Could it be that salad bars are moving from our middle school cafeterias to our military messes? The military has discovered dramatic results just like the Riverside Unified School District did under Rodney Taylor’s Farm To School Program. Go Green Indeed!
NATICK, Mass., March 25 (UPI) — The U.S. military is following the general population in getting heavier, with obesity within the military at 13 percent, a researcher says.
Maj. Aaron Crombie of the Military Nutrition Division, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, in Natick, Mass., and colleagues at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center staged an intervention within five dining facilities on Fort Bragg, N.C.
Following the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the researchers recommend increased availability of fresh fruit, a variety of vegetables and whole-grain foods, and reduced availability of foods with high dietary fat and sugar.
The study found, over time, minimal changes in food service practices and menus produced significant improvement in soldiers’ nutritional intake, including decreases in fat.
The recommendations include offering one main lean meat or vegetarian entree at lunch and dinner with no added fat, and the placing of color-coded “Go for Green” nutritional information cards at the point of service.
Five other dining facilities served as a control during the first half of the yearlong study. Researchers collected data using a combination of survey questionnaires and digital photography of the diners’ plates before and after meals were consumed.
The findings were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Year-Long Study Lowered Fat Intake and Increased Diner Satisfaction
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Philadelphia, PA, March 22, 2013 – The prevalence of obesity within the military is currently 13 percent. This rising epidemic, also rampant throughout the general population, could result in military career setbacks, negatively impact operational readiness, and jeopardize Department of Defense operations. To combat the epidemic, a team of researchers chose the military cafeteria as the venue to observe and evaluate eating behavior and the positive impact of modest changes to promote healthy eating and food selection. The results are captured in a new report published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“Many studies have tested the effect of dietary, informational, and environmental interventions on the eating behaviors of customers in civilian worksite and university cafeterias,” says lead investigator Major Aaron Crombie, PhD, RD, Military Nutrition Division, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, MA. “However, studies to date testing such interventions in military dining facilities (DFACs) have been very limited and inconclusive. Our study aimed to address that information gap.” Nearly three-quarters of military personnel eat at least one meal a day in garrison dining facilities.
The study team from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (www.usariem.army.mil) and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (www.pbrc.edu) staged an intervention within five dining facilities on Fort Bragg, NC, that included the following actions consistent with 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- Increased availability of fresh fruit
- Increased availability and variety of vegetables
- Increased availability of whole-grain foods
- Reduced availability of foods with high dietary fat and sugar
- Offering one main lean meat or vegetarian entrée at lunch and dinner with no added fat
- Placement of color-coded “Go for Green” nutritional information cards at the point of service
Five other dining facilities served as a control during the first half of this year-long study. Researchers collected data using a combination of survey questionnaires and digital photography of the diners’ plates before and after meals were consumed.
Over time, investigators observed that minimal changes in food service practices and menus in DFACs produced significant improvement in soldiers’ nutritional intake, including decreases in fat. Customer satisfaction increased on four criteria –
- flavor and taste,
- available choices,
- low-fat food availability, and
- appropriate portion sizes.
More favorable results were observed the longer the intervention lasted, indicating that the positive changes are sustainable over time.
Says Major Crombie, “The results of this study give credence to the idea that DFAC food service interventions can promote a healthy lifestyle and, in turn, optimize the health profile of warfighters. Although intakes of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains continue to be problematic, reductions in energy and fat intake may prove effective over the long term in combating the obesity problem.”
While the study was performed in army dining facilities, it has implications for the entire military family, since many meals are not taken in the DFAC, but at home. Further, the study team advocates that results can be easily applied to civilian settings.