Health

The real US military diet

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Published 3:51 AM ET, Fri June 30, 2017
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Thinking of trying the three-day crash "military diet," supposedly invented to get overweight recruits into shape? The US Department of Defense says that's all bunk. They say the online military diet, also known as the Army or Navy diet, has nothing to do with the three squares our men and women in uniform eat each day.

What is the "real" military diet? Keep clicking to see what we feed our armed forces, at home and abroad.
Pfc. Rachel Wilridge/US Army
Around the world, US military and civilians can join together in massive mess halls, like this one in Afghanistan, filled with healthy hot and cold meal options.
"Military dining facilities are required to provide a large variety of foods," says certified nutrition specialist Patricia Deuster, professor at the Uniformed Services University and author of the first US Navy SEAL Nutrition guide. "You could pick from items such as beef and broccoli stir fry with rice, salads, burgers and fries or a pizza."
Courtesy Department of Defense
This breakfast for troops in Guatemala is an example of the variety of fare offered to jump-start the day. Depending on the soldier's body size, job tasks and environment, Deuster says, a typical day can include between 4,000 and 7,000 calories. Courtesy Department of Defense
For those with less time, the military offers healthy grab-and-go breakfast options such as bagels, fruit and yogurt. "There is a huge food transformation initiative across the services," Deuster said. "Everyone is realizing that nutrition is very, very important for performance." Courtesy Department of Defense
As part of the Department of Defense menu standards, a wide variety of vegetables are offered to servicemen and women. "There is a Department of Defense manual that is updated periodically; there are nutrition committees, combat feeding directorates, lots of regulations," Deuster said. Courtesy Department of Defense
In Okinawa, Japan, oranges, apples, melon and pineapple are served at the dessert bar for breakfast, lunch and dinner as part of the new "Go for Green" program.
"Go for Green is a healthy-eating initiative in which foods are labeled green, yellow and red," Deuster said. "It's not calorie-dependent. Instead, green signifies foods with greatest nutrition density."
The 12th Marines Mess Hall in Okinawa received the award for best chow hall in the Marine Corps in 2015.
Courtesy Department of Defense
A pilot program at Georgia's Fort Stewart, this fast food truck will provide "healthy meal options to soldiers at motor pools, barracks and other locations where they congregate."
"From looking at vending machines, what fast food restaurants we allow on posts, to looking beyond the 'mess hall' design to fast food trucks, we are trying to get personnel to be more inclined to make healthy choices," Deuster said.
Courtesy Department of Defense
Food served in the field must be as nutritious as that served back at base, and the military says it makes sure it's also tasty by conducting frequent field tests. Health care specialist Earl Buelow eats a forkful of scrambled eggs and salsa during a heat-and-serve menu testing at Fort Riley, Kansas. Staff Sgt. Gene Arnold/US Army
Sometimes, meals must be prepared in the field with limited resources. This meal was prepared out of UGR's, or Unitized Group Rations, using only a vat of boiling water. UGR's are pre-prepared, processed and shelf-stable foods packaged in hermetically sealed steam table containers. Each of the three breakfast and 14 lunch/dinner menus contains all necessary food and disposable items to feed 50 people, according to the Defense Logistics Agency. Corey Dahl/USAF
Heard of MREs, or "meals ready to eat"? These Air Force recruits are being introduced to their future "eat on the job" chow at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. Tech. Sgt. Trevor Tiernan/Digital/USAF
A typical MRE will contain all the elements of a full meal and can range from beef stew to tuna fish to a veggie offering.
"There are three of them a day, providing 3,500 to 3,800 calories," Deuster said. "Every year, the menus change, adding new items and removing others to be healthier, based on research conducted in the field."
Sharon Holland/Uniformed Services University
These troops are chowing down on a "first-strike" shelf-stable pocket sandwich, which the Department of Defense says has always scored high in field tests. It's called first strike because it's designed to be used during initial periods of highly intense, highly mobile combat operations.
"Between MREs, first-strike options and modular rations, they've got such a variety of options," Deuster said. "Sports bars, raisins, applesauce -- there are all sorts of things you can eat on the go."
Courtesy Department of Defense
The Department of Defense says it's proud of the meal offerings for combat troops in the field. Here, members of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit offer Greek soldiers a chance to taste MREs at a training area outside Volos, Greece.
Cpl. Theodore W. Ritchie/US Marine Corps