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Defense Commissary Agency’s Health and Wellness Program Manager Deborah Harris explains to community members on the Commissary tour about the “thumbs up” recipe -- a dietician approved recipe, which people can take a picture of and make at home. The special tour by the registered dietitian was conducted March 12. (Photo by Lesley Atkinson)

FORT LEE, Va. -- Public Health staff members from Kenner Clinic, along with other community representatives, had a chance to tour the Fort Lee Commissary March 12 to learn more about its Nutrition Guide Program.

The NGP is designed to improve ones’ overall health by putting color tags on food items that are dietician-approved, making it easier to identify products that supplement wellness needs.

The nutrition organization works with dieticians throughout DOD to assist in identifying foods that are low sodium, without added sugar, whole grain, low fat, a good source of fiber and organic. Each category is assigned a color, and if there is a thumbs-up on the label, it meets high-nutrition and high-performance measures.

DeCA’s Health and Wellness Program Manager Deborah Harris, a registered dietitian, gave the tour and explained how the color-coded shelf labels work.

“What we did different than any other industry is make a conscious decision not to tag anything that is poor-nutrition quality,” Harris said. “We make sure there is some nutritional quality in the food.

“For our war-fighters, we want them to choose the thumbs,” she continued. “The commissary wants to change the eating pattern of the junior service member to move some of those convenience meals – such as fast food ¬– to better planning.”

Another way the commissary is encouraging healthier eating is the introduction of a “Thinking Outside the Box,” concept, which are recipes offered at the store that also can be found on www.commissaries.com under Healthy Living. The recipes are dietitian-approved and the featured ingredients are often targeted for special sales to create additional savings for patrons. The recipes align with dietary guidelines established by other health-promotion agencies in the U.S.

“Today, most of the younger generation doesn’t know how to cook, so ‘Thinking Outside the Box’ starts adding to their repository of learning how to prepare a meal from scratch using fresh ingredients,” Harris said.

The Commissary website has over 60 recipes and suggestions on how to use leftover items. It has additional recipes that receive the thumbs up of approval, and one recipe is showcased in the store so a patron can take a picture with their phone to use later.

Many junior Soldiers, Harris added, don’t know about all the options the commissary offers like deli, sushi and salads that are healthier than a lot of fast food fare. KAHC Dietician Raquel Bopp said a lot of Soldiers need this assistance to improve their healthy food choices.

“I see Soldiers daily who lack proper eating habits,” Bopp confirmed, “This is not just about weight loss, but also disease prevention, such as pre-diabetes and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterols of any kind that is a correlating factor of heart disease).”

Bopp believes if Soldiers are better versed about the healthier options available on post, they could improve their overall well-being.

“I truly believe having healthy food options available on post such as at the commissary would really help reduce obesity, which is a known factor for diabetes, and it would help reduce the chances of heart disease,” she said.

“Having food that can be quickly identified as a healthier option, and recipe ideas to put meals together, are great steps to eating better,” Bopp continued. “I do believe that having precooked meals that are low in saturated fat, low cholesterol, and moderate to low carbohydrates would be ideal. I also believe having an area where recipes are provided for our Soldiers and their family members is ideal. Having the Nutrition Guide Program along with access to a dietitian through the military healthcare system can most definitely help our Soldiers and their families live a healthier lifestyle.”

KAHC offers nutrition counseling services for diet and health, weight management, stress and emotional eating, vegetarian guidance, building muscle, preventing disease and more. For assistance, call 804-734-9000 or schedule an appointment through TRICARE Online.