No More Fried Food in the Navy

So the Secretary of the Navy has banned fried food from DFAC menus right across the service. From now on, French fries will be baked in the oven and so will breaded chicken. Sausages and bacon will presumably be grilled. Fried eggs? I guess you’re stuck with poached ones. Whole milk is also being removed from menus, and replaced with skim or that disgusting soy stuff. The aim is to improve the health of Navy personnel and reduce health care costs; to promote it, there are a few glowing testimonials from sailors who’ve lost weight and feel the benefits of their new miracle diet.

What’s not getting so much prominence is a flood of other testimonials. Facebook provides plenty of evidence that this change isn’t universally popular – “This isn’t a Weight Watchers cruise, it’s the goddamn Navy!” was one of the more printable comments – and there’s a lot of speculation about who exactly might have influenced the decision. No, it probably wasn’t Michelle Obama, but that doesn’t matter; this is a very worrying trend.

FriesI’ve talked before about attempts to force lifestyle choices on service personnel and why this is a bad idea. That’s not to say advising about lifestyle choices is wrong; troops should be made aware that there’s help available if they want to quit smoking, for example. Alcohol issues are a centuries-old military problem and there’s room to treat them more as a medical than a disciplinary issue in many cases. But trying to micromanage every aspect of someone’s diet? It’s a dumb idea, for two reasons.

Firstly, it infantilizes service people. So you’re a missile tech on a Trident boat and you’re responsible for maintaining a weapon system that can burn whole countries down to the bedrock, but you’re not trusted to balance your own diet? Talk about sending mixed messages. We’re talking about people who’re mostly young and mostly resourceful. If you ban stuff, you just create a black market for it and that’s bad for discipline. When I worked at HQ ISAF, there was a ban on all cooking appliances in rooms. Anything apart from a kettle was liable to instant confiscation. I can see the sense in that, because some devices are a fire hazard, but it was way too strict. If small microwaves and rice cookers had been allowed everyone would have been happy enough, but the rule was so absurdly strict that nobody respected it – and once you’ve decided to break a rule, it gets much easier to break it in style. People simply bought a Gorilla box and a couple of big padlocks, and kept all their cooking gear in that. There were grills, hotplates and all kinds of genuinely dangerous stuff stashed away. How long do you think it’s going to be before someone sneaks a fryer and five gallons of oil onto their ship, and starts selling proper fries on the messdeck at $10 a bag?

The other thing is that these health crackdowns seem to be driven by fads, not actual science. The Navy’s assault on frying comes right after real researchers have decided that fried food – and fat in general – aren’t actually much of a problem after all. A calorie’s a calorie, so there’s no real gain to be had from inflicting limp, tasteless oven fries on sailors. It’s just making their lives a little bit less pleasant than they have to be, and is that a fair reward for serving your country?

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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2 thoughts on “No More Fried Food in the Navy

  1. I can understand banning cigarette sales. I can even understand reducing the amount of fried food served to sailors. But I can’t understand such a radical across the board approach.

    For a start, full cream milk is still only a little over 3% fat, and that is not going to kill anyone. I personally don’t go much on the taste of low fat milk, but milk is a good source of both protein and calcium so it runs contrary to sound nutritional practice to cut out whole milk. A balanced diet needs a reasonable proportion of fat as it provides a steady source of fuel to the body that is not as prone to energy spikes. Cut the fat and you will have sailors reaching for high sugar sources to compensate for the fatigue they will feel. Recent medical research has started to point the finger at sugar as the real source of danger in the western diet.

    I am left to wonder just how long this kind of nutritional fascism will prevail. Perhaps until the next change of government or until someone realizes that the Navy is already out of date on its health thinking.

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