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National Nutrition Month: Fuel for the Future

“Fuel for the Future” is the 2023 theme for National Nutrition Month. For me, the message was a head-scratcher. What kind of fuel? Whose future? After some thought, I found the wisdom lies within its ambiguity.

Nutrition has an impact. The focus is often on the individual. Research has shown that food affects our health. Dietitians aim to help an individual make healthy choices by empowering them with knowledge. They teach of the benefits of plant-based foods high in fiber, filling lean proteins, and healthy fats that boost brain power and lower inflammation.

Being mindful of how our body is fueled today sets us up for a healthy future. VA is equipped with Registered Dietitians ready to help you reach your health goals.

Food is necessary for survival and can also provide protection. Along with energy, food comes with vitamins, minerals and nutrients capable of strengthening immunity and reducing reliance on medications for conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

What we consume directly influences the future of our planet

Nutrition has a larger impact outside of the individual. Food production accounts for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions, half of the world’s livable land is used for agriculture, and 70% of global freshwater withdrawals are used for crops. Farmers and companies work to meet food demands. What we consume directly influences the future of our planet.

Compost bin

Compost bin

Having to nourish our bodies, as well as the planet that feeds us, can seem daunting. Just like any challenge, be it raising a child or starting a business, doing so takes a village. The more people that try, the less impossible the task becomes. Veterans are leading the effort.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is helping military Veterans across the country fill roles that keep America’s food supply secure and restore the environment. The USDA prioritizes Veterans for their strong work ethic and wide range of experiences, and in turn, brings more local food options to rural communities.

Getting started

Consider the following steps if curious about where to start:

  • Prioritize plants: Filling half a plate with fruits and vegetables is part of an optimal diet and it reduces freshwater withdrawals and deforestation that comes with caring for livestock.
  • Minimize meat: Meat production, especially beef, is a substantial contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Look local: Seeking local farmers reduces fuel emissions that result from long-haul travel.
  • Eat mindfully: Focus on where food comes from to better appreciate the nourishment it provides.
  • Reduce food waste: When food is waste, the land, water and energy to produce it is wasted as well. Need more motivation? Less wasted food can mean more money saved.
  • Choose reusables: Use less paper towels and more reusable dishrags, eat off reusable plates instead of Styrofoam or paper disposables, and leave home with a thermos instead of buying water bottles.

The good news is many of the recommendations also support an individual’s health. Adding a hearty serving of vegetables helps with weight management, heart health and reduces one’s risk for certain types of cancer. The more variety, the better!  Additionally, eating mindfully is not only a practice of gratitude, but it also raises awareness to the early sensations of fullness that often go missed and lead to overeating.

Call your local VA and ask to meet with a dietitian to learn more about this or any other nutrition-related topic.

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