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

The Joys of a Hard-Tail 29er Mountain Bike Ride With 8000 Foot Elevation Gain on Catalina Island

I’ve been a road cyclist all of my adult life. In fact, it was the love of those same road bikes that caused my career change from the world of music to bike shop owner. During my 20 some (but who’s counting) years of riding, I’ve done centuries, double-centuries, multi-day rides, long flat rides, long hilly rides, just about anything you an think of that doesn’t involve structured racing. I can count on both hands the number of times I’ve done a mountain bike ride of more than a short distance. My total time off road was about to double, and then some.

I reestablished contact with an old friend recently, someone I’d shared many long, arduous road rides with. He is just as passionate about mountain biking, and told many tales about his experiences on Catalina Island, where he vacations three or four times a year, riding a mountain bike deep into the interior of the island. For those of you unfamiliar with Catalina Island, it’s 24 miles off the coast of Southern California, one of the largest of a chain of barrier islands known as the Channel Islands. Catalina is the only one of the Channel Islands with a permanent population. The entire island was owned at one time by William Wrigley, of chewing gum fame and fortune. He established the town of Avalon and made it a prime resort destination for Southern California. A famous casino, still the major architectural highlight of Catalina, hosted the popular big bands of the 30’s and 40’s. Today, most of the island, with the exception of Avalon, the small village of Twin Harbors and the airport, is a nature conservancy.

You can ride a bike across the island, but you must have a mountain bike as the roads are mostly poorly maintained dirt, and you must also buy an annual pass. My friend invited me to take the ferry over to Catalina on a Sunday, and said he’d give me a bike tour of the island. He said it would be really hilly but thought I could manage it. This presented me with a dilemma: I had been road riding a lot and was in pretty good shape, but I was concerned about my mountain bike skills and the endurance that would be required. Shawn Charlton, the service manager of my shop, is a serious and highly skilled mountain biker. He suggested I take a hard-tail 29er for the trip. This is a bike that has front suspension but none in the rear. Since we would mainly be on fire roads I wouldn’t need the extra control a rear shock would give, and I would gain some efficiency and lose some bike weight without the rear suspension mechanism. Mountain bikes with 29″ wheels are a relatively new breed. The larger wheel allows you to climb faster and roll more easily over small obstacles. Maneuverability is better with a standard 26″ wheel mountain bike, but since we’d be mostly on fire roads and not technical single track I wouldn’t miss the smaller wheels.

For my adventure, I selected a Specialized Stumpjumper Hardtail Comp 29er. The Stumpjumper is the high end of Specialized’s three models of hardtail mountain bikes, which also includes the Rockhopper and the Hardrock. The Comp is the entry-level 29er in the Stumpjumper series. It has a RockShox Reba front fork with 90 mm of travel (29ers have less travel than the equivalent 26″ models since the front end of the 29er sits up pretty high.) A SRAM 10 x 3 speed drivetrain and Avid Elixer SL hydraulic disc brakes round out the package. Fortunately for me, this bike climbs really well due to the ultra-light alloy frame and large wheels. I say fortunately, because nothing on Catalina Island is flat! It’s either steep uphill or steep downhill.

This was one of the most breathtaking rides I’ve ever done, both because of the great amount of difficult climbing and the unbelievably beautiful scenery. Of course, I was familiar with beautiful scenery since my business is located in the very scenic community of Palos Verdes and I’ve done more than my share of riding there. We started out by climbing out of the town of Avalon, where the ferries dock and the tourists lay out on the smallest beach in the world. That first climb was about 1500′ of elevation gain in two miles! I was able to lock out the front shock on the fly with the flip of a dial, which gave me a little more efficiency on the steep climbs. After heading down a couple of miles of paved road, we turned off onto a rutted dirt road and hit our first big downhill. I unlocked the front shock and let it rip. The bike handled all the unevenness and loose dirt easily and I was able to just fly down the hill. We passed an old abandoned hunting lodge, saw a rare Catalina Island Fox and stopped to check out a bald eagle sanctuary where that species was saved from extinction after DDT pollution had almost wiped it out.

We next encountered another steep climb, and at the top we caught our first glimpse of the open Pacific Ocean on the windward side of the island. Another steep downhill took us towards the water, and we passed through Little Harbor, a mostly uninhabited cove where boats can tie up. Next came another extended steep climb, and at the crest we looked down on the Isthmus, a flat area that connects the two mountainous halves of the island and also bridges the windward and leeward sides of Catalina with a strip of land less than mile wide. We had seen a few of the island’s herd of Buffaloes (Bison) from a distance, but there was a huge one on the isthmus munching on the grass. I was able to get within about 15 feet and snap some pictures.

We went through the little village of Twin Harbors located at the isthmus and rode on for about another half-hour looking down at some of the secluded coves on the rarely visited northern half of the island. By now we were pretty hungry, so we turned around and got some lunch in Twin Harbors. A hamburger never tasted so good! After lunch we started back the way we came, which unfortunately meant another huge climb to get back over the mountain, then a steep downhill back into Little Harbor. So far we had climbed almost 6,000 feet and my legs were beginning to feel every one. Luckily the Stumpjumper performed beautifully with the big wheels churning over anything in its path and the hydraulic brakes giving me great control and confidence on the lightning fast downhills. If I though the hardest part was over, I was in for a rude shock.

At Little Harbor we turned left on another dirt road that would take us all the way up to the Catalina Airport, which is located at one of the highest points on the island. After a couple of excruciating miles, my riding companion stopped and directed me to a mountain peak high in the distance. He pointed out what looked like a flat saddle just down from the peak and said it was the airport runway. I watched that spot for what seemed like hours as I pointed the Stumpjumper skyward and crept slowly towards that spot. When it seemed like we were almost at the top, the road suddenly veered right and downward, taking us away from the airport. We rode through El Rancho Escondido, a working horse ranch founded by the Wrigleys, where champion Arabian horses are bred. We passed the ranch started climbing yet again, and ended up winding around to the far side of the mountain next to the airport before finally coming down into the airport. That was one of the toughest climbs I have ever done.

From Little Harbor to the airport it was seven miles and about 2,000 feet of elevation gain over rutted, loose dirt. I had to stop a couple of times on the way up to catch my breath, but I was able to make it all the way without walking, as the big 29″ wheels giving me every mechanical advantage. We stopped in at the airport snack shop and got a cold drink and a big cookie to fortify ourselves for the last part of the ride. We left the airport at 4:00, which gave us just an hour to get back to Avalon before the sun set. The road from the airport back was, mercifully, paved so we made pretty good time getting back. I had thought the return trip would be all down hill, but unfortunately for my tired legs, we stayed up on a high plateau with undulating ups and downs until the final half mile screaming descent into Avalon. We hit town just 3 minutes before 5:00 and by 5:15 it was dark. In all, I had hauled my body and the Stumpjumper 51 miles and over 8,000 feet of elevation gain. As promised, a fantastic day and one of the hardest rides of my life. I never could have done it without the Stumpjumper 29er, and what a way to test a bike!

A Night at the Opera Is Anything But Monkey Business!

A Marx Brothers comedy gem is the film, “A Night at the Opera,” in which they lampoon the stuffiness of fans of this classical theatrical form.

But there are serious insights and lessons to be gleaned from the REAL opera, which I’ve only recently been attending with any regularity.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing Verde’s “La Traviata,” starring amazing soprano, Renee Fleming.

Apart from the soaring voices and tragic story, what stirred me was something I’ve experienced elsewhere, seeing great theater in New York and London.

In a word, it’s EXCELLENCE.

The world of opera is uncompromising. Greatness and perfection are appreciated, understood, and above all, demanded by discerning fans and trigger happy critics.

You can’t get away with serving up the mediocre.

Last week, at another Verde opera, “Don Carlo,” a rotund gentleman sitting in front of me in “The Founders’ Circle,” complained to his neighbors, “I don’t know where they got that soprano!”

Unceremoniously, he left the theater before the final act had concluded; a slap in the face to the performers and the director.

He knows quality when he hears it, and he simply won’t tolerate anything less than world class performances.

Compare this attitude with what legendary sales trainer, Zig Ziglar, has derisively referred to as “The Get-By.”

The Get-By is an effort that is adequate, just enough to pass, to not be completely and utterly rejected by the masses. Pretenders of all kinds, poseurs, con men and women, as well as the simply and blandly average, perform at the Get-By level.

Excellence doesn’t happen without intelligent and sustained efforts, exertions that are monitored, measured and managed by the performers, their overseers, and by their publics.

The opera reminded me that a mere “search” for excellence, as one author put it, is inadequate.

We have to produce it, each and every one of us, who aspires to an exceptional life, one that is filled with genuine achievement, deep experiences, and rare pleasures.