MILLINGTON, TN -- This spring’s Physical Readiness Test cycle isn’t only about fitness. The Navy is ensuring sailors are also aware of the importance of a healthy diet.

The Navy has registered dietitians throughout the fleet to assist with healthy meal planning, weight loss counseling and other nutrition needs. In many cases, sailors can visit their command’s Health Promotion Department to obtain nutritional information and assistance.

“Nutrition has recently become a more popular topic in the Navy as two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight,” said Lt. Cmdr. James McGowan, a registered dietitian who serves as the Navy's Nutrition Program Manager. “Poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to excess body weight, which can affect their military career with physical fitness assessment failures and, ultimately, administrative separations.”

The Navy has instituted a number of new programs to help sailors achieve a culture of wellness. Naval Supply Systems Command has created a healthy menu for galleys, which offers many lower fat and baked foods items. The Navy also offers the ShipShape program, which sailors can attend before they exceed body fat standards.

“(ShipShape is) specifically designed to provide active-duty personnel with basic information on nutrition, stress management, physical activity, and behavior modification techniques to lower and maintain an acceptable body weight within Navy standards,” said McGowan.

Sailors in the Fitness Enhancement program are required to complete the Nutrition and Weight Control Self-Study Guide. The nine-chapter guide allows Sailors to complete a chapter each week and then have the command fitness leader review it and provide recommendations. The focus is to change behaviors from unhealthy to healthier, from large portions to smaller ones, from lack of exercise to increased activity.