Navy Introduces Nutrition Assessment Tool

MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- The Navy has introduced an assessment tool that measures how work centers, commands and bases are doing with regard to supporting healthy eating, officials said March 27.

"Navy, along with the rest of Department of Defense (DoD), has implemented the use of the Military Nutrition Environment Assessment Tool (m-NEAT) to assess food environments and policies to determine the level of support a command and base provide for healthy eating." said Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Wallinger, a dietitian with the Navy Physical Readiness Office. "We're very excited about getting the word out to commands and bases on the benefits of completing their own assessment."   M-NEAT is an appraisal system that uses DoD food program standards and other evidence-based recommendations to identify where commands are doing well, and areas for improvement. The process is designed to bring a coalition of community members together to develop actionable steps to make positive changes that support our service members, families and Navy employees.

Navy encourages all commands to complete the assessment and develop an action plan. The m-NEAT looks at areas where food is available including "gedunk," concessions, and the dining hall. The goal is to develop a plan to transition to options that are more healthful and acceptable by the crew, explained Wallinger.

"Healthful options include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and non-sweetened beverages, and having these options available at our picnics, meetings and potlucks contributes to a command culture where the healthy choice is the easy choice," said Wallinger.

How foods are arranged and displayed also makes a difference. Placing better options in more prominent locations and in higher proportions than less healthful foods has proven to make healthy choices easier.

According to Wallinger, the program rests on the premise that environmental factors affect our eating behaviors to a greater degree than previously understood.   "What you eat affects your mood, energy level and ability to deal with stressful situations," said Wallinger. "The m-NEAT will increase awareness and help commands shape their food environment to promote resilience."

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