Air Force team spreads the word on healthy eating

By T.D. FLACK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 22, 2009

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Hit a squadron-run snack fridge at any Air Force base in the world, and you’re bound to find the same stuff: chips, candy, soda and other unhealthful, fattening fare.

With a whopping 61 percent of Air Force personnel considered overweight or obese by U.S. standards, medical officials say, those Snickers bars, cans of Sprite and bags of Cheetos need to go.

At Misawa Air Base, Capt. Jennifer Bradley and Staff Sgt. Vanessa Arthur use their 35th Aerospace Medicine Squadron’s Health Promotion Flight snack bar at the Health and Wellness Center as an example of what to aim for.

Low-fat, low-sugar, healthful and fiber-filled snacks are what you’ll find for sale there.

Arthur and flight commander Bradley are taking that message and other healthy eating tips to the community as part of the American Dietetic Association’s National Nutritional Month — a nationwide program themed "Eat Right."

It’s a message that hits across the board, civilian or military, any service branch.

Even making small changes can make a big difference.

"Cutting 100 calories a day can equal 10 pounds in a year," Bradley said.

One way Bradley and Arthur plan to help is by leading a commissary tour, offering tips on eating healthy. Little things like picking a low-sodium product, reading labels for calorie and fiber content, and not just assuming foods are healthful will be highlighted in the 30- to 60-minute tour.

One example of shopping smart is the recently opened sushi bar. While the Japanese are often lauded for their healthy lifestyles, people should watch for things like fattening mayonnaise in the Western-style sushi.

Tofu or soy products are a great example of "recipe modification," according to Arthur. Using tofu with or instead of meat is one suggestion.

And they’re not just worried about persuading adults. They’ve already been to one of the grade schools, and they’re planning the March 27 "Child Health Extravaganza" at the Lunney Youth Center.

One of the goals is to convince kids "why they should not eat fast food all of the time," Arthur said.

And now that Air Force physical fitness testing is run out of the Health and Wellness Center, Bradley hopes to convince airmen that "eating habits play a big role in your fitness."

"You need to be healthy all year round," she said.

Call the Health and Wellness Center at DSN 226-6653 for more information.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Arthur, left, discusses the nutritional value of health snack bars with Staff Sgt. Kelly White at the Misawa Air Base, Japan, commissary on Friday afternoon. Arthur, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Health Promotion Flight’s Health and Wellness Center, will lead a commissary tour March 25 to teach base residents how to eat healthier in conjunction with National Nutrition Month.

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