What do soldiers around the world eat? A pile of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) lies on the floor at a compound. (Thinkstock)
What do soldiers around the world eat?
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No matter who they're fighting for, soldiers around the world have something very basic in common: they need to eat.
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly, field rations, known among U.S. soldiers as "Meals, Ready to Eat," or "MREs," have a pretty bad reputation among the troops, who have to rely on the freeze-dried, vacuum-sealed meals while out on patrol or on the battlefield. While no one expects field rations to provide a five-star dining experience, many militaries do what they can to give their soldiers a decent meal, whether it's serving traditional fare or measuring how eating MREs can affect their troops' health.
 
For American soldiers, Army-issued MREs come packed with everything soldiers need for a solid 1,200-calorie meal, including several courses, beverages, flameless heating elements and utensils. But the Army isn't only concerned about fueling its soldiers: it wants them to enjoy their meal, as well.

"What is nutrition if you don't consume the food?" Army research dietitian Holly McClung says in a statement. "We need ways to keep warfighters interested in and excited about eating in the field after they have been training and eating MREs for several days."

The United States Army put out a call for volunteers willing to survive solely off of MREs for almost a month in an attempt to see how the field rations might affect the delicate ecosystem of gut bacteria in the digestive system. After all, considering that MREs have to meet a laundry list of requirements, such as being able to survive a 1,250-foot parachute drop and stay edible for up to 3 1/2 years in temperatures of up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it stands to reason that officers would want to know how these specific modifications might affect their troops health, Emanuella Grinberg reports for CNN.

"Interactions between the millions of bacteria living in our gut and what we eat is a very important factor in gut health, but we don't know how MRE foods interact with those bacteria to impact gut health," McClung says in a statement. "Ultimately, discovering how eating MREs influences gut bacteria and gut health will help our efforts to continually improve the MRE."

Studying how eating MREs affect soldiers' microbiomes is one way that U.S. Army officials are trying to keep their troops healthy, but the Army also does what it can to make sure that soldiers aren't eating the same meals over and over again. MREs cover a wide range of food, from spaghetti Bolognese to caffeine-infused beef jerky, David Whelan reports for Munchies. Army researchers even unveiled what some call the "holy grail of MRE’s": pizza.
 
While the U.S. Army might offer one of the largest varieties of menu choices for its MREs, most countries try to offer their soldiers something that resembles their homeland's cuisine. South Korean soldiers get treated to bibimbap and kimchi, while French fighters are offered deer pâté and duck confit. The range of food varies greatly: Colombian soldiers mostly live off of rice and beans, while the Italian Army issues its fighters a 40-percent alcohol "breakfast shot," Whelan writes.

"When you're in the deployed environment, it tends to be fear and the monotonous. So the only thing you have to look forward to is the chow," Army Materiel Command director Bill Bigelow tells C.J. Lin for Stars and Stripes. "And if it's monotonous chow, that just adds to your misery."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why don't soldiers everywhere eat the same thing?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (7)
  • miguelm-eag
    5/19/2016 - 09:41 a.m.

    This is just like Takis or Diet Coke the more the chemicals added the more unhealthy it is for you.

  • markm-3-bar
    5/20/2016 - 02:17 a.m.

    Soldiers everywhere don't eat the same thing because usually a country's army has them eat something that, "resembles their homeland cuisine." For example, the Colombians live off mostly rice and beans while French fighters are offered duck confict.
    I found this article really interesting because I've always wanted to know about how soldiers eat and how their food can survive all the crazy stuff they do, and also for that long of an amount of time. It's crazy what the soldiers do but everything seems to work out.

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    5/23/2016 - 01:48 p.m.

    Soldiers eat different things because they are from different places. That means that the cultures are much different including their favorite dishes where they are from.

  • carsonb-2-bar
    5/27/2016 - 12:49 a.m.

    Soldiers from different parts of the world don't eat the same thing. They eat food that looks and tastes like their country's food. By doing this the soldiers have something to look forward to. It also makes them appreciate a good meal. I hear army food is horrible. Think about it, eating out of a can or box everyday of the week? I would prefer not to eat this way.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    7/30/2016 - 11:16 p.m.

    Soldiers from different countries eat varying foods, depending on the cuisine on their homeland. This is because the Army tries to give its soldiers a taste of home even when they are many miles away. Hopefully McClung and other dietitians are able to improve the taste and nutrition of the MREs set to soldiers.

  • kiannab2-sch
    1/19/2017 - 01:36 p.m.

    No, I don't think this is a healthy pursue. I think this because the the bacteria in the MREs negatively effect the bacteria in your body. "Interactions between the millions of bacteria living in our gut and what we eat is a very important factor in gut health, but we don't know how MRE foods interact with those bacteria to impact gut health," ( Lewis 1 ). I don't think the people consuming this are happy because they don't like the food.

  • maiac-sch
    1/19/2017 - 02:48 p.m.

    I don't think this is a healthy pursuit. Eating the MREs effects their digestive system and takes the joy out of eating "have a pretty bad reputation among the troops" (Lewis,1). While MREs "come packed with everything soldiers need for a solid 1,200-calorie meal" (Lewis,1) It hurts their spirit and their digestive system.

    Soldiers don't eat the same thing everywhere because different people eat different foods.

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