Nutrition, Sleep Hygiene and You

A simple message to keep in mind when it comes to nutrition is to choose foods that are in their least-processed form, such as vegetables, nuts, fruits and seeds. These types of foods are considered to be key for the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

A simple message to keep in mind when it comes to nutrition is to choose foods that are in their least-processed form, such as vegetables, nuts, fruits and seeds. These types of foods are considered to be key for the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

Chocolate chip muffins, candy bars and greasy double-stacked burgers with extra cheese, bacon, large french fries and a soda on the side, while considered delicious by many, may be part of what’s holding people back from reaching their physical goals.

Similar to a pyramid, nutrition plays a key role in an Airman’s foundation, keeping them healthy and strong, and let’s face facts: pyramids weren’t built on french-fry fields and burger patties.

Fear not, the Fairchild Health Promotions Office dietician is here to help steer wandering people away from those tempting, unhealthy foods.

“For humans, food is our fuel and we’re all responsible for the choices of what we eat and drink,” said Alysson Kresser, 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron Health Promotions Office dietician. “We’re learning more through research that what we eat has a major impact on our bodies’ functions and our cognitive and physical abilities. Fueling yourself to perform at the top of your game will benefit your overall lifestyle and the Air Force mission.”

Nutrition can be confusing due to the overwhelming amount of information out there. One simple message to keep in mind is to choose foods that are in their least-possible processed form, Kresser said. Choose options like nuts, fruits, seeds and other plant-based food.

“These foods should be the foundation for everyone’s diet; that doesn’t mean becoming a vegetarian or vegan,” she said. “We should focus on those types of food because we need the nutrients and vitamins they provide.”

Proper nutrition is not the only aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Sleep is another main component to achieving the physical goal many people strive toward.

“When people aren’t getting enough sleep, there are two hormones that are thrown off. One hormone regulates the feeling of hunger and the other regulates our stomach’s sensation of fullness,” Kresser said. “When people do not get enough sleep, often times they’ll have an increased sensation of hunger and they don’t feel full as fast; this can potentially lead to weight gain over time.”

Something else that affects sleep patterns is when stimulants are taken too close to bedtime, such as caffeine or energy drinks. Even when people say they can drink an energy drink and go straight to sleep, they’re not reaching the deep quality sleep cycle when the body actually gets rest and repair, she added.

Not only does the HPO dietician offer nutritional guidance, she also provides a hands-on approach through free cooking classes every second Wednesday of the month at 11:00 a.m. in the Fairchild Fitness Center HPO kitchen.

The dishes are prepared using fresh, seasonal ingredients that are available in the local area to teach attendees how to prepare and cook food that doesn’t cost a lot and is highly nutritious to the body, Kresser said.

People often believe healthy food is too expensive and takes too much time to prepare, so the HPO shows them how to prepare a complete meal on a budget.

“When we’re thinking long-term, we want to prevent as many potential health issues as possible,” Kresser added. “It’s always easier to be proactive to prevent issues than to be reactive when diagnosed. We know through science that by making healthy choices now, we will have more energy, and potentially save money down the road in medical treatments.”

For a full list of free services provided by the Health Promotions Office, contact Alysson Kresser or Will Saultes, 92nd AMDS HPO coordinator, at (509) 247-5590.