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Health Promotion teaches meal prep

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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Meal prep is still on-trend in social media circles, but starting can be a challenge. U.S. Airmen and Soldiers attended a Health Promotion-led class and Commissary tour to learn the basics of meal prep and nutrition at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, April 19.

Health Promotion, formerly called the Health and Wellness Center, strives to promote health and wellness for all military members and their dependents, and Department of Defense civilians.

“The purpose is to target the public health concern of physical performance and nutrition, and to influence behavior,” said Sarah O’Neill, the 673d Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Health Promotion coordinator. “Nutrition can affect readiness, resiliency, job performance and mental health. We’re trying to empower and encourage self-efficacy versus being forced to do something because it means a lot more when it's coming from you and it's your decision.”

During the in-class portion, Soldiers and Airmen learned time-saving and health tips to consider before grocery shopping, while also keeping pre-preparation of meals in mind.

“We discussed how to plan out meals, what kind of food is good for meal prepping, what stays good for a while, what you should keep in the fridge and how to plan out portions,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman David Gothay, a Russian linguist assigned to the 381st Intelligence Squadron. “I'm definitely going to try to write down a mindful list before I grocery shop, and find out how I can meal prep to save time throughout the week.”

At the end of the class, participants learned how to prepare healthy smoothie bags that can be frozen and saved for use as a quick snack or meal. Then, they sampled the smoothie and a no-bake cookie to get an idea of healthy snack options, ensuring they didn’t start the Commissary tour on an empty stomach.

“The tour was really cool because we were able to go food group by food group and ask specific questions, compare things and learn what dieticians recommend,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joel Brien, a Russian linguist assigned to the 381st Intelligence Squadron.

Participants discussed their usual food choices when grocery shopping and how to select nutrient-rich foods versus those high in sugar and saturated fat.

“I usually never look at the nutrition label for the calories per servings or the total amount of servings so that was eye-opening,” said U.S. Army Spc. Joel Melgar, a wheeled-vehicle mechanic assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. “I learned you don't only get protein just from meat – you can also get it from different types of nuts and yogurt.”

Several participants noted how much time and money can be saved by shopping smart and preparing meals ahead of time.

“My biggest takeaway is the economic impact that food prepping can have and a reevaluation of how much money is spent on fast food, eating out and even wasted food,” Brien said. “I’m definitely going to try meal planning. I’ve thought about it in the past and this nutrition class gave me a better understanding and idea of where to start and how to approach it.”

Health Promotion offers a total of nine classes that cover a variety of topics such as fad diets, sleep optimization, plant-based eating and tobacco cessation.

For more information or to sign up for a class, check the JBER Connect Calendar or contact JBER’s Health Promotion at 907-551-2361 or usaf.jber.673-mdg.mbx.health-promotion@mail.mil.

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