Health by stealth: Army DFACs swap in 'greener' menus
August 23, 2011
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STUTTGART, Germany, Aug. 23, 2011 -- Over the past year, items have been disappearing from the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Dining Facility in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart.
French fries, sodas and hamburgers have been silently replaced by baked potato wedges, flavored water, chicken and fish. These subtle changes are part of the U.S. Army Europe, or USAREUR, "Fueling the Team," or UFTT, program designed to help Soldiers improve their performance and overall health.
"It's a program that is allowing Soldiers and civilian customers to make healthier choices," said Beverly Sowell, food program manager for U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart. "We just want them to be aware there are healthier options in the DFAC."
USAREUR dining facilities began officially implementing UFTT in May as part of the Soldier Fueling Initiative, an Army program that establishes healthy eating standards for Soldiers.
Both the 1/10th SFG(A), DFAC and Black Stallion Inn Dining Facility on Patch Barracks are now labeling foods using the "Go for Green" nutritional education program that began in U.S. Army dining facilities stateside earlier this year.
"Go for Green" placards in front of each dish tell Soldiers how the food will affect their performance: "green" foods should be eaten frequently, are high in protein and low in fat, and enhance performance. "Amber" -- those foods that should be eat occasionally -- and "red" -- those foods that should be eaten rarely -- have increasingly higher amounts of fat and calories, and hinder performance.
In addition to using the color code, the 1/10th SFG(A), DFAC has stopped deep-frying and is replacing several "red" foods with healthier alternatives, such as swapping in frozen yogurt for ice cream.
"We've pushed it in subtly," said Staff Sgt. Derek Maak, assistant manager for the 1/10th SFG(A), DFAC. "We implemented a 10-day menu with mostly yellow and green [items] and fish three or four times a week."
Maak said the DFAC completes the fitness puzzle for service members, giving them fuel that complements their workout routines, instead of negating them.
"I've seen Soldiers work out constantly and they're physically fit, but they don't understand what it does to them when they eat nine or 10 eggs in the morning," he said. "If we offer them a healthy alternative, at least we're doing our job to try and help them out."
The new menu is appreciated by diners such as Steve Kirkpatrick, a contractor for the 1/10th, who has been eating at the DFAC for two years.
"I like the fact that, since I eat here all the time anyway, I can have more of what I like," said Kirkpatrick, who avoids eating fried foods at home. "There are more choices now than there were before."
The Patch DFAC has also made some changes; the cooks prepare a vegetarian entree each day, and a new cold sandwich bar is available twice a week.
Scott Shimon, Patch DFAC manager, said he has already received feedback from patrons on the new "Go for Green" signs.
"We've had quite a few comments saying people really enjoy the food knowledge; it's helping them out," he said.
The quest for providing Soldiers with better nutrition and education began in February 2011, when USAREUR Commander Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, then deputy commanding general at the U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine Command, began the Soldier Fueling Initiative to help newly-enlisted Soldiers form healthier eating habits.
The SFI was implemented at 12 U.S. Army TRADOC installations, where Soldiers attend Initial Military Training, or IMT. Dining facilities there eliminated sodas, deep-fried items and sweets altogether, based on a 28-day menu created by the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence in Fort Lee, Va.
Once Soldiers leave IMT, they can make their own meal choices using the "Go for Green" color coding system with an array of healthier options available at dining facilities like those in USAG Stuttgart.
"We're not telling them what to eat; there are more healthy food choices," Sowell said. "When they get to a permanent party [assignment], those same healthy options are there for them, which will affect their body and how they perform."
Note: The 1/10th SFG(A), DFAC recently took first place in the small garrison category in the Installation Management Command and U.S. Army Europe 2011 Philip A. Connelly Awards Competition, part of the Army Food Service Program. The staff will compete at the Department of Army level in November.