Attention! Military Meals Get a Makeover

By , SparkPeople Blogger
First, it was the launch of the Let's Move Campaign to encourage change toward healthier eating and fitness habits. Then there were updated school lunch guidelines to match-up what is served in public schools with the MyPlate healthy eating guidelines. Now for the first time in nearly twenty years the military will get a nutrition overhaul aimed to help more Americans beat obesity.
Last week the First Lady joined the Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs at the Little Rock Air Force Base to announce the new Health Services focus. The Military Health System obesity and nutrition awareness campaign will provide a large revamp to nutrition standards and meal service to our military men and women, retirees and their families. Each year the military discharges about 1,200 entry-level candidates because of their inability to meet fitness and weight standards. At the same time, the Defense Department spends nearly $1.4 billion on obesity related health problems including diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritis. The Department of Defense believes the new changes will help reduce costs and increase military readiness by improving the overall health of the military population. At the same time, our military will be setting a powerful example for the rest of the nation. Here are some of the changes expected in the coming months.

The new obesity and nutrition awareness program will implement redesigned menus at all 1,100 American military dining facilities. The updated menus will focus on increasing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while lowering fat laden entrees offered to our 1.45 million service men and woman each day.  Healthier foods will also be included in base schools, vending machines and at snack bars throughout military bases.
Some critics have sighted that our active service men and women are healthy and fit because their lives depend on it so the changes are not necessary. Others suggest that these changes help ensure availability of foods and snacks that follow the Dietary Guidelines that all Americans are encouraged to follow. Most certainly, these changes will help cut medical costs for our troops and their families, which ultimately benefits our country financially. Since statistics reveal the nutritional state of our nation is not improving, this new government health campaign will certainly help stabilize or improve a problem that we have been ignoring for far too long. The Department of Defense considers obesity to be a problem of national security. While no one wants to see the reinstatement of the armed forces draft from days gone by, having a healthy population with lower obesity rates helps ensure more men and women can take advantage of the military career they desire.  
What do you think? Is this new initiative right on track or a bit of an overreach?

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I think our troops deserve the availability of good food, but if they want chips or pizza let them have it. They work hard and deserve it. Report
As a former USAR member, where I was a cook, I think this is a step in the right direction. I served 9 years, but was encouraged to not re-enlist because my weight was increasing every year.
The recipes all used lots of fats and sugars, and we really didn't have a lot of latitude in what we served.
My mother, who served during WWII, complained that when she enlisted, they served the women the same meals and portions as the men, and would give the women a lot of guff if they didn't clean their plates, then gave them even more when they gained weight!. It was only the women who did not clean their plates who did not gain weight. It did change a little, when they stopped forcing the women to take the same size servings as the men, but there was never any education in healthy eating. Report
Being a member of the Armed Forces, I completely support the government's new initiative towards healthier eating in our dining facilities. I hate walking into a galley and not having healthy food options to choose from. Report
The government keeps telling us what to eat, and look how well that's turning out. Report
If our government is going to be feeding our troops anyway, I'd rather they aim for the best available instead of just "good enough." Coming from a military family (my dad is a three-war veteran) and having friends who are active now, I know quite a few people who would be very happy to hear that improvements are coming. Report
I agree with gardenchris. Report
I think the food police need to stop. Report
My hubby is regular army turned reservist. I am so proud of him. When he eats in the "dining facility" (as they are now called) he has healthy options and takes full advantage of them. Fresh fruit, salad bar, healthy entrees. He says most of the younger soldiers head straight for the "fast food lane" where burgers, tacos and other less-healthy choices are served.

I agree about the MREs. They are sodium infested!

As for the physical side, there are gyms, fitness classes to include aquatics, and fitness trails all available to the military and DoD employess and their families at no charge. It's up to the proverbial horse.

PS. This has been going on for years now, long before Miz Obama came on the scene. Should we be applauding her for something already in place? Report
I think this is great. My son is in Tech. school at LRAFB and is trying to gain weight (can you imagine). I'm glad that he will have healthier options while doing so. Report
I just don't quite get how can anyone be against this? Report
As someone who has 3 uncles that were in the CF (2 WW II vets and one ex RCAF) I think its a worthwhile investment I am sure MacKay will be doing something similar in Canada... Report
When I was in boot camp, I actually gained a few pounds. Why NOT offer better choices at the chow halls? If you have never eaten at one, you have no idea how heavy and salty those meals are. Any improvement is a good idea, and surely some of the junior enlisted would choose to eat there if there were better choices. And yes, give Subway contracts to be on bases!
Now about food on ships at sea, especially deep into a deployment.... yikes. Report
My son attends a military college. For a 20 year old he knows a lot about good nutrition and how to fuel his body, but good food is not always readily available, i.e. 100% juice. So I think it is great that more nutritious foods will be available. These people burn a lot of calories but they shouldn't have to eat junk! Report
Changing what is available in the cafeterias is not going to change the soldier's behavior. They need the education and support that goes along with it. This is a good PR ploy, but beyond that, I think it misses the mark. Report
If her husband has his way, there won't be anyone in the military to feed anyway, therefore, the question about military chow is moot. Report
Those critics who say that our military is already healthy and fit, think again. Just because one works out for 2-3 hours a day does not mean that one is healthy. Their bodies are weapons for this country, and if they are not fueled right, they will not function right. Way to go, First Lady! Report
This is excellent because it will help shift our overall national food policy. Currently the fast food chains dictate what gets grown and how because they are the biggest consumer of beef, potatoes and other vegetables. A change like this is not only positive for our troops, but good for society overall. Bravo!
Well, I work on a military installation, and I'd sure appreciate better food in the snack bars and vending machines. I just don't see what it hurts to improve the availability of good food! Report
Are they revamping MREs, too? Those things are saturatef fat / sodium bombs! I realize that men in the field need more calories, but do they need all that sodium? Report
Military bases are full of other options for soldiers to eat. Here are the food places at my husband's post; Subway, Arby's Burger King, Taco Joes, Anthony's Pizza and more. What good is it to change the guidelines for the dfacs if soldiers can just go down the road to BK. Like slee58704 says "You can lead a horse to water but you can't force them to drink." I make healthy meals for my husband for dinner. I also try to make him breakfast but I don't like to get up at 0430. But he will still go to Arbys on post for lunch. He knows the food is not good for him but he goes to lunch when he has the time and usually it's not when the dfac is open. (Not that he would eat what passes as food at the dfac anyway.) Report
This is a good first step but kind of pointless as the same time. I know in the AF pretty much only the people who live in the dorms (generally e-3 and below) eat at the dining facilities. It is available for all ranks to eat at but once you move out of the dorms you are charged for the meal (it's really well priced, you can get a full meal for less than 4 bucks most of the time). I know more people that decide to get fast food then go to the chow hall. They need to concentrate more on educating the force as a whole on healthy eating habits. Report
I think it is a step in the right direction, however, if they do not add in healthy fast food options (ie subway vs burger king) I don't see much of a point. This seems to be aimed at single military as the married families don't typically eat in the dining halls. Either way, you can lead a horse to the water but you can't force them to drink. Report
What the military feeds their joes is just the beginning. Most of the problem lie within their chain of command. There are far too many leaders out there not motivated enough to keep their soldiers in shape and let alone themselves. Standards have to be raised and maintained. Report
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