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'Enjoy the taste of eating right' for body, soul

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
"Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food." - Hippocrates

From the antioxidants in blueberries, to the monounsaturated fats in avocados and the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon - every outlet of media preaches, educates and informs the public how they can maintain a balanced diet and the many benefits of doing so.

But according to the International Food Information Council Foundation 2011 Food & Health Survey, taste remains the primary influencer when people purchase food and beverages.

Created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to spread the message of nutritional wellness, the theme for this year's National Nutrition Month® is 'Enjoy the taste of eating right.' This year's campaign focuses on educating how to create nutritionally healthy meals, under the Dietary Guidelines recommendations.

"Many people are under the impression that healthy food doesn't taste good," said Jacqueline Maillet, 341st Medical Operations Squadron Health and Wellness Center dietician. "It's a matter of education and knowing how many simple, healthy and delicious recipes there are - but you have to be willing to experiment and get out of your comfort zone. It takes effort. It's not major, but it's just a matter of changing your lifestyle."

While most people are not immune to succumbing to the lures of processed foods, sugary sodas and fast food all the time, it is every Airman's responsibility to maintain a high level of deployable readiness, which includes a year-round physical conditioning program - to include a balanced diet.

"None of us have the money or resources to hire our own personal chef who can make everything taste great," said Kirk Clark, 341st MDOS HAWC exercise physiologist. "Since we don't have that, we are forced to change our lifestyle. So when we talk about healthy eating, it comes back to a lifestyle concept, not a simple food choice when we stop at the Commissary."

"I've found that most Airmen will gain 25 pounds within four to five years of joining the Air Force," said Lt. Col. James Tanner, 341st MDOS chief of physical therapy. "Those 25 pounds of extra weight during a mile and a half run during a physical training test equates to 45,000 pounds of extra weight on their feet."

According to Tanner, the Airmen he's seen with poor diets who have gained weight often experience hip and knee pain during physical activities.

"When you run, the weight that your foot absorbed is three times your body weight," Tanner said. "If a body can't handle the stress because of their own body weight, it will be hard for them to carry any gear while in a deployed location."

But living a healthy lifestyle isn't only about eating the right foods, it's also about fostering healthy mental and emotional health.

"There are days where I don't feel like eating healthy or working out," Clark said. "The issue is learning how to cope with life's issues. But sometimes, there is a psychosocial stress that can disempower some people from making healthy decisions."

Lt. Col. Louis Papa, 341st MDOS psychiatrist, is an advocate for preventative health at the Malmstrom Air Force Base Mental Health Office.

"One thing that we preach at mental health in terms of behavioral aspects of treating someone with a mental illness is maintaining a balanced diet," Papa said. "While eating foods rich with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and Magnesium are not necessarily solely preventing mental illness, it is certainly a part of a healthy lifestyle that may prevent vitamin deficiencies; and vitamin deficiencies can be catalysts for depression. So we always recommend exercise, proper sleep and a proper diet - the behavioral changes a patient can make before moving forward with anything."

For Airmen who are overweight or would like to learn more about healthy eating options, the HAWC provides a variety of classes and one-on-one, individualized appointments with HAWC personnel.

"The people we see being successful are the ones that experience a light bulb coming on," Maillet said. "We have patients who have a diagnosis such as pre-diabetes. If this goes on, in a couple years they could be a full-blown diabetic. We can help them get on track, encourage them to show up to classes and do what they need to do. Reasons vary, but as soon as the light bulb comes on and find a reason to move forward, they are successful and they use the tools we provide to reach their goals."

"Oftentimes I'll have a class and I'll hear people tell me they can't do something," Clark said. "But I always tell them, 'stop telling me what you can't do, and start telling me what you can do.' We can't change people - all we can do is plant a seed. People have to want to change and know what will empower them to make that change."

The following are the top three powerhouse foods, recommended by Maillet:

Peanut butter

"I have peanut butter every day," Maillet said. "I typically have it on whole grain bread for breakfast and will have two or three tablespoons - not the whole jar."

According to Maillet, peanut butter is a good source of healthy fat, protein and is good for the heart.


"I steam my vegetables and put a little balsamic vinaigrette," Maillet said. "They keep you feeling young and healthy. My favorite vegetables are broccoli and cauliflower."

Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, according to Maillet.


"Chicken is a great source of lean protein, it tastes good and there are so many recipes to incorporate with chicken," Maillet said. "Typically I make chicken breast and have it throughout the week to throw into homemade chicken noodle soup or chicken burritos with cheese, lettuce and avocados."

Information from this article was taken from the following websites: