March 15, 2010

How to Live with (i.e. avoid eating) Military Food

So, T visited this weekend, and he presented me with a problem that I feel it is my duty as a food blogger and a loving girlfriend to solve.

The situation is that T's going through Marine Corps training right now, and the food in the chow hall on base is...not so great. Breakfast is pretty good, he says, but the rest of the meals go downhill from there in terms of both taste and nutrition, and they aren't free.

The problem is that, since T and his fellow Marines are only allowed a fridge and a microwave in their barracks rooms, he's not left with many healthy alternatives to the chow hall, which serves "pasta and fried chicken" 24-7. He's been eating a PB&J twice a day since December, which might sound good to a five-year old, but really isn't the kind of balanced meal he needs to get through a day of training.

The reason for the relatively disappointing food in the chow hall is twofold, I think. First, the military's budget, understandably, is allocated to more pressing endeavors than "making better food." Second, I think it's safe to argue that, in the still predominantly male military, the preferred foods are not health foods, but comfort foods. This is understandable, but it doesn't mean that it's preferable, especially for those who are trying to eat healthy.

We scouted some reasonably healthy frozen dinners (meaning I pored over the ingredients list on every box) and picked a few Lean Cuisine and Kashi meals that didn't seem to contain anything too creepy. T has promised me an honest review of them, which I'll post here when I get it. I have to say that I dislike the frozen dinner option, though, because, on the scale of "knowing your food," frozen dinners are right up there next to mystery meat and that fluorescent orange powder in boxes of Kraft Macaroni 'n Cheese. You just have no relation to what you're eating with those things.

I suggested that T buy some carrots and celery to keep in the fridge, so that he could supplement his PB&Js with carrot and celery sticks with peanut butter or some dressing and get some nutrition. He looked at me like I had suggested he change his name to Shirley and wear a tutu, and I guess I can see how a PB&J and a couple of celery sticks isn't much of an improvement.

The last thing I have in mind as an option is that we cook a few different dishes each Sunday, and package them in Tupperware containers that he could reheat throughout the week. We could do pasta, rice, quinoa, or couscous, and add different sauces and ingredients that keep well so that he can survive a week of training without wanting to run away every time he opened the fridge.

We're going to try that this weekend, and see what happens. But I thought I'd share the conundrum here so that I can keep you updated as we do a little trial and error to figure out the best alternative to military food.


  1. Lasagna, macaroni&cheese, and chili all freeze and microwave-reheat really well. They can also be made in endless variety, and range in healthfulness. There's always microwave steaming foods for a little variety, or dealing with the texture of microwaved chicken breast. Or an investment in a hotplate, sandwich press, or a mini-grill (like a George Forman) could mix things up a bit.

  2. Great idea about the lasagna--I kind of forgot about it! Such a great platform for different ingredients. The problem is that T can't have a hotplate or anything like that, but I'll definitely try out a lasagna option--thanks Anibanan!

  3. I look forward to an update on this.

    Also, I thought you might be interested in this article: