Military diets and eating in basic training is drastically different compared to eating after basic. Learn what it’s like to eat in basic training, tech school, and at your first duty station. Your military diet is what you make of it, but depending on your goals find out how easy or hard it’s going to be.

Eating In Basic Training

Air Force Basic Training Diet

The military diet in basic training isn’t as healthy as you’d think it’d be for a group of fit individuals. Nor does it accommodate for vegan or gluten free diets either. The closest you’re gonna get is an accommodation towards vegetarian food for a military diet option. Eating basic training food is more like buffet style or cafeteria food. Generally starchy food items with carbs were those carbs are used as energy and burnt off throughout the day. Which could very well be the entire purpose of the simple military diet, just foods to provide the most energy.

With the amount of trainees that go through the defac (dining facility) doors to eat 3 meals a day there isn’t a way to individualize or specialize the food. Your military diet could be lacking for those of you who are very health conscious eaters. Healthy items can still be found for each meal, the buffet choices just out number their healthy counterpart.

For those of you who are fine with less of a military diet you will be pleased with the food. All three square meals a day taste good. The only pressing issue will be having to eat everything in just a matter of minutes.

Defac Eating Experience In Basic Training

Three times a day every basic training flight will march to the defac and form up in rows. People are dismissed in a flight each row at a time to accommodate for trainees already inside eating. There are only so many tables to use at any given time and everyone has to eat fast because of it.

After going through the line and getting your food there’s no avoiding walking past a table called the Snake Pit. Military instructors deliberately sit at this table at the front of the room to watch everyone and interrogate them. Many trainees look forward and walk past the snake pit as fast as possible, avoiding eye contact just hoping they don’t get stopped. The instructors ask a range of questions leaving nothing off the table. Anything from Air Force ranks, Airmen’s Manual questions, to off the wall things.

If you’ve made it past the snake pit without being questioned consider yourself lucky. Find an empty seat and quickly eat. Every meal eaten inside the defac throughout basic training will be consumed in under five minutes. During my time in basic I ate everything on my plate within 3 to 4 minutes on average. It becomes a process you learn, eat fast or you won’t get to eat at all. Most trainees mixed food together to eat faster and there was very little if any talking in between eating. I still catch myself eating fast, it becomes instilled in you from basic training.

There is always that one person in every flight that’s caught bringing food back into the dorm bays. Don’t take food from the defac.

During my time at basic an instructor found cracker crumbs in one trainees bed and things did not go well. Instead of making this person get on hims face and do push-ups, the instructor made the entire dorm bay do push-ups for this one persons mistake. Everyone suffered through none stop push-ups and flutter kicks while the trainee that brought food had to stand there and watch. 

Side tip – during Air Force basic training zero week you can’t be forced to exercise as punishment for an hour after eating. You’re given an adjustment period.

Eating An MRE – Meal Ready to Eat

Half of the meals eaten during beast week are gonna be MRE’s. MRE’s are pre-made packaged meals that have a 3 year shelf life so they can be eaten during forward operations. Continuing with the military diet theme each meal contains about 1250 calories and are high in carbs for energy. A single MRE is the equivalent of an entire meal and there are nearly 25 different meals to choose from. Four vegetarian options are also included for people concerned about their military diet.

You can sample some MRE’s on Amazon

Eating After Basic Training

Military Diet In Tech School

Tech school is when you’ll start to get some of your freedoms back after going through basic training. Arriving at tech school you’ll learn that there isn’t a time limit on how fast you need to eat, take your time and get the proper nutrition you need. Walk around the tech school defac to see what foods are offered and what fits into your military diet. More food choices are given so be sure to watch yourself or you might fall off your diet. If you’d like to indulge in any fast food though there are fast food chains on base.

When you get tired of all the defac food you can always go and pick up some groceries at the BX (Base Exchange) with your new found freedom.  If the BX shopping center doesn’t have certain foods you’re looking for all is not lost. Just know after a few weeks at tech school you’ll be able to start going off base and get whatever healthy food you’d like. Many Airmen use the BBQ stations in tech school, so take the opportunity to get your diet back on track and grill up a healthy meal.

How To Receive Food Allowance

Most young airmen arrive at their first duty station and don’t receive any food stipends. They’ll live in the airman’s dorm and eat at the defac. However, there is an exception and some airmen will receive BAS. BAS is a food allowance, $369.39 a month for enlisted members, $254.39 a month for officers.This is a great way to have food money for your military diet.

You’ll receive BAS if you’re married, you can be living in base housing or off base, either way you’d get it. If you’re a single airmen you can receive BAS too, but not until being able to move out of the airman’s dorm to somewhere off base. Airmen typically are able to move out of the dorms when they gain the rank of senior airmen (SrA). Talk to your First Sargent about moving out of the dorms. Those are the only ways to get BAS, so if you have to live in the airman’s dorms for a while you’re out of luck on BAS. Your diet is gonna consist of the defac unless you use your own money on food.

Side tip, there is a community kitchen in the airman’s dorms so you can still keep up with your military diet.

I actually moved out of the airman’s dorms and received BAS early when I was only an airman first class (A1C). I was able to do that within my first year of joining the air force, cause I was older then most other A1C airmen, I was 23. My First Sargent didn’t see the need for me to be in the dorms, plus I was deploying. So he signed the paperwork needed and I was out the dorms and receiving BAS.

If you end up joining at an older age like I did there is a good chance you’ll leave the dorms early too and get a food allowance.

To Wrap It Up

Your military diet is what you make of it, depending on your goals it’s as easy or hard as you make it. However, basic training will be limited on food choices, but the further you get in your military career the easier it gets. Tech school is the beginning of having normalcy and allowing you to cook better food for your diet. Also getting BAS should be a goal of yours in the near future to ease the cost of your diet. What foods would you buy with your BAS?

Corey Porter

Corey Porter

Air Force Veteran

Corey is an Air Force veteran and the lead writer at Basic to Blues. He refueled fighter jets as a young airman and deployed twice to the Middle East. Now Corey can be found hiking in the Pacific Northwest.

Who the hell… POL!

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