Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Proper nutrition impacts overall health & readiness

Image of Man wearing a face mask restocking fruit at a store. Greg Wagner, a store associate for the Hurlburt Field Commissary, restocks blueberries in the commissary on Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 3, 2020. The commissary is one of the many facilities on the installation annually evaluated by the Health and Wellness Center for healthy food options to sustain combat-ready Air Commandos and their families (Air Force Airman 1st Class Robyn Hunsinger, 1st Special Operations Wing).

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness

Nutrition is one the eight Total Force Fitness domains, and having safe, high-quality foods available to members of the military goes a long way toward sustaining and optimizing physical and cognitive performance, as well as health, well-being, and readiness.

With March serving as National Nutrition Month, Military Health System providers emphasize the importance and impact of maintaining proper nutrition throughout the year.

"The implications of nutritional fitness are far-reaching because being truly nutritionally fit will impact all the other TFF domains: medical, behavioral, psychological, environmental, physical, social, and spiritual," said Patricia Deuster, executive director of the Uniformed Services University (USU) Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) in Bethesda, Maryland.

"Nutritional choices and habits affect every aspect of life: sleep, mood, physical and cognitive performance, sense of purpose, health, and more," Deuster said. "Nutrition is intricately woven into the fabric of each TFF domain. So by choosing a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and tobacco, and engaging in regular physical activity, this will empower service members, their families and retirees to live healthy and fulfilling lives. But we must also provide an environment so that the healthy choice is the easiest and default choice."

Army Maj. Joetta Khan, deputy director and chief of education and research, Nutrition Services Department, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland explained, "We are no longer focused on the old model of treating illness but have transitioned to a more preventive approach" that incorporates proper nutrition as a linchpin of TFF.

"If we can coach, teach and mentor the soldier at multiple points within his or her career, from basic training until retirement, there could be a significant cost savings for the soldier. These could be in the form of fewer injuries and chronic diseases, more healthy work days, and increased resiliency," said Khan.

"For the soldier's family, this could translate into the soldier bringing the concepts home, and more healthy days at home," added Khan. "Finally, this continuous training in TFF could translate into fewer sick/injured days and lower medical care costs associated with treating long-term conditions."

Said Army 1st Lt. Maria Stukenborg, a holistic health fitness performance nutritionist at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state: "Proper nutrition can aid in healing from illness or injury by assisting in the healing process. Not only can nutrition help to improve recovery, but appropriate fueling helps us decrease our risk for injury."

According to performance nutritionist Army Capt. Kristina Fauser-Martin of Fort Drum in New York: "When individuals are fueling themselves appropriately, it puts them in proper energy availability. Energy availability is the amount of energy a person has available for physiological functions after exercise. If service members are eating below their energy needs, it puts them in a state called low availability, where a person's energy intake is not enough to meet their daily energy needs plus the demands of training. Low energy availability has many performance consequences including increased risk for injury."

Two baskets full of  fresh apples and bananas
The Wilson Express shop at Fort Knox, Kentucky, earned recognition in 2020 for its display of fresh fruits near the checkout for those who do not have time to cook a meal during lunchtime or after work. Having these types of foods handily available helps in the nutrition component of Total Force Fitness (Photo by: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox, Kentucky).

"Easy steps service members can take to improve their nutrition include working to find balance at meals and learning to eat intuitively," said Stukenborg. "This involves trying to incorporate carbohydrates, fats, and proteins at all meals and snacks as well as learning to pay attention to one's hunger and fullness cues. That includes the timing of fuels, nutrients, and fluids."

Army 1st Lt. Rachel Dyal, Madigan Army Medical Center inpatient nutrition chief, explained that when people listen to their hunger and fullness cues, they usually notice hunger cues every three to four hours.

"If you are listening to your body and hunger cues are missing, there may be mental or physical reasons you should investigate,” she said."

Other easy steps to enhance nutrition immediately include "setting yourself up for success," said CHAMP's Deuster. "Focus on three areas: the kitchen, mealtime, and your office. In the kitchen, have healthy options (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) readily available. Designate an area as a 'snack zone' with nutritious, easy-to-grab snacks. Last, keep treats and sweets in hard-to-reach places. At mealtime, put down your phone and turn off the TV. At your desk, keep a water bottle nearby and stash a few healthy snacks in a drawer."

CHAMP resources and programs include:

Power Plate
High-Performance Eating versus Low-Performance Eating
Fuel Up to Stay Strong Every Day
Personal Protective Nutrition and Personal Protective Lifestyle
Combat Rations Database
Warfighter Nutrition Guide
Go4Green

You also may be interested in...

Avoid summertime food poisoning with these easy tips

Article
8/12/2022
Someone cooking on a grill

Food safety in the summer is just as important as sunscreen

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Summer Safety | Summer Safety Toolkit

Ask the Doc: Can I Develop Sudden Food Allergies?

Article
8/1/2022
Allergy Test

Have you ever had an allergic reaction and not know you had an allergy?

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Ask The Doc

How Performance Nutrition Can Help You Maintain Readiness

Article
7/29/2022
A person serving himself a salad

Performance nutrition is a major key to force readiness.

Recommended Content:

Performance Nutrition: Fuel Your Body and Mind | Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

How Registered Dietitians Can Help You Fuel for Peak Performance

Article
7/25/2022
A woman leads a presentation.

Registered dietitians can help service members reach their goals with healthy and safe options.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness

How Diet, Lifestyle and Mental Health Impact Your Overall Health

Article
7/13/2022
Military personnel holding a cookie and broccoli

Think you might need to lose a little weight? You're not alone. Even in the military, where maintaining physical fitness remains a job requirement and a key component of military readiness, thousands of service members struggle with weight.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Performance Nutrition: Fuel Your Body and Mind

Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

Article
6/16/2022
Tactical Diaper Bags and Other Fathers' Day Tips from a Marine Officer

“When we deploy, our lives become simpler, while theirs become more complex: In addition to missing their husband and father, they are missing someone who should be helping to shoulder the burden that military life places on kids.”

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Could a Therapy Dog Help with Your Dental Anxiety?

Article
6/2/2022
Air Force Brig. Gen. Goldie, a facility therapy dog at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, helps reduce anxiety in a patient with complex dental conditions that require multiple appointments. The use of therapy dogs is part of an ongoing study with these patients.

A first-of-its-kind study at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is researching whether using facility therapy dogs in dentists’ offices could reduce patient anxiety and improve outcomes for military dental treatment programs.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness

Tips for Military Parents Planning PCS Moves with Children

Article
6/2/2022
Moving can be hard on military families, especially on children. Moving to a new home, going to a new school, finding new friends – it can be unsettling for kids of any age. Yet there are things that service members can do to prepare for a permanent change of station move that can make for a smoother transition for the children.

Moving can be hard on military families, especially on children. Moving to a new home, going to a new school, finding new friends – it can be unsettling for kids of any age. Yet, there are things that service members can do to prepare for a permanent change of station move that can make for a smoother transition for the children.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness

How Health Care Providers Can Mitigate Burnout

Article
5/25/2022
U.S. Army Soldiers load a simulated patient on to a New Jersey National Guard UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter during a combat lifesaver course run by the Medical Simulation Training Center on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, April 14, 2022.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

“No one is immune to burnout. Healthcare providers are very good at rescuing others. We train for it and practice it daily. Unfortunately, we often do so at the expense of our own health and wellness.”

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Ask the Doc: Yes, I Binge Drink. But am I an Alcoholic?

Article
5/25/2022
Ian Bell, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron True North social worker, tries on vision impairment goggles at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Dec. 20, 2021. The vision impairment goggles represented a range of different blood alcohol concentrations, from less than 0.06 BAC, which simulates how reaction time and abilities are affected after just one drink, to 0.25, a very high level of impairment caused by binge drinking.

Dear Doc: I kick back on the weekends and down a six-pack or two at a time. I know this is called binge drinking, but I don’t think I’m an alcoholic. Should I be worried?

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Ask The Doc

Feeling Burned Out at Work? Here Are Some Tips to Feel Better

Article
5/24/2022
Feeling burned out? Tips to understand and avoid burnout.

The good news is that burnout can be mitigated. There are numerous steps that individuals and leaders can take to reduce burnout and its impact.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Nurse Powerlifts Her Way to Winner's Podium

Article
4/19/2022
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Holly Vickers competed in the United States Powerlifting Association’s Virginia Beach Classic on March 26, 2022, taking home the top spot for her weight class. Photo used with permission from DVXT Images. (Photo: Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Public Affairs)

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Holly Vickers competed in the United States Powerlifting Association’s Virginia Beach Classic on March 26, 2022, taking home the top spot for her weight class.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

Brain-Boosting Meal Plans Help Service Members with TBI

Article
3/30/2022
During the NICoE intensive outpatient program (IOP), staff nutritionist Ruth Clark teaches hands-on classes in the on-site patient kitchen. (Photo: Tahira Hayes (Ctr), NICoE/WRNMMC, NSA Bethesda)

Research has shown that dietary changes may help relieve symptoms that might complicate recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

It’s True – Carrots (and Other Vegetables) Can Help You See in the Dark

Article
3/4/2022
Each color in fruits and vegetables indicates an abundance of specific nutrients.

Have you ever heard that carrots are good for your eyes, or that they can help you see in the dark? It’s true – carrots are rich in the compound beta carotene, which your body uses to make a form of vitamin A that helps your eyes adjust in the dark. A shortage of vitamin A can cause a host of health problems, including blindness.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Centers of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision Center of Excellence

Caring for Recruits' Injuries is Key to Success at Basic Training

Article
2/23/2022
U.S. Marines wait for instruction from their Senior Drill Instructor after concluding a motivational run at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, on March 11, 2021.

Injuries at bootcamp can end a military career before it starts. That’s why trainers and drill instructors take countless precautions to ensure trainees stay fit and healthy.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Readiness Capabilities | Injury Prevention
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 7
Refine your search
Last Updated: April 27, 2021

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.