FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 13, 2021) — Many people begin a new year with intentions of eating healthier and making nutrition a priority.
Soldiers will find this a little easier at dining facilities across Fort Drum with a new meal preparation option under the Mountain Tough Athlete Program (MTAP).
“The objective of the Meal Prep option is to provide healthy choices for service members,” said Sgt. Maj. Barton Beatty, chief culinary management sergeant major. “All of the meals have been approved as healthy meals from dietitians, and we’ve had great feedback from the Soldiers who know about this program.”
The meals are prepared and packaged in advance, and they are good for consumption up to 72 hours, in accordance with Food and Drug Administration requirements. Beatty said that this is a fast and easy way for Soldiers to get a nutritious meal when they need it.
“The Army has been making strides to change the menu options with the Go For Green program that falls within the Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) since 2019,” Beatty said. “The Meal Prep option is in line with the H2F initiative. And we are working with our prime vendors to increase access to healthier ingredients that will support a variety of menu options.”
Capt. Kristina Fauser-Martin, a performance dietitian with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said that this is not a “one-size-fits-all” program, but that it provides Soldiers with more control over how they eat.
“The standards were created with the average Soldier in mind,” she said. “That is the beauty of working with a performance dietitian embedded in the unit who understands the caloric demands of Soldiers. In its current state, it is unlikely that the Meal Prep program supports all Soldiers and their unique needs. However, it is a viable option for those who do not want to go to the DFAC for each meal of the day – the appeal being that it allows them flexibility around when they eat and it also saves some of the money they were spending on eating out or buying groceries.”
While the program was in development, Fauser-Martin consulted with several Special Forces dietitians who had experience implementing the program within their group.
“They provided a wealth of information and shared meal plans and ordering templates,” she said. “In general, each meal needs to include each of the macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate and fat – in the form of a meat, starch and vegetables.”
Milk and a piece of fruit are also included to account for a calcium source, Vitamin D and other nutrients.
“This is in line with the current USDA MyPlate guidelines, as well,” Fauser-Martin said. “There was also an emphasis on the meals being relatively simple and easy to prepare by the DFAC staff.”
She noted that the program is still in its infancy but that she is confident that the collaboration between the division, brigades and support staffs will improve it further.
“Moving forward, I have recommended that there several portion options to support low, moderate, and high levels of training,” Fauser-Martin added. “Soldiers will be able to choose the option that will best support them.”
The new meal options have been available for about five weeks now, and Beatty said they are available to all service members – to include Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) and meal card holders. With many Soldiers having been away on block leave or deployments, more will be done to inform them about the new program.
“The Warrior Restaurants are using social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as signage and displays to promote the Meal Prep program,” Beatty said.