Military successfully classifies troops’ food by color

Photo: paulacobleigh (iStock)

During World War I, the Salvation Army sent “doughnut lassies” to France to distribute treats to the doughboys overseas. Those days are gone. Now a military base isn’t considered “permanent” unless it has a McDonald’s or a Burger King. So it would make sense that the Department of Defense would start taking an interest in the nutritional health of its personnel. Both the Army and the Marines have recently established color-coded menu-planning guidelines for their chow halls and Army Times reports that, after a two year trial, a study shows that the plan is working.

Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) are devised by the Combat Feeding Directorate at the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command. There are 2,800 recipes in the catalog, which have been classified into Red, Yellow, and Green categories, all charmingly labeled in military jargon:

Red is “Check Fire,” desserts and junk food that taste good and are probably bad for you. Yellow, “Well Aimed Shots,” are foods that are healthy but are high in fat. And Green, “Engage at Will,” are the healthiest, high in fiber and low in sugar.

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Back in 2017, when the program started, troops were eating 40% red, 40% yellow, and 20% green; that has shifted to 21% red, 42% yellow and 32% green and 5% unclassified. By 2021, the goal is 20% red, 40% yellow, and 40% green. Nutritionists have stealthily put green foods at the front of the line so soldiers will fill their plates with those first.

This, of course, doesn’t take into consideration the junk food troops might be eating outside the main chow halls, but it’s definitely less confusing than a food pyramid. Which may be why it’s working? Maybe someone should try this with civilians, though perhaps with different labels. Or maybe not: Military language makes you feel like you’re really doing something.

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Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.