Nutrition – A Military Survival Skill

BY JENNIFER PERSON-WHIPPO, MSHS, RD
NUTRITION PROGRAM MANAGER
NAVAL SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND

Proper nutrition is critical in maintaining optimal performance. This is especially important for our military members who consistently operate in physically and cognitively demanding environments. Supplying our bodies with healthy, nutrient-dense foods helps to fight off disease, reduces the risk of injury, and contributes to our overall well-being.

Our leaders recognize there are fitness, nutrition, and health challenges throughout the Department of Defense (DoD). To better educate service members and help them live an active and healthy lifestyle, multiple programs and initiatives are in place and many can be easily accessed online. Specific examples include:

Total Force Fitness (TFF) provides a framework for building and maintaining health, readiness, and performance in the DoD. TFF views health, wellness, and resiliency as a holistic concept where optimal performance requires a connection between mind, body, spirit, and family/social relationships. The nutrition domain defines nutritional fitness, emphasizing the critical role nutrition plays in optimizing health, performance, preventing injury and chronic diseases.

The 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative seeks to ensure healthy food items are available at every meal. It strives to move from a “culture of testing” to a culture of physical readiness by strengthening the Physical Readiness Test requirements and providing better nutrition choices.

Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System (NOFFS) 2.0 provides the Navy with a “best in class” physical fitness and nutrition performance resource for Sailors and Navy health and fitness professionals. NOFFS 2.0 instructs individuals on how to physically train effectively and safely, and to make healthy nutrition choices in both shore-based and operational environments. Food lists comprised of green, yellow and red color codes guide service members to the most nutrient-dense and performance-based options. The meal builder tool identifies calorie ranges based on gender and lists required servings of food from all food groups to meet performance goals. The goal of NOFFS 2.0 is to optimize physical performance and fueling for Sailors.

Navy Culture of Fitness focuses on environmental and behavioral incentives to highlight nutrition and fitness. It recognizes that minimum fitness standards exist but are not consistently enforced. This initiative seeks to increase knowledge of nutrition and fitness across the fleet and to reinvent culinary training that supports improved physical and nutritional fitness.

Go For Green® (G4G) nutrition labeling education program in all galleys demonstrates the concept of choice architecture. This concept supports a serving line configuration that places green coded items first, followed by yellow, and then red. Research shows that color coding foods with configured serving lines influences diner choice. G4G promotional videos explaining program concepts are airing on American Forces Network through December 2018.

Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) Nutrition Guide Program was launched world-wide in January 2017. Criteria for the Nutrition Guide Program was established by Joint service dietitians in collaboration with the DeCA dietitian. The Nutrition Guide Program, with its color-coded shelf tags, serves as an easy-to-use guide for grocery shopping. The program highlights five nutrition attributes including low sodium, low fat, whole grain, low sugar and high source of fiber. G4G nutrient evaluation criteria were utilized to maintain continuity between the galley and home nutrition, linking the “healthy cart” concept to service members shopping at the commissary.

Ultimately, the goal of these programs and initiatives is to highlight and further advance nutrition as a military survival skill. Just remember, proper nutrition is critical to healthy living and optimized performance. Do the right thing and make your choice a healthy one!

To learn more about military healthcare initiatives, visit DoD’s Operation Live Well, the official website of the Military Health System and the Defense Health Agency at https://health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Operation-Live-Well.

July/August 2017