Role of Drill Sergeants in Nutrition Behaviors

The headline in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ended with “of soldiers in basic combat training”.

But, I’m guessing a majority of my readers are saying “YES” give me a drill sergeant who tells me what to eat and I’ll be happy and healthy.

I agree. We all like someone telling us what to do. Until we don’t. We like rules and structure. Until the unexpected happens. Which is pretty much all the time.

Weight reduction diets routinely tell you what to eat, how much to eat, perhaps even what time to eat. But does the latest and greatest diet tell us what to do when there’s a pitch-in at work celebrating a new baby? Enjoying cake at your child’s birthday? Meeting your college roommate for cocktails and dinner after work when it’s past your allotted eat and drink time?

The other end of the spectrum is too many food choices. We’ve used the term “decision fatigue”.  We can only “resist” food temptations so long.

Let’s look for some middle ground. Create your own structure. Be your own drill sergeant.

Including 3 of the 5 food groups/meal lends itself to healthy eating. Recall the groups: fruits, veggies, grain, protein and dairy. Our body wants its protein distributed throughout the day. So a food from the protein or dairy group takes up one spot. Fruits and veggies are in short supply in practically everyone’s diet; so, select from one of those groups each meal. Whole grains add satisfying, filling fiber for the third spot.

Kind of like a one from column A, one from column B….right?

Breakfast might be: milk, a banana and oatmeal OR an egg, some berries and toast.

Lunch might be: vegetable soup with black beans and whole grain crackers.

Dinner might be: fish, big colorful salad and brown rice.

I totally understand that we’ll want to add some extras (brown sugar to that oatmeal and butter to the toast) but if you start with that basic structure of three, the decisions are decreased and you’ll begin to be satisfied with fewer “extras”.

Then, when life happens you’ll be able to enjoy the celebration without guilt and without the drill sergeant. You’ve got your own personalized diet to be well,


PS Celebrating with your post-21 year old probably means you’ll enjoy some wine instead of cake. Happy Birthday, G-man.


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