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Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

Attention, Food Reinforcement!

The effectiveness of soldiers does not only depend on proper equipment, armament or training. Equally important is good quality food.

Food and meals in the army have always been the reason for jokes and complains among Polish soldiers. Today, the reason for such critical approach should be their growing awareness in the matter of healthy food. Soldierly complaints are not always justified. We should keep in mind that collective feeding is governed by different rules than the restaurant chefs must abide by. On a military culinary map, there are places where you can eat tasty and healthy food, e.g. in Bydgoszcz, Powidz, Warsaw, military training centers and in many air bases.

Not Only About Calories

As the Military Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (WIHiE) informs: “one of the pillars of effective functioning of soldiers is the provision of not only basic equipment, such as uniforms, weapon, specialist equipment, but also a proper quantity of good quality food. The food ration in army feeding must cover soldiers’ energy requirements related to their training and service, as well as provide necessary nutrition in proper quantities and proportions based on applicable nutrition standards.”

In the army, there are 173 garrison and 15 training field canteens. 45 of them is temporarily out of service, and another several dozen is kept in readiness in case of potential mobilization. Barely 49 canteens offer menu of choice for the consumers from which they can order meals according to their preferences, and in the remaining ones soldiers have a fixed menu with two lunch options. In 2020, about 5.7 million free daily rations were served (three meals per day). “The issue of feeding soldiers is regulated by, among others, the order of the Minister of National Defense. The system of its organization is based on quantity and quality norms. These norms are customized according to the needs of individual soldiers, their positions and duties,” explains LtCol Krzysztof Kowal, Senior Specialist at Food Service Command of the Inspectorate of Armed Forces Support. To free feeding service are entitled, among others, parachute jumpers, divers, soldiers on duty service, but also those participating in trainings and exercises in garrisons and on training fields.

The uniformed services can eat meals prepared in canteens, receive packed lunches, food rations or financial equivalent. About the form of feeding service with regard to service requirements and local conditions decide the commanders of individual units, such as military economic units, port commands or air bases. Catering service is also an option, and is used during field training almost by all special forces units.

Feeding service is based on five primary norms: military (related to a soldier), training, special, operational, wartime and other, related e.g. to bread or beverages. “We plan the food rations in a way that every soldier receives a meal to balance his or her daily energy expenditure,” adds LtCol Kowal. Presently, food rations are based on calculations made over dozen years ago. At the time, it was assumed that soldiers doing heavy physical tasks should receive on average 4,000 to 4,500 kcal a day, and 500 kcal more during field training, sea cruises or combat duty. This is about to change, however. “In December 2020, the Military Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology issued recommendations on nutrition norms for soldiers and uniformed services. The recommendations not only included diet, but also soldiers’ energy intake was reduced,” explains LtCol Kowal.

Meals for soldiers should not only be caloric, but also rich in nutritive elements and vitamins. Food technologists and canteen managers in the units should plan the meals so they are not repeated, and most of all, so they include necessary microelements and macroelements. Here’s where the trouble begins. “Our menu is packed with simple carbohydrates. We usually have mashed potatoes for dinner, and rice or some kind of groats only several times a month. We get little vegetables or fruit,” says one of the paratroopers. “Our meals are heavy and full of fat. Sausage for breakfast may give us energy, but it soon drops, and we can’t concentrate on our work,” adds the special forces soldier. What do they expect? “We’d like to have more fruit and veggies. Porridge for breakfast would be fine, and a protein bar during the day. When it’s hot outside, we should also have some isotonic drinks. Plus perhaps some chicken and rice for dinner, and eggs for supper,” wonders other NCO. Soldiers’ expectations about quality of their meals stem from the fact they are investing in themselves: privately are often on a diet catering service and play sports. “Our body is our tool. Proper food and physical activity is fundamental to us,” they emphasize.

Roksana, who’s a cook in the army, but is also a professional diet specialist and a sportswoman, admits that 4,500 calories is a lot. “3,500 calories would be sufficient if we used products rich in nutritive elements,” she says. She notices that this high-calorie diet can be a problem for soldiers who spend several months outside home, on training fields. “You can gain weight very fast on a military diet, and it’s more fat than muscles. This diet is full of simple carbohydrates: sweet beverages, bread and sweet buns, which give you energy, but have no nutritive value at all. It also lacks unsaturated fats, which play a significant role in a human body and give the feeling of satiety for longer period of time. There are no nuts, no raisins, no almonds, no seeds, very little fish is served,” Roksana enumerates.

She has helped over 80 soldiers with their diets, most of them were paratroopers of the 6th Airborne Brigade and the soldiers of AGAT Military Unit (special forces). She recommends the “field diet”, i.e. launch in a canteen, but own breakfast and evening meal. “Before departure, it’s enough to prepare some mix of protein powder with nuts, raisins, seeds and oatmeal. Than you simply add some water, and you have a meal full of fats, protein and carbohydrates,” says Roksana. For snack, you can have a banana or a handful of dried dactyls, and in the evening boiled eggs or canned fish.

I Know What I Eat

Doctors raise the alarm that the Poles eat too much of red meat and cold meats and sausages, and not enough vegetables and fruit. In our daily diet, we lack calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins D and C. More and more people are overweight and obese, and suffer from chronic diseases related to a bad diet. “Poor diet and improper amount and structure of food is the first step towards diet-related diseases, including overweight and obesity problems, but also illnesses of circulation system or type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, soldiers are also affected,” admits Agata Gaździńska, PhD, the Head of Laboratory of Dietetics and Obesity Treatment at the Military Institute of Aviation Medicine (WIML). The Project OBESITY (Complex Research on Feeding System and Nutrition State of Professional Soldiers with Identification of Factors for Obesity Development, with the Assessment of Physical Activity and the Level of Nutrition Knowledge, and the Occurrence of Health Inequalities), carried out within the frames of National Health Program 2016-2020 by WIML, revealed all that. The experts reviewed feeding and physical activity of 1,229 soldiers of all branch services of the armed forces. Conclusions? Overweight and obesity is a problem for over 50% of respondents, half of them have lipid disorders, and most of them have vitamin D deficiency. For many, the most hearty meal is lunch, and the soldiers of Territorial Defense Forces often skip breakfast. 47% of the respondents adds sugar to their tea, 39% adds more salt to their meals, 80% eat sweets, almost 70% eat fast food products. Only 18% of the examined group of soldiers pay attention to the caloric value of their meals.

Other WIML studies included 500 aviators at the age of 19 to 59. They were asked, among others, about the principles of rational nutrition and the sources of nutritive elements. “Pilots knew the most about nutrition, but general results indicated that the diet of most respondents very much differs from recommended nutrition model. Barely 35% of the respondents had proper BMI index, another 48% were overweight and 17% were obese,” says Agata Gaździńska. What to do about it? Dieticians have no doubt that prevention and education is necessary.

The WIML experts, under the supervision of Agata Gaździńska, PhD, have conducted among soldiers hundreds of trainings and lectures about the principles of proper nutrition and physical activity. “Soldiers are the greatest professional group subject to collective feeding. Although they may have no effect on what they are served on their plates in the military canteen, they still can decide what they eat outside work. It’s all about healthy food choices,” says the WIML expert. Military units often are very willing to invite them to train their soldiers – this way, over 4,000 of them were trained in Poland. By the order of the chief of the PAF General Staff, such training should take place once in a three months in every military unit. Based on comparative research, the experts have concluded that the health and nutrition awareness in the army has increased in the last four years.

Effort Pays Off

Soldiers use the help of the WIML Psychodiet Center for Uniformed Services. So far, over 2,500 soldiers came for free support. First, a patient is interviewed about his or her state of health and lifestyle, then they go through laboratory tests, on which individual food recommendations are formed. “A stereotype is that you go to a dietician to lose some weight. True, many soldiers want to reduce their body weight. However, apart from reduction of some unnecessary kilograms and improvement of biochemical parameters, our main goal is to permanently change one’s eating habits. Many of our patients come to us for just that,” tells us Marta Turczyńska, a dietician and psychodietician at the WIML Laboratory of Dietetics and Obesity Treatment. The expert admits however that due to the specificity of the profession of a soldier, it’s not always easy. “A soldier’s service is unpredictable. Being on duty, leaving for exercises in the field, missions, all these make it more difficult to keep the routine and not return to old habits. We are aware of that, and we try to plan the menu not only to fit one’s age, sex or level of physical activity, but also one’s lifestyle.”

Col Piotr Waślicki (Military Center of Normalization, Quality and Codification, WCNJK) decided to use the Center’s support in February 2020. He wanted to improve his diet habits and lose a few kilograms. “My key to success was the regularity of meals: during the day I eat more meals, the portions are smaller and diversified, and I have breakfast every day. Before, I did not pay much attention to all this,” the officer says. It was not much of a problem for him to get used to new rules. “I got recipes with a list of ingredients and their weight, so preparing my meals wasn’t complicated. Of course, it takes more time than simply doing your sandwich, but the effort pays off. I lost about 10 kilograms, I eat good and healthy food, and I feel great,” emphasizes Col Waślicki.

The WIML specialists admit that many patients who come to the Center for the first time are diagnosed with metabolic disorders, including lipid and blood glucose levels. “It all changes with every visit. Soldiers are becoming more aware of what is good for them in the matter of rational nutrition. Some start eating more vegetables, others include dairies in their diet, or regularly drink water. Even if we do not notice a significant loss of weight – and frankly speaking, it’s not always our patients’ goal – still, the very change of eating habits brings much good, e.g. better biochemical blood parameters or more energy,” Turczyńska admits.

Maj Tomasz Łaszczewski (Warsaw Garrison Command) came to the Center in April 2020, right after he recovered from his illness. “Food has a great impact on the functioning of our body. No diet I have tried so far was tailored particularly for the needs of a professional soldier. I do spend most of my time behind my desk, but still, being a soldier, I must be physically fit. It was crucial to get a proper diet for my lifestyle,” he admits, and adds: “I think that every soldier should visit the WIML Center. It doesn’t cost anything, and brings only benefits.”

Vegan Ration

The representatives of the Directorate of Food Service of Armed Forces Support also talk about new nutrition tendencies, and a healthy and balanced diet. They admit that feeding thousands of soldiers is much more difficult than preparing meals according to individual preferences. Next to caloric value and the inclusion of macro- and microelements, menu planners must also take into account its cost (cost per person a day is about 20 zlotys). “The chefs get the menu and a list of ingredients which they must use to prepare a meal. The invention is always theirs. I know cases when chefs prepared their own recipes and sent it to food technologists to enter the meal into the Konsument program [software which plans a ten-day menu for soldiers),” says MCpl Radosław Irzemski, since 2011 related to the Representation of the Armed Forces Chefs, and adds: “Truth be told, in collective feeding we can’t substitute rape seed oil with olive oil. We won’t serve sirloin steaks or seasoned entrecote, because we’re financially limited. But now the quality of products served to soldiers is much better than even ten years ago.”

Military gastronomy keeps changing. In the field food rations soldiers now get desserts and fruit bars, vegetable pastas and non-meat canned food. There is also lyophilized fruit, dry meat, and, since 2019, there is also a vegetarian food ration. Although there is still much to be done in this field. “Many of my colleagues do not eat meat or gluten, we even have vegans among us. But their food preferences are exclusively their problem: they choose from the menu whatever suits them; as for the rest, they have to take care of it themselves,” a special forces soldier remarks.

Directorate of Food Service declares that there will be more Mediterranean cuisine, rich in fruit, vegetables and fish. In addition, the Armed Forces Support Inspectorate in cooperation with the National Cyberspace Security Center work on improvements of the food service system, so in the future consumers could choose their meals according to own preferences.

Paulina Glińska, Magdalena Kowalska-Sendek

autor zdjęć: st. chor. sztab. Adam Roik / Combat Camera DORSZ, st. chor. sztab. mar. Arkadiusz Dwulatek / Combat Camera DORSZ, US Army

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