U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Appetite 44 (2005) 33–45.


Twenty years of testing in the field has consistently revealed that food intake is inadequate when packaged military rations are fed as the sole source of food. Food intake is much lower and there is a loss of body weight. Conversely when these rations are fed to students or military personnel for periods ranging from 3 to 42 days in a cafeteria-like setting, food intake is comparable to levels of a control group provided with freshly prepared food. Under these conditions, body weight is maintained. In this review, the consumption pattern is considered in terms of characteristics of the food (acceptability, variety, portion size, beverages, serving temperature, appropriateness for time of day, monotony, and novelty) and the eating milieu (social interactions, time, ease of preparing and consuming a meal). The twenty-year program of military ration research has led us to conclude that both the food and the context must be considered in understanding and controlling food intake.