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Above left: Staff Sgt. Angel Perez sautés a pan of onions to top the Italian broccoli pasta bowl that Pvt. Christian Agosto ladles into the to-go container. Above right: Pvt. Adriana Casco removes a tray of chicken from the oven that serves as the protein in the Mediterranean chicken and grits bowl. For the past three weeks, culinary specialists from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team Commando Warrior Restaurant have made special meals for Soldiers under the new Performance Meal Prep Program. This offers service members a fast, healthy meal option to take home when they don’t have time to cook their own meal or sit down at the warrior restaurant. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Performance-based meal plan helps to fuel 
2nd Brigade Combat Team Soldiers at Fort Drum

Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Sept. 14, 2023) – Which do you prefer – the flavorful Mediterranean chicken and grits bowl or a perfectly cooked piece of teriyaki salmon on top of a bed of ginger rice? Want another option? How about a healthy serving of Italian broccoli pasta, made with whole wheat macaroni and freshly made tomato sauce?

Every week, Soldiers with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) can opt into a new program at the Commando Warrior Restaurant and receive tasty, nutritious meals to go.

As the name implies, the Performance Meal Prep Program caters to Soldiers interested in performance-based nutrition. They have learned through the Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) program that eating enough of the right food can help them build muscle, lose fat, increase energy levels, and recover faster while training.

“If they are trying to gain weight, maintain weight or lose weight, Soldiers have different fueling options they can choose from,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brittnay Hughes, 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s Commando Warrior Restaurant manager.

Soldiers can fill out a weekly order form with their meal selections and submit it to the Commando Warrior Restaurant by Wednesday, with meal pickup scheduled on the following Wednesday. They can order up to 19 meals per week, purchased through their meal card.

The recipes are from the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, which ensures they are in accordance with the Army’s Go for Green program and meets or exceeds nutritional standards for fresh meals. Capt. Emily Clark, 2nd BCT registered dietitian, advocates for the nutritional environment within warrior restaurants on post, and she approved these menu options for the program.

“All of the meals are ‘green coded,’ meaning they are classified as a ‘high performance’ option,” she said. “The Performance Meal Prep Program is unique in that it offers an individualized menu to best meet a Soldier’s training demands.”

For example, she said a Soldier training for Ranger School may have increased caloric needs and require larger portions. Soldiers rehabilitating from injury may have lower caloric needs because they are less physically active.

“Mastering nutrition fundamentals is vital to optimizing the human weapons system,” Clark said. “And the meal prep program plays a huge role in achieving just that.”

Sgt. 1st Class Francisco Navarro, 2nd BCT senior culinary management noncommissioned officer, said that the convenience of pre-made meals has attracted a lot of Soldiers since they introduced the program three weeks ago.

“Soldiers don’t always have time to make themselves a good meal, and if they are working through lunch or dinner, they can’t get to the warrior restaurant in time to eat,” he said. “Then, whenever they get home, instead of eating healthy they might go right to the snacks or whatever is available.”

Hughes said that Soldiers ordered 750 meals during the program’s first week, with the Pacific Rim shrimp bowl being a top seller.

“That was a lot of meals, but it worked out,” she said. “Unexpected, but we got the job done, of course.”

It might be extra work for the staff, but they also have an opportunity to flex their culinary muscles in preparing the special menus. Hughes said that some of the culinary specialists have begun ordering the meals themselves.

“We’ve been getting a diverse population – single Soldiers, married Soldiers, people who want something fast and don’t want to wait in line,” she said.

After sampling the Baja chicken quinoa bowl – one of the offerings from the first week’s orders – Staff Sgt. Angel Perez said he knew the meal prep program had potential for success.

“The purpose behind what we are doing is to give Soldiers the option to get that nice, healthy meal, without having to go look for one in a store or go somewhere else,” he said. “We’re trying to get more Soldiers into the dining facilities and show them there are healthier meal options than fast food.”

Proper nutrition is especially important for service members who train and operate in extreme conditions, like high-altitude, cold-weather environments. According to the Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen, poor nutrition can lead to fatigue, rapid weight loss, injury, and dehydration.

In 2019, the Army established ACTION (Army Commitment to Improving Overall Nutrition) to support the H2F system by implementing Go for Green menus, warrior restaurant modernization, nutrition education and Armed Forces Wellness Center.

For information about the Performance Meal Prep Program, call (315) 772-1821 or follow the Commando Warrior Restaurant on Facebook.

To learn more about performance nutrition, visit www.hprc-online.org/nutrition/warfighter-nutrition-guide.