Paleo Plan

Help! How Can Our Troops Stay Paleo?

U.S. Army Dining FacilityThis Q&A is for all those Paleo people who also happen to be in the armed forces eating foods from the U.S. military’s dining facilities. I tried my best to give some advice to Sarah, who wrote us the email below asking about how she can stay Paleo in Afghanistan, but please comment below if you have any words of wisdom!

Hey Paleo Plan Team!

I was recently a member of your website and absolutely loved your menu plans. You were able to help me steer through the fundamentals of a Paleo lifestyle and I feel all the better for it. I discontinued my membership because I took a position with the U.S. Army and am now deployed to Afghanistan. All my meals are prepared for me in the Dining Facility (DFAC) and I’ve learned quickly that staying Paleo here is near to impossible.

As you can imagine, food here is cooked quickly to feed the largest number of people at once. Lots of fried fish and fatty meats, canned vegetables, saucy sides and starches. The DFACs use this green-light system is designating the “healthy foods”–which are meant to give the warfighter lots of engery and are typically potatoes, rice, noodles, fatty meats and the like. There is a salad bar at lunch and dinner, but the freshness and sanitation of vegetables in Afghanistan can led to serious digestion issues.

I’ve reached out to other Paleo friends for advice and support, but I wanted to see if you had heard from others about this issue in the past. I would really appreciate any insight you may have. I’ve been trying really hard to stay as close to Paleo as possible–but long hours and low energy have led me astray.

Have you heard from others about this? Do you have any suggestions whatsoever for someone who is trying to navigate the fried, processed food found in a mess hall/dining facility?

Thanks again and I look forward to returning to your site as soon as I get home next year! I miss cooking and eating my own food!


Hi Sarah,

Wow, that sounds rough. Usually I tell people living on food that the military dispenses to stick with proteins and veggies as much as humanly possible. But it doesn’t seem like that’s always an option since the proteins are often fried in heinous oils or battered in grains or both. And the veggies from the salad bar seem out of the question in Afghanistan. So here’s a question.

Can you have a bunch of food sent to you? Beef jerky, almond butter, whey or egg white protein powders and other nonperishables like that? Probably expensive and it may not even be legal to send food to Afghanistan (excuse my ignorance)… Or can you find different food somewhere else or talk to the cooks and ask them if there’s any way they could keep a chicken breast out of the deep fryer for you? That seems far fetched…

If none of those options exist, I think in order to get enough calories you may have to just be choosy about what they give you, but eat things you wouldn’t normally eat and hope for the best. Just as you’ve been doing.

I found this thread from the forum at crossfit.com about this very topic. You might find that these people have more valuable advice than I could ever give you, since I’ve never eaten at a DFAC, much less served in the military a day in my life.

I hope that’s helpful at all to you. I wish you all the luck in the world with sorting this out and getting the best nutrition you possibly can. It’s very sad that our armed forces have such crap to eat…

Anyone else have any sage advice for our military personnel?

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14 Comments

  1. Hey guys, Alex from PaleoPax.com here! We have 3-4 APO addresses on our customer list, and while I have to fill out a customs form to ship them their monthly boxes, all APO addresses are considered US as far as the Post Office is concerned, so there isn’t even international shipping costs. I’m sure many of our Paleo snack producers would happily ship to APO addresses. Particularly quick to respond to email (and willing to sell at wholesale prices if you buy bulk) are TankaBar and Nick’s Sticks. If you’d like an introduction, send me an email at mail@paleopax.com and I’ll put you in touch!

    Another option is to buy a five or ten pack of PaleoPax boxes to get you through the month. We’ve got great discounts ($10 off for five, $30 off for ten) and you can save a little more by buying 6-12 months at a clip.

  2. This comment just came in via email about this post. Thought I’d share… “Your advice to Sarah is Right ON!! My son is in Honduras in Air Force and facing same thing…..he requested we send him foiled tuna, salmon, mackeral, almonds, homemade jerky, etc. and one can get the priority boxes at the post office and stuff as much as you can get in one box for one price. That price, by the way is reduced when sent to an APO military address.”

  3. After spending a few month in Kabul with the military and traveling to several different Bases in the country I can second what Sarah said about it being extremely difficult to stay paleo eating from the DFAC. Breakfast and midnight meal are easiest because you can get eggs, but either the oil they used to cook them in or the eggs themselves did not agree with me. Most of the time I lived on jerky and the foil packs of chicken and tuna, but then I didn’t know about the paleo pax and other packaged paleo delights. I’d check the salad bar at each meal and make a game time decision based on how it looked. APO addresses are US postal service addresses, so you can send anything that can be sent via US Postal Service with the additional exceptions of “adult” materials. Some bases were better than others though. Sorry for my ramble.

    • Thank you guys for your thoughts and tips on this! Stay safe!

  4. We agree – the food our military men and women are served may not always be the best and it can be hard, if not impossible, to stick to a paleo diet when serving overseas. We put together our Fueling The Fire Project (www.fuelingthefire.org) to provide Paleo-friendly care packages to troops. Any time someone sends us the contact info for a loved one overseas, we add them to the list and rotate through, sending packages as we can.

    • Cain – What a fantastic resource! Thanks for letting us know.

  5. Robin Green

    Having deployed to Iraq before becoming paleo I may offer little guidance. I would suggest online ordering or having a family
    Member order and ship to your APO address. Salads, veggies, meat with perhaps removing breaking may help a little. Fruit. Having family ship Larabars or Kind bars…which
    May not be paleo but it is better than those powerbars they give at the dfac. Eggs and bacon breakfast. Stay away from Greenbeans coffee if u have one! Their grappa and white chocolate mochas are too tempting an too delicious! The px carries mostly non parishables but other than tuna…there isn’t much to choose from. Stay safe! Army Medic

  6. Robin Green

    Dang spell check! Frappachinos and breading lol

  7. I have many military personnel who order our line of Paleo Snacks to APO & APE address’s no problem. I offer the military the Wholesale Buying Code so you can purchase for less with free shipping to your military address. You can band together with others in your unit and order larger quantities. You can order in 12′s, 16′s & 20 pks – Fruit & Nut Cluster paleo Snacks in 4 flavors: Apple Crisp, Banana Nut, Cacao Nut & Cappuccino Crunch. Fell free to email me anytime with questions at: laura@paleopeople.com

  8. http://www.stevesoriginals.com

    Miliary friendly with jerky, fruits, nuts etc..

  9. I’m currently at KAF and I’ve been following a primal diet for the last two months while eating DFAC food. In order to understand how to survive on a primal/paleo/low-carb diet, you have to do your research and learn which foods are acceptable. I recommend the following:

    breakfast: eggs (the entire egg) and bacon
    Lunch: chicken, beef, turkey or whatever unprocessed meat and a huge leafy green salad
    Dinner: repeat what you did for lunch.

    In between snack on fruit if you can find any or order Isopure protein shakes.

    I’ve followed a strict Primal diet and lost over 30 pounds. I went from barely being able to run 2 mile in 18:00 to running close to 13:00.

    • Tre – Primal Soldier – This post makes me happy. Thank you for giving us all a little hope that it can be done!

  10. Ryan O'Shields

    Hello everyone, I’ve been in the Navy for almost two years now and I agree with the unhealthy food they serve. I was told by a kinesiologist I am allergic to gluten and dairy (in a way my body rejects it not the allergic reaction) so even when I excersise and eat decently healthy I’ve still been a little bit overweight. I’d like to do paleo because I did crossfit before I joined, but I don’t know where to start.

    If someone could please give me guidance or references I’d be deeply grateful.

    Oshielrv@cg53.navy.mil

  11. Paleo Jew

    http://schenkerfarms.com/blogs/news/tagged/shipping-steaks-to-afghanistan

    Sorry I can’t make it clicky

    This is a family ranch in KS that has made a business of shipping high quality grass fed beef to troops overseas. Shipped on dry ice in heavy duty containers; meat is still frozen when it arrives on site.

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