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Nutrition is a key part of your preparation for any military training or operational task. Food is not only necessary for the provision of nutrients to maintain health; it also plays a vital role in fuelling for performance and reducing fatigue during arduous physical tasks.

It is also essential to increasing energy levels and shortening the recovery time between activities. Nutrition is a major contributor to the wound healing process in military personnel who are injured as well as influencing recovery time and rehabilitation.  Food is also important for a soldier’s morale, especially in the field. 

A healthy lifestyle can increase your likelihood of having a long and successful military career and reducing your risk of becoming injured. (For more information see Nutrition and injury factsheet below). Inadequate nutrition can result in not just poor physical performance but also cognitive performance (e.g. the ability to carry out physical tasks, poor concentration and decreased vigilance).  Eating healthily can also reduce your risk of serious health problems. Without a regular supply of food and water, no army can expect to successfully triumph in is principle role: warfighting.

A healthy diet is all about eating a wide range of foods and achieving the right balance of nutrients. The Eatwell Guide will allow you to better understand the proportions in which different types of foods are needed to have a well-balanced and healthy diet.  The proportions shown in the picture below are representative of your food consumption over a period of a day or even a week, not necessarily each meal time. 

The Eatwell Guide applies to most adults regardless of weight, dietary restrictions or ethnic origin.  It is important to remember that that the amount of food you eat should be balanced against the physical demands of work and physical activity that you are undertaking.  When you are more active (exercise, deployment, Ops) you should ensure that you increase your energy intake accordingly; it should also be adjusted accordingly when there are periods of less activity in order to maintain a healthy body weight.

Top Tips

  • Base your meals on starchy foods
    • Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy, especially during intense exercise. Starchy foods should make up around half of the foods you eat (e.g. pasta, bread, potatoes and rice). Choose wholegrain varieties when possible (e.g. wholemeal bread instead of white bread; porridge instead of corn flakes), as they contain more fibre which can help you feel fuller for longer.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
    • Aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Fruit and vegetables are important sources of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to keep you healthy.
  • Eat at least two portions of fish per week, including one of oily fish
    • Oily fish (e.g. mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, kippers, pilchards) are good sources of essential omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
  • Cut down on saturated fat and sugars
    • Fats are an important part of the diet, however saturated fat is considered less healthy because it raises the blood cholesterol level. Saturated fats are found in foods like lard, butter, fatty meat, full fat dairy products, pastries, cakes and biscuits.
  • Eat less salt, no more than 6 g (1 tsp) per day
    • Eating too much salt increases the risk of high blood pressure which puts you at risk of other health problems.
  • Do not skip meals, particularly breakfast
    • Skipping meals is an unhealthy way to lose weight and means you may have low energy, increased hunger and less concentration and focus during the day.
  • Eat 2 to 3 portions of lean protein a day
    • Proteins are needed by the body for growth, development and repair. You should consume a portion of protein at each meal. Eating more protein than you need will not increase muscle mass or improve performance.
  • Eat and drink as soon as possible after physical activity.
    • This is the best time to refuel muscle energy stores, and will prevent fatigue from building up over successive training sessions and days.
  • Dietary supplements will not compensate for a poor diet, or for poor physical performance.
    • Dietary supplements, particularly ones bought over the internet may contain hidden ingredients that could be detrimental to health or banned in the military.