Healthy Meals of the Military – Examples For the Busy Man

The typical work day is often so hectic and unpredictable that we often insist that nothing could be busier or worse. This is not really or honestly the case, when you seriously stop and think about it. If there is anyone who truly fits the definition of being a true Busy Man, that person is without a doubt a member of the military armed forces. This is someone who is called to respond to orders and situations on a moment’s notice, and this does not always leave room or time in the schedule for eating at a leisurely pace. However, this does not mean that the soldier has to make do on only crackers and water. Great care in research, planning, and preparation has been made in ensuring that the caloric and nutritional needs of fighting men and women are properly met, not only in the case of members of the US military, but in military forces around the world. Much has been said about the feeding of soldiers in the past, with stories and legends about C-rations and K-rations, but what about the present day?

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is the organization within the US Department of Defense responsible for supplying services and materials to the various branches of the United States’ military forces. According to the DLA, the current successor to the C-rations of the World War 2 era is the MRE. Formally, this is listed in official documents as “Meal, Ready-to-Eat.” These were developed by food researchers at the US Army Natick Soldier Center in Massachusetts, and first introduced to combat troops between 1981 and 1986. The designated purpose of the MRE is to provide sustenance to someone involved in strenuous activities such as military training, or while engaged in some military operation or endeavor, where access to regular food service facilities is not available. In other words, this is for the individual in training or on the battlefield who cannot get to a regular cafeteria, mess hall or tent, or a fast food restaurant.

The typical man who is busy during the day, who similarly cannot stop to get something to eat, would usually bring his lunch or meal to work with him. In the case of the US soldier, the “brown bag” is in the form of a plastic bag. Actually, these are items contained in a plastic six-inch by twelve-inch “meal bag,” as the DLA calls it. A soldier is often on the move, and needs to carry supplies with him or her, so items cannot be either heavy in weight or bulky in size. As described in the document “Operational Rations,” the items contained in the meal bag are made up of an entrĂ©e, other elements that civilians would call side dishes and dessert, a beverage, and accessories such as condiments, a spoon, and a napkin. The meal itself, according to the DLA, provides about 1250 calories on average. This is broken down to roughly 13% protein, 36% fat, and 51% carbohydrates. It is also noted that one such meal provides one-third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of essential vitamins and minerals, as determined by the US Surgeon General. The overall calorie goal for active soldiers is 3600 calories per day, not much different from an athlete in training for sport or competition.

To address the issue of boredom, and variety in the menu choices, there are currently twenty-four different meal plans listed on the current MRE menu, issued by the Defense Logistics Agency. This is updated frequently, and as of January 2010, the current “MRE Individual Menus List” is designated “MRE, XXVIII.” According to the DLA, menu items are evaluated as to their ability to remain shelf stable and nutritious after preparation and preservation in foil and plastic storage pouches, and are tested for taste and appearance by the most demanding audience, the soldiers themselves. In examining the listing, there are food items in each menu, covering the breakfast, lunch, and dinners meals, as well as a snack or two. Some menus are clearly intended for the breakfast meal, and others can easily be taken as either lunch or dinner.

A breakfast menu on this list is Menu 4. Items include an entree of a cheese and vegetable omelet. Side items described include granola with blueberries, toaster pastry, a plain cracker, apple butter, a cinnamon scone, and French vanilla coffee. Salsa verde is listed as the particular condiment offering, and a spoon accompanies these meal elements. There is an accessory packet along with this meal. The list of items in this includes apple cider (a dry powder to be reconstituted with water), salt, gum, matches, tissue, and a moist towelette.

A lunch menu on this list is Menu 12. The items here include an entree of veggie burger in barbecue sauce. The side items listed include dried fruit, a chocolate banana muffin top, two wheat snack bread pieces, and a carbohydrate electrolyte beverage. Hot sauce is the listed condiment, and a spoon is also included for this meal. The accessory packet for this meal includes lemon tea, salt, gum, matches, tissue, and a moist towelette.

A dinner menu on this list is Menu 24. The entree listed here is chicken breast strips with salsa, and fried rice. Side items listed include a shortbread cookie, a vegetable flavor cracker, and jalapeno cheese spread. Green hot sauce is the condiment included. Mocha coffee and a spoon are also detailed. For this meal there is included a mix of candy: plain chocolate disks, chocolate with peanuts, and peanut butter disks. The accessory packet for this meal contains lemon tea, salt, gum, matches, tissue, and a moist towelette.

There are similarities to the eating requirements for members of the military and men who have both busy schedules and are in a fitness or sport training program. There is the need to be able to get nutritious and filling food quickly, especially when time is at a premium. There is also the problem of receiving a meal that is properly balanced, to allow for peak and efficient performance when under physical and mental stress. Members of the military have the benefit of researchers, dieticians, and professional chefs, to address these problems. Civilians can learn from these lessons as well, and this involves careful planning and preparation for the activities involved, whether to simply maintain a healthy lifestyle, improved physique, or in fueling and nourishing the body for engaging in a muscle training or conditioning program.

Additional information and tips concerning nutrition, healthy eating, and fitness for men can be found at Nutrition and Fitness For Men