PROTEIN-PROTEIN-PROTEIN! If you look at the rations of WWII - and Ive spent at least 20 years researching this stuff - you find rations high in protein like 'loaf' meats, processed cheese, etc. Yes, the 'C' and 'K' rations also had biscuits in them. But the meal itself wasn't loaded with all kinds of goopy sauces nor were they loaded down with 'junk' food stuff. Ive even looked at ration specs going back to slightly pre-WWII that were organ meats.
With the advent of 'fast food' in the 1950s it wasn't long before the American taste bud changed. In Vietnam, the first war fought by a fast food generation, it was discovered during autopsys on U.S. casualties that 18 and 19 year old 'kids' were already suffering the early-stages if coronary heart disease due to the shift from traditional meat and veggies to the increasingly popular fast foods like fries, milkshakes, and so on. These used to be 'treats' every once in a while but quickly became the norm.
Even today the MRE is way too lacking in protein which is the basic building-block for most of the human body. The vital organs, brain, eyes and even bones routinely shed protein. When its not replaced in sufficient quantities you get atrophy. Soldiers in peak physical condition in peace-time soon find themselves suffering from muscle loss due to insufficient protein replacement. The body starts eating itself to get the energy its lacking. Americans have been told for decades to cut back on meats and eat more whole grains and carbohydrates. Now we have more over-weight people than ever before, more diabetics at younger ages and other diseases in near-epidemic proportions. The lack of protein in the American diet today is also suspected of being the cause for otherwise preventable diseases associated with and simply accepted as a part of 'aging'. Remember the egg cholesterol scare? We cut back on egg consumption but cholesterol increased! Why? I know there are other aspects to consider but simply putting nutritional information on a ration doesn't make it healthier. Nor does removing the cigarettes. There are more pressing things a soldier worries about, like lead poisoning.
Gram-for-gram protein burns 2-1/2 times longer than carbohydrates. They also don't require conversion by the body before it can be used as a fuel, unlike carbohydrates. This is why with proteins you don't get the 'sugar crash' or hung-over feeling associated with lack of carbs. Plus in order to covert carbs the body has to expend energy it could otherwise use. This is why eating a candy or sugar-loaded 'energy' bar leaves you feeling more drained about 30 minutes later. It took what little energy the body had to convert that garbage into useable energy. Unfortunately, the body doesn't burn 100% of carbohydrate energy. Whats left in the form of insulin gets stored as fat. Not very efficient and not healthy.
Proteins don't produce 'ups' and 'downs', nor do they produce the thirst carbohydrates do leading to bloating or a lethargic feeling. Another added benefit is that you feel fuller, more satisfied after eating proteins and usually in less time and with less quantity. Ive eaten quite a bit of MRE ham loaf and while salty which I suspect was to get you to drink, I never felt uncomfortable nor did I guzzle water unlike when eating the heavier carb-saturated meals. The fats are necessary as a fuel source also and any extra fat not burned as fuel by the human body is simply excreted as waste, while the proteins replenish muscles, vital organs, and skeletal mass.
The MRE needs a massive make-over with a shift towards proteins being the primary ingredients. The human body doesn't need so much sugar as it produces its own. It self-regulates and even diabetics who have gone to a mosly protein lifestyle have seen improvements in the body regulating its sugar production not to mention the added benefit of excess weight loss. Another side benefit is the lack of heart burn that too much sodium and sugar can produce. Id like to see an MRE with substantially more meat in it, less carbs or at least healthier low-glycemic carbs, and larger portions. A friend of mine was actually discharged as being unhealthy because she became diabetic eating the militarys food! She ate only the rations they provided during basic training and the meals served at the mess hall - ooops. I meant to say 'Dining Facility' for you youngin's!
Another benefit is the waste factor. Not to be graphic but diets heavy in proteins produce firmer waste product and usually in smaller amounts because the body more efficiently burns proteins leaving smaller waste product in the digestive system. This means less mess and less risk a soldier will get sick under field conditions due to sanitary lapses. Anyone who has 'deposited' their MRE in the field knows there are days when those sheets of toilet paper simply aren't big enough or in sufficient quantity. Its usually the time you forgot to throw a roll of T.P. in your ruck or ran out of wet-naps to clean your hands. But with a high-protein diet you can usually get away with one or two pieces of toilet paper.
Personally, I can eat two 16-ounce prime ribs with veggies, skip the potatoes and afterwards feel like I can run a marathon. But give me one reasonable helping of spaghetti and I'll want to pass out for an hour or two and feel like crap the next morning. The military really needs to increase the proteins big time and use cream-based sauces rather than flour. I know there are lots of things to consider when developing rations, but the only way soldiers under intense physical activity will retain their body weight is to make sure they get as much protein and healthy fats into their systems as possible. They don't even have to cut the breads out but instead use high protein, low-gluten breads for their products provided they can meet the requirements of long-term survivability and acceptable taste.
This is why runners look like skin-and-bones. They carbo-load. Their bodies are in atrophy starving for proteins. Thats not healthy. If it were Jim Thorpe would still be running today.
Sorry for the rant but if someone with influence might read this and do something that benefits the troops than it was worth it! My apologies if Ive ruffled any feathers....
"FIND THE BASTARDS, THEN PILE ON" - Standing Order of Col. George S. Patton Jr., C.O. 11th ACR.
"We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine-gun" - George Orwell.