- The British Army is trialing a healthy shake-up of the food served to troops.
- Instead of the traditional full English breakfast, soldiers and officers will be offered smoothies, fruit, yogurt, and every millennial’s favorite brunch dish: avocado toast.
- The initiative has been launched in a bid to tackle growing rates of obesity in the Army – 57% of soldiers are reportedly classed as overweight.
- One anonymous source from within the Army told INSIDER he wasn’t sure how well the menu makeover would be received.
- What’s more, a registered nutritionist told us that avocado toast wouldn’t actually be the best option for a post-training meal, as it lacks protein.
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The British Army diet is getting a millennial makeover.
While full English breakfasts have long been a staple for troops, this could soon be replaced by everyone’s favorite brunch: avocado on toast.
Alongside a healthy smoothie, the new millennial-friendly breakfast option is being introduced in a bid to tackle obesity amongst troops, the Express reported.
Indeed, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Watts was recently quoted as saying that 57% of soldiers are overweight and 12% fall into the obese category – however, it’s worth noting that BMI tests often class extremely muscular people as overweight as well.
Watts even said that the growing rate of obesity in the army is a “national security threat” because fewer troops are fit to be sent into battle.
And so the healthier “warrior breakfast” options are reportedly being trialed with units of 4 Infantry Brigade at Catterick in North Yorkshire.
It’s been devised by defense contractor Aramark in collaboration with HQ Regional Command, the Express reported, and will see soldiers offered a light pre-breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and smoothies to start their day, and then avocado on toast as a refuel meal after their morning training sessions.
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A spokesperson for the army explained to INSIDER that they take a “holistic approach” to wellbeing, educating recruits in nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight. Troops have to pass regular fitness tests too.
The new breakfast forms part of a “Healthy Living Pilot,” which aims to lead to improvements in the areas of nutrition, alcohol, smoking, work-life balance, and mental health, with the ultimate goal of increasing retention of personnel in the military.
But what will the soldiers make of the changes?
A source who spent time as a reserve soldier in the British Army told INSIDER: “Smoothies and avocado would be a pretty drastic turn from army breakfasts as I knew them, which were mostly focused on filling you up – and not costing too much.
“My first breakfast on a British Army base was: sausage, bacon, bread, hash browns, beans, and porridge. There were apples and bananas, but it is fair to say the troops were not that enthusiastic about them.”
Another source from inside the army, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed that the new menu likely wouldn’t go down well with all the recruits.
“It’s an interesting thought and would certainly be welcome in the Officers’ Mess, not so sure about the soldiers though!” he said.
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He also explained that one reason obesity is an issue in the army is that the food provided isn’t particularly appealing, which means troops often end up purchasing more delicious – but less nutritious – options.
“One of the main reasons for poor health and obesity is the government’s decision to outsource chefs and cooking to contractors like Aramark,” he said.
“The ‘core meal,’ which they are obliged by the MoD [Ministry of Defence] to provide is a balanced meal but is deliberately bland and uninspiring.
“Soldiers can opt for the more expensive alternative options which are more appetizing but are regularly unhealthy, such as burgers, pizzas, chips, baked beans, etc.”
The army spokesperson added that caterers are required to provide food to suit a wide range of dietary requirements, including healthy options.
There’s also been a change in how food is paid for.
“Soldiers now have to pay for their food as well,” our source continued. “The old system had it deducted at source from pay.
“Many soldiers are bad at managing their finances and then end up with no money to pay for food so have to eat rations, which are designed to dump loads of calories into your system to keep you going for high-intensity exercises!”
Breakfast is a little different though – for the “core option,” soldiers can currently eat a cooked breakfast comprising six items including two proteins, but cereal and milk are also deemed one of the six. This means that even if you only want a bowl of cereal, you’re wasting money by not getting a fried egg, a sausage, and beans on fried bread alongside it, according to our source.
Read more: There are health benefits to avocados that go beyond good fats, according to a new study
He also explained that many of the soldiers and officers choose not to go to breakfast at all because they’d rather sleep longer and they don’t actually want to eat a big meal before doing a high-intensity exercise circuit as part of their physical training.
“Officers used to be able to order soldiers to have breakfast but we cannot order people to spend their own money.”
Perhaps with lighter options on offer to start their day, more soldiers would decide to eat before training.
Rhiannon Lambert, a registered nutritionist and founder of Rhitrition clinic on London’s Harley Street, said she welcomes the healthier changes to the army diet.
“Regardless of the growing rates of obesity, the army deserves to have a nourishing and fulfilling breakfast that’s going to aid them in their productivity and overall health,” Lambert told INSIDER.
“Focusing on changing their dietary plan owed to obesity is something that should be seen as a positive thing in helping the health of our troops rather than focusing on the question of weight and numbers.”
However, Lambert pointed out that avocado toast isn’t actually the perfect healthy meal many people believe it to be.
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“Avocado on toast isn’t actually that balanced as it doesn’t have enough protein in,” Lambert explained. “I would recommend adding a protein source on the top such as nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, or hummus.
“And of course, everyone is completely unique, and lifestyle and activity levels should dictate the diet.”
Aramark has been contacted for comment.