Dieting: no piece of cake

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Oleksandra G. Manko
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
Call it dieting, weight management or healthy eating, it seems to be on many minds today. Strategies vary greatly from person to person. Some eat all they want and work out like there's no tomorrow, some go on exclusion diets, some replace food with supplements, and some stop eating all together.

Certain diets, apart from being unpleasant, can also be ineffective or even hazardous for health. Capt. Gretchen Reinhardt, 99th Medical Support Squadron chief of outpatient nutrition and a registered dietitian with seven years of experience, has a few remarks that can help those seeking a better way to eat avoid some common mistakes.

Captain Reinhardt warns against less-than-1200-calories-a-day "crash" diets: "What you lose fast you gain fast too. You need to figure out a strategy that will work for you long-term." She explained weight management shouldn't be about starving oneself, but about choosing well.
On a side note, eating all the right food, but eating too much of it will not get people very far. Drinking a glass of water before a meal is one of the ways to reduce food intake. Another method is eating slowly, it will give the stomach more time to communicate to the brain that it is full, which will assist in preventing overeating.

"Healthy eating habits start at the grocery store, as what you buy is what you'll be munching on later," explained Captain Reinhardt.

She advises to buy enough fresh fruits and vegetables for the first few days and some frozen to last through the rest of the week. Other items to look for are whole-grain bread, brown rice, lean meats, like chicken and fish, and low fat, sodium and sugar items.

While fat and sugar are self-explanatory, the downfall of sodium-rich food is that it causes your body to retain water, thus making a person gain weight.

As the dietitian puts it, shopping on the periphery of the commissary offers healthier choices, as the middle rows usually contain the most processed food.

Some people are concerned with negative effects of artificial sweeteners. Captain Reinhardt assures unless a person consumes pounds of them on a daily basis, there is nothing to worry about. As far as supplements go, human bodies absorb nutrients a lot better from natural sources.

Another useful fact - excessive consumption of carbonated drinks disrupts the calcium balance in human bones, therefore it is not recommended to replace water even with diet-soda on a regular basis. A tip for coffee-lovers - coffee contains no calories; however, the sugar and creamer in lattes and mochas negate that quality.

Some Airmen living in the dorms don't have a financial option to shop for their own food. While eating healthy in a chow hall may seem rather challenging, there are some good choices. Varied colors in fresh fruits and vegetables reflect different minerals and vitamins contained in the food items. Healthier main course items are the ones that are grilled, broiled or baked and seasoned with herbs and spices rather than sauces and gravy.

Besides what and how much people eat, when they eat it counts too. Eating frequent small meals throughout the day, rather than a few larger ones, will help boost metabolism. Some healthy ideas for an "in-between" snack are fruits, popcorn, fat-free yogurt, cottage cheese and granola bars (however, too much of the latter one is undesirable, as they are fatty). It is also recommended to eat the last meal at least three hours before going to sleep.

To learn more about healthy eating habits and nutrition, call the base Health and Wellness Center at 653-3375 to sign up for one of their bi-monthly nutritional classes.