PORTSMOUTH, VA—The Navy Environmental Health Center (NEHC) and the Navy Exchange Command (NEXCOM) have partnered to promote healthier snack foods in the Department of the Navy's (DON) vending machines, according to a recent Navy report.

Identified by the "Healthy Alternatives" logo, DON vending machines now carry a wider variety of healthy snacks for sailors and Marines to choose from.

“The benefits of the Healthy Alternatives Initiative has the potential to be realized Navy wide, as I discovered while working with our Special Forces population, where the use of dietary supplements is a huge issue," said Lori Tubbs, a registered dietitian and nutrition program manager for NEHC. "Adding calories to the diet is all that is needed for most individuals who exercise or perform their mission at a high physical intensity level, and providing calorie-rich, yet nutrient-dense snacks in vending machines makes sense. Research shows that eating a balanced recovery meal within an hour after strenuous exercise benefits the body tremendously.”

Originally, the program was based on substituting high-fat and high-calorie snack foods with lower-fat and low-calorie foods. As diet fads changed from low fat to low carbohydrate over the past few years, the program focus now is geared toward increasing the availability of overall nutrient-dense snacks.

Other program improvements include providing performance-based foods, such as sport bars and other higher-calorie snacks that replace adequate calories when meals are skipped. This is particularly applicable to Special Forces troops.

In October 2004, NEHC provided NEXCOM vending managers with specific guidelines to be used for salty snacks, trail mixes, sugary snacks and sport bars. The criteria were established under the guidance of Dr. Kenneth Cooper, Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences. The guidelines will assist vending managers in selecting product lines from new and current distributors and to inform current vendors of products that can be tagged “Healthy Alternative.”

This will guarantee Sailors and Marines that all tagged items meet specifications and will avoid questionable snack purchases by service members taking accountability of their health and wellness.

NEXCOM and NEHC are currently working on an initiative to increase visibility of products offered by commercial Branded Food partners located within NEX food courts. This initiative will assist customers with menu selections.