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March is AF Nutrition Month

By Maj. Joyce Warrington, RN | 12th Medical Group | March 7, 2008

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — The importance of good nutrition is nothing new. As early as 400 B.C., Hippocrates, "the father of medicine" said, "let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." 

Luckily, we have made great strides in the way we manufacture, store, prepare and distribute food since Hippocrates' time, but unfortunately the abundance of such "good medicine" is often seen in our growing waistlines. 

Heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are four of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. and are directly related to how people eat. 

A healthy diet and regular exercise can decrease the risk factors for these conditions and can lead to a longer happier life. 

One tool to help guide us is called "MyPyramid." Developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2005, the MyPyramid food guidance system provides many options to help people make healthy food choices and to be active every day. 

Unlike the original food pyramids of the early 90's, this system emphasizes the need for a more individualized approach to improving diet and lifestyle. In addition to showing the recommended food groups, physical activity is also addressed. 

The new pyramid shows the recommended proportion of foods from each food group and focuses on the importance of making smart food choices every day. 

Of course, food alone isn't the key to a longer and healthier life, a clinic nutritionist said. Good nutrition should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, no smoking or drinking alcohol, stress management and limiting exposure to environmental hazards. 

According to experts, parents should teach their children how to lead healthy lives. The best time to start teaching these lessons to children is when they're young, before unhealthy choices become lifelong bad habits. 

Experts add, "Pay attention to the kinds of food you buy. Have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables available, be aware that even "low-fat" foods may include unwanted ingredients such as added sugar, serve a variety of healthy foods and use appropriate portion sizes." 

Officials encourage physical activity for both parents and children by making physical activity part of the family's routine. 

A person can dramatically improve their overall health by making modest dietary improvements and incorporating regular physical activity into your daily life. 

For further information on nutrition and exercise, visit www.MyPyramid.gov or call the Randolph Health and Wellness Center at 652-2300. 

The MyPyramid chart illustrates: 

· Personalization:
Recommended amount of food to eat each day. 
· Gradual improvement: Suggested steps to improve diet and lifestyle. 
· Physical activity: 
Represented by the steps as a reminder of the importance of daily physical activity. 
· Moderation:
The wider base stands for foods with the most nutrition from calories to be consumed. 
· Proportionality:
Shown by the different widths of the food group bands 
· Variety:
Six color bands represent the five food groups and oils.