Holy cow! Troops need more milk.
Defense Department experts are trying to reintroduce the idea of drinking moo juice as part of a broader healthy eating initiative at military dining facilities.
“They’re not getting enough calcium and vitamin D, and dairy products are one of the traditional [sources], so that’s why the dairy emphasis,” said Priscilla Dolloff-Crane, a food service specialist at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence in Fort Lee, Va.
“They’ll hear it as, ‘Have more dairy, have a glass of milk, make it a lower-fat option,’ ” she said. “We want a delivery mechanism for a nutrient that’s for good physiological conditions: bone, teeth and nerve function.”
Milk contains a combination of nutrients, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin, and niacin.
But milk has not only grown less popular in the military, it has faded from the diet of American adults, said Dolloff-Crane. Because soda is more profitable for restaurants than milk, milk has been pushed off menus, altering people’s habits and expectations.
The dairy drive comes as officials across the services focus on bringing a healthier balance to cafeteria menus, re-examining the DoD recipe book in an effort to make dining facility options lower in salt and fat, but just as attractive.
Milk has an undeservedly bad rap in the military, Dolloff-Crane said. Drill sergeants and training supervisors will often push troops away from it, believing it upsets stomachs.
“It’s a belief system perpetuated across the supervisory staff in terms of how folks can’t handle it, they’ll get sick, they’ll get stomach cramps, all kinds of stuff,” Dolloff-Crane said.
She suggests waiting an hour between drinking milk and any strenuous exercise to let yourself digest. Better to have easily digested carbs, and minimize protein fat intake just before exercising
Folks acclimated to milk know to minimize the “slosh” by also consuming carb-rich products like grains or starches to soak up the liquid and provide energy. If you’re not acclimated to milk, increase your intake incrementally to better digest the lactose (milk sugars).
Nutrition experts say they’d rather see troops drinking skim milk and 1 percent over whole milk, which contains more saturated fat.
If you’re a whole milk devotee, Dolloff-Crane suggests you wean yourself slowly by blending it with lowfat milk. “Acquire that change-up so your sensory impact is not so dramatic,” she said.
For the lactose-intolerant or milk-averse, DoD is looking to offer a lactose-free milk, and soy or almond milk — as long as they are high in calcium and vitamin D. Because milk alternatives are expensive and budgets are tighter, they may not be available in abundance. Troops may have to ask for them at cafeterias.
And because the healthy-eating initiative involves making healthy foods attractive and accessible, a dairy-rich pudding might appear first among desserts on a cafeteria line. Dairy or no, don’t expect to see them touting fatty, calorie-dense cheese cakewould likely be last.
Many dining facilities are adorned with posters of the iconic milk mustache ads. But to drive the message home, the DoD Nutrition Committee could start including more myth-busting messaging for mid-career troops, according to Dolloff-Crane.
“There’s no continuity of the message, so we have to do it, so that they get dairy into the diet for bone health, to cut down on [musculoskeletal] injuries,” she said.