Military OneSource health and wellness coach will work with you by phone, video or online chat to help with:

  • Weight management
  • Fitness
  • Nutrition
  • Health condition management
  • Stress management
  • Life transitions, including deployment, moving, becoming a new parent or retirement

How health and wellness coaching works

Health and wellness coaches provide information, support, encouragement and accountability. Your coach will not tell you what to do and how to do it, but will help you make a plan, focus on results and reach goals. Your coach will:

  • Help you identify your beliefs, values, vision and goals
  • Create an action plan to achieve your goals
  • Prepare you for any roadblocks or barriers to reaching your goals
  • Keep you focused and on course
  • Celebrate your achievements

Get started with health and wellness coaching

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to sign up for health and wellness coaching sessions. This service is free for service members and their immediate family.

Stay up to date on all the latest information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Changing Jobs in the Military: Is It Possible?

Airmen prepare an engine for shipment.

Every service member has a specific job, often called a military occupational specialty or rating, usually assigned very soon after enlistment or basic training. Each specialty includes specific duties you will be expected to perform to help your service branch protect the peace and fulfill its mission.

Specialties are assigned based on your personal talents and skills, available “billets” or job openings, and the overall mission needs of your service branch, both current and future.

Can I transfer to a new military MOS if I don’t like my current one?

Check out the different military jobs.

From armored tank drivers and infantry units to musicians and mechanics, the military offers professional opportunities for almost every career.

If you’d like to change specialties and try something new, there are steps you can take to find a new position as you continue your service. But be aware, a change in military specialty is not always possible or guaranteed.

The Army and Marine Corps calls this type of change a “reclassification” or “change of military operations specialty.” The Navy calls it a “cross-rate,” and in the Air Force it is “re-training.” But no matter what it’s called in your branch, be aware the military expects service members to stay in their first specialty for a while – usually several years. After all, it’s taken time and resources to train you – the military wants to see a return on its investment.

Occasionally, a branch may run a “mandatory reclassification” to maintain a balanced fighting force.

Increasing your chances of transferring to a new military position

You must ask for a transfer through your chain of command. Your branch’s approval depends a lot on your personal situation. If your service record is clean, and you have a good reputation with your chain of command, your request is more likely to be considered.

In addition, a transfer may be more likely if:

  • You are re-enlisting. You can request a specialty reassignment when you re-enlist, during which you agree to serve for another few years in your new position. This is likely the best time to make a move to a new position.
  • There are too many personnel in your current position. If your current specialty is overstaffed, it may be easier to move to a different specialty with fewer staff positions.
  • Your desired specialty is understaffed. If the specialty you would like to join is in need of more personnel, you are more likely to be able to make the change. Your service branch may even send out a call looking for people interested in switching to critically understaffed positions.
  • You’ve received more training or education, like a college degree, that makes you more valuable in a different position. Some specialties aren’t available until you’ve served for a few years, like many positions in the special operations units.

Will I be able to use my military MOS to find a civilian job?

You can absolutely use the skills and experience you’ve gained in the civilian workforce. In fact, many of the specialties require civilian-based credentials and training to operate effectively. For example, both military and civilian air traffic controllers are FAA-certified.

There are several Department of Defense programs dedicated to helping separating service members find solid civilian careers. For example, each service branch runs a credentialing program designed to translate a service member’s specialty and general military experience into a civilian-style resume hiring managers can understand. And remember, Military OneSource is here to connect you to the resources and services you need to live your best military life.