Nutrition doesn't have to be complicated or restrictive. It doesn't have to be a maze of carbohydrate-to-protein ratios. And it's not about fad diets.
It's about healthy nutrition.
Dr. Michael May calls it the difference between a work of art (healthy) and painting by numbers (restrictive): "Either, way you end up with a nice picture — until you get up close."
Food fuels your body and is the major contributor to your overall health. Any reputable book or nutrition class offered by your military service should teach these three key concepts:
Variety. Consume food from among as many of the five basic food groups as possible (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein). Oils are not considered a food group, but they do supply essential nutrients. There is no magic food; some offer one thing, others offer another. You need the broad spectrum. And seek variety within groups — meat and potatoes can take you only so far.
Moderation. Eating too little is just as bad as eating too much. Too little leads to nutrient deficiencies and will wreck your exercise and nutrition program. We all know the consequences of eating too much. Everyone should have an idea of what is considered a single serving for different types of foods. There is no bad food; there is merely overdoing it in a single serving or consistently consuming junk food.
Balance and wholesomeness. Eat as close to natural as possible. Balance calories in (nutrition) to calories out (daily life, exercise). Remember: To lose one pound, you need a 3,500-calorie deficit.
No matter how hard you work out, you won't get anywhere if you don't have a healthy nutrition plan. The opposite is also true: Good nutrition without a consistent exercise regimen will go only so far. Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand.
Use online help such as http://www.choosemyplate.gov">www.choosemyplate.gov, http://www.localharvest.org">www.localharvest.org and http://www.eatingwell.com">www.eatingwell.com. MyPlate is the official government site with information on everything from the food groups to a personalized nutrition plan. Local Harvest displays local farms, as well as co-ops, grocery stores and restaurants that sell local and/or organic foods. Eating Well has healthy eating tips, nutrition news and recipes.
Live in the barracks? Read "A Man, A Can, A Microwave" by David Joachim and the editors of Men's Health. The majority of the recipes contain fewer than 350 calories and less than 35 percent fat.
Don't look down on the base dining facilities. Most have gone to baking and grilling instead of deep-frying and are putting more emphasis on nutrition. I've been to some Air Force bases that offer grill nights that are pretty awesome.
Consider proper pre- and post-workout fueling. A spoonful of honey or a handful of frozen grapes is excellent before hitting the gym. Chocolate milk still stands as one of the best post-workout recovery drinks.
Learn what labels are really telling you. A "90% lean" label on a package of ground beef relates only to weight, not calories. The back label breaks down the grams and calories and tells the real story: 40 percent fat.
Always try to get a step closer to natural in everything you eat. Support local farmers and businesses that use local products. Just remember: "Fresh and local" also means seasonal.