Minimal changes in food service practices improve soldiers' nutritional intake: Study

Published on March 25, 2013 at 1:55 AM · No Comments

Year-long study lowered fat intake and increased diner satisfaction, according to Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics report

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 and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center 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 entr-e 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.

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