The Air Force is hoping you’ll enjoy some strange meals. Have you ever used a sweet potato as sandwich bread?
This month the Air Force Medical Service launched Nutrition Kitchen, a new YouTube cooking series showing healthier options to classic dishes. Each installment has two parts, a cooking video hosted by Senior Airman Quion Lowe and chef Tech. Sgt. Opal Pollard and then a supplemental episode where Sahra Pak, a dietician at Travis Air Force Base, explains the science behind the food hacks. For instance, have you tried an open-faced sweet potato peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
According to the Air Force, the show is supposed to making cooking and eating healthier easy and fun. Members of the armed services can “level up” their health this way. That’s a good goal. But a sweet potato peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Three episodes of Nutrition Kitchen are out, and some of the meal choices might be healthier but they don’t seem like the most appealing.
Despite the Pentagon’s strong marketing push and close ties to Hollywood, this is a minimalist, stripped down production. It’s not as sleek as Emeril Lagasse’s shows and without the showmanship of the mayor of Flavortown, Guy Fieri. The closest thing to a theme is the idea of “leveling up” the food, with a score of retro gaming sounds.
The show isn’t a bad idea. Fitness is only one part of health, nutrition matters. MREs might not be the tastiest thing, and when soldiers have a chance to eat at home, they should know how to cook. And teaching healthy cooking habits is good, and even just getting service members away from processed sugar can do a lot for health in the armed forces. Besides, this is the same Pentagon that worries that Gen Z isn’t healthy enough for the military thanks to brittle bones from playing video games, apparently.
“Food has an enormous potential to harm or to heal, but it’s surprising how infrequently we consider the types of foods we are eating every day. It is time for that to change,”said Col. Mary Anne Kiel, chief of the Air Force Medical Home Air Force Medical Readiness Agency, and leader of the the Lifestyle and Performance Medicine working group said in a statement about the show’s laugh. “It’s time to empower the members of all our military services to upgrade their nutrition by making choices to keep them ready for the mission and to improve their health.”
And not everything is bad. Banana pancakes are a solid choice. These aren’t exactly salads, vegetable-heavy anything or say grilled salmon. Muesli is tasty. Maybe these aren’t full-on healthy alternatives but they are definitely less processed and full of added sugars. But this?
Who is making this? The point of a PB&J is that it is easy and quick to make. What makes this easy? This can be done in advance, yes, people can do meal prep, but sweet potatoes don’t exactly do their best after a few days. If it takes 15-25 minutes to prepare the “bread” here, that defeats the point of a PB&J as a quick, on-the-go meal. The mid-tier version has whole wheat bread, but that still isn’t the best option. But maybe it’s better than using sweet potatoes.
Of course, people need to watch the show to learn the apparent food hacks. The Air Force Medical Service has to compete with other chefs and nutritionists on YouTube for clicks, and many of those have flashier, more attention grabbing recipes and presentations. Right now most Nutrition Kitchen episodes have fewer than 100 views each. The highest viewed episode is the, again admittedly weird, PB&J sandwich episode, but even that is below 250 views (and at least a few of those are from Task & Purpose staff). They need to level up.
Have you tried any of the food hacks and recipes from the Air Force’s Nutrition Kitchen? Do they hit the mark or are they disasters? We want to know. Especially if you tried the PB&J.
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