Pilot study nutrition – test of alternative food products in artic field rations

FFI-Report 2023
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Rita Tansø Hilde Kristin Teien Susanne Glenna Pål Harald Stenberg
Several studies have shown that demanding military field trials lead to a significant energy deficiency for the soldiers. Soldiers consumes about 3000 kcal daily, even if the energy expenditure can be up to 6000 kcal and more food is available. Negative energy balance over time can weaken the soldier’s cognitive and physical performance, and lead to reduced operative capability. This pilot study aimed to investigate the possibilities to exchange two out of three main courses in the artic field rations with more readily available energy-rich snacks (energy bars and protein shakes). The purpose was to ensure better food intake during field trials. With this pilot study, the Norwegian Armed Forces obtains increased insight into how the field rations and some alternative food products works for new recruits in the field, and if the snack products can replace freeze-dried main courses. 76 voluntary recruits at the Guard School to His Majesty the King’s Guard participated in the study that was held in March 2021. The soldiers had four days of shooting practice. They marched between the shooting ranges and slept in tents the first three days, the last night they slept in the camp. The participants were divided into two groups: the participants in the control group got three normal field rations each day, while the participants in the intervention group got one normal and two alternative field rations each day, a total of 3900 kcal/day for both groups. The shooting practice did not give any difference in the energy intake between the groups. The control group consumed 3090 ± 485 kcal/day, while the intervention group consumed 2955 ± 518 kcal/day. The intervention group ate 7 % more proteins and 7 % less carbohydrates than the control group, while the intake of fat was the same in both groups. Among the new snack products, the soldiers were more negative to the protein shake with 38 markings on least liked, and no markings on best liked. They were more satisfied with the energy bars, with 19 markings on least liked and 13 on best liked. The hot main courses in the artic field rations were best liked (153 markings) by both groups. The tortilla wrap, one of the additional products in the field rations, was especially well liked (52 markings on best liked). Over 80 % chose not to eat the fruit soup that was in the field rations. Most of the participants ate a lot of the food they were supplied with, the challenge is to increase the food intake for those who are picky in their eating habits. Energy bars are often heavier in weight than freeze-dried food with the same energy content. If freeze-dried food is substituted with energy bars, the extra weight can thus become a challenge on field trials where all the food has to be carried from start. All participants preferred the hot main courses in the artic field rations best, bars and shakes will probably work best as supplements to the main courses. A possibility would be to get more food items with extra flavor into the field rations, since the tortilla wrap was best liked of the additional products. Additionally, removing non-preferable food items from the rations can be a cost effective reduction. The results from this pilot study can contribute to the development of today’s field rations, and thus reduce the negative effects of energy deficit under military field exercises.

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