Eating healthy can be hard, but is necessary

The convenience and taste of snack foods may tempt a person's appetite, but ultimately lead to poor eating habits. A sugary snack or beverage will curb hunger, but deny the body of essential nutrients, which will slow metabolism and lead to weight gain and long term health complications.  Proper nutrition includes a balanced meals and lots of water, and it will lead to a healthier, more positive self-image. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jamie Lessard)

The convenience and taste of snack foods may tempt a person's appetite, but ultimately lead to poor eating habits. A sugary snack or beverage will curb hunger, but deny the body of essential nutrients, which will slow metabolism and lead to weight gain and long term health complications. Proper nutrition includes a balanced meals and lots of water, and it will lead to a healthier, more positive self-image. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jamie Lessard)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As the Air Force continues to support efforts on the front line of combat, being in shape is vitally important. The challenge is figuring out how to do that. Running and working out during physical training are necessary to accomplishing a better body, but something that is overlooked and more important is eating healthy.

"Food is a fuel for our body," said Melinda Reed, a nutritionist at the Health and Wellness Center here. "It is important that the fuel that we use is good fuel."

Good fuel does not consist of a lot high calorie, high fructose, high trans-fat foods, but green vegetables, fruit, and appropriate amounts of dairy and protein.

"The key to eating healthy is being able to control your portion sizes," Mrs. Reed said. "We are trained from an early age to clear our plate, but that's not what is best for us."

It is important to not only eat healthy food, but the right portions of healthy foods, she said.

"There used to be a set number for how many vegetables a person should eat during a sitting, not the case now," Mrs. Reed said. "People should load up on vegetables, and cut down the meat. The average human needs only four ounces of meat, or approximately the size of a computer mouse."

Likewise, there are many other myths surrounding eating healthy. For instance, people drink sports drinks all the time to replenish with electrolytes. At Vandenberg, it is rarely hot enough where the electrolytes someone gets in fruit aren't enough to sustain someone during and after a workout, she said.

"The high-fructose in those sports drinks are sugar that your body can't regulate," Mrs. Reed said.

A lot of people think eating tuna or egg salad is healthy, and it can be as long as it's not made with mayonnaise.

However, there is no myth surrounding one of the best things someone can do to get and stay in shape. It involves many people's favorite carbonated beverage.

"People will be amazed with what happens to their body when they stop or cut down on soda consumption," Mrs. Reed said. "It is loaded in sugar and very high in calories, and the high fructose corn syrup makes it possible for people to keep drinking it."

Deciding to eat healthy is the first step to getting in shape; however, it is not the last. People have to make a conscience effort and plan ahead to fight the fast-food world we live in.

"We are attacked as soon as we leave our homes by fast food marketing," Mrs. Reed said. "To fight this we have to be proactive with our diet."

Being proactive means planning meals ahead of time, and realizing what is healthy and what isn't. Incorporating snacks into our daily activities is also a good way to fight our fatty desires.

"Healthy snacks spread out our calories and keep us from overeating during meals," Mrs. Reed said. "Although, it has to be a healthy snack - no snack bar runs for a soda and candy bar."

Eating healthy seems like a daunting task and it can be. However, a lot can be accomplished by just watching portion sizes at meals. Cutting down the calories will go a long way in losing fat and keeping it off.

For more information on being healthy, call the HAWC at 606-7540