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HAWC classes improve Airmen’s health, lives

Posted 9/6/2013   Updated 9/6/2013 Email story   Print story


by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

9/6/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- Helping Airmen make healthier choices, the Better Body Better Life classes at Maxwell's Health and Wellness Center are aiding Airmen in losing unwanted weight after the program's initial launch in March.

Designed by the Air Force Medical Operations Agency, the discussion-based, three-part class focuses on food portions, meal plans, calorie counting, nutrition and hydration, as well as the dangers of fat, sugar and dining-out.

Roshanda Gaddis, the health education dietitian at the HAWC, says, on average, female Airmen will gain 26 pounds and male Airmen will gain 29 pounds over a 20-year period.

"If you consistently go over your calorie needs per day, that's when the weight slowly creeps up," Gaddis explained. "At first, it's just a pound or five pounds, but before you know it, it can turn into 30 pounds."

Airmen who attended the August classes said eating healthy can be challenging because planning and preparing meals is time-consuming.

During last month's class, Gaddis covered several tips and smarter food substitutions to help Airmen make over their meals when eating out.

"Say you eat out, what can you do to get your meal under 700 calories and under 23 grams of fat total?" Gaddis asked the class. "Think about substitutions, because this is the real world and you do eat out occasionally with family or friends."

During the class, Gaddis reviewed essentials of healthy eating.

Cutting out mayonnaise on a sandwich or substituting a side salad instead of fries at common fast food chains can greatly decrease the number of fat calories, Gaddis said.

Other suggestions for avoiding hydrogenated oils with healthier fat substitutes are plant-based fats from nuts and avocados, leaner meats like chicken and Omega-3 fats found in fish like wild Alaskan salmon, tuna and mackerel, she said.

Carefully reading food product labels for portion sizes, total calories, fat calories, sodium levels and sugary ingredients will help determine whether or not a food product is a nutrient dense food or simply empty calories, she said.

Finally, she mentioned that empty calorie foods provide no nutritional value; whereas, nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, provide a higher quantity of vitamins and minerals with fewer calories.

After Senior Airman Frederick Quarles from Gunter discovered his favorite fast food meal totaled about 1,370 empty calories and 58 grams of fat, he was disgusted.

"That was a large amount of fat," Quarles said. "This class gave me more reason to work on staying on my diet, sleeping more regularly, eating better and avoiding fast food and going out."

Gaddis also suggested having an eating plan before going out to a fast-food chain or a sit-down restaurant, keeping a food log and using a smaller plate size to avoid gorging.

"A lot of times it's an illusion in our minds. Eat off smaller plates or square plates and use more lower calorie veggies like dark greens, tomatoes or carrots that fill you up," Gaddis said. "And if you do slip up, just keep going on the right track next time."

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