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NEWS | Feb. 29, 2012

Healthy eating - it couldn't be simpler

By Jeff Kelly Naval Health Clinic Charleston Public Affairs Officer

As a nation, we celebrate Healthy Weight Month in January and National Nutrition Month in March.

Traditionally, high school nutrition classes include lessons on the food pyramid. Do you remember what goes where? Grains make up the bottom segment, fruits and vegetables are one step up, meat and dairy are next and fats are at the peak. Not the most logical way to depict proper food distribution, but memorable, once the light bulb of understanding goes on.

However, just because we understand the food pyramid does not mean we use it. Some say "the pyramid doesn't work." When used correctly, the food pyramid actually does work. But how many people truly eat "pyramid-style?"

The typical American diet is made up of meat and potatoes. This type of meal fills people up. Fruits and vegetables are often skipped. If we skip fruits and vegetables, we miss out on essential vitamins, minerals and fiber and often eat more fat and calories than we need.

To help make meal planning and healthy eating easier, the United States Department of Agriculture has introduced a new concept called MyPlate. The plate is divided into grains, fruits, vegetables and protein with dairy on the side. The plate clearly shows how to plan a meal so portion sizes are reasonable and important nutrients are included. Endless combinations of foods can be used to achieve the same goal - healthy meals. Here are 10 tips to get you started on the path to "plate-style" eating:

1. Make meals from scratch; frozen dinners are more expensive.
2. Make a grocery list based on planned meals and stick to your list.
3. Choose store brands when available; pretty packaging costs more money.
4. Set an example for children by eating and shopping wisely.
5. Appearances can be deceiving. Read labels for fiber, sugar and fat content.
6. Serve warm or cold fruits for snacks and desserts.
7. Use more plant protein like beans, nuts and seeds and choose lean meat.
8. Replace sour cream and mayonnaise with plain low-fat yogurt.
9. Create a stir-fry dish from leftovers instead of throwing them away.
10. Sit at a table, turn off the TV and enjoy meal time.

The online version of "MyPlate", www.choosemyplate.gov, has nutrition information for people of all ages as well as a SuperTracker tool for monitoring food and exercise.

Crews into shape

The next step in improving health habits is to put recommendations into practice. One way to do this is to participate in the 2012 Crews into Shape challenge which starts March 4.

Crews into Shape is an annual month-long fitness and nutrition challenge that fosters friendly team competition throughout the Department of Defense network. Teams or "crews" earn points for eating a certain amount of fruits and vegetables and participating in regular physical activity.

For more information or to register a team, visit http://www.nmcphc.med.navy.mil/Healthy_Living/Resources_Products/Crews_Into_Shape/crews_info.aspx.
Registration ends March 4. Help put Joint Base Charleston on the DoD "Wellness map" by having as many commands/units/flights as possible sign up to compete.