Finnish military fights flabby conscripts with low-calorie diets
Average weight of Finnish national servicemen has increased 6 kg in 14 years
The Finnish Defence Forces have commenced a battle against national servicemen putting on weight, by introducing new low-calorie diets for the draftees.
In two garrison cafés the selection of refreshments now includes light donuts, almost completely fat-free Danish pastries, small bags of crisps and sweets, sandwiches containing lettuce, plus sugar-free soft drinks.
“In the autumn we will evaluate the effect of the experiment on the conscripts’ weight and their lipid and lipoprotein levels”, explains researcher Clarissa Bingham from the National Public Health Institute.
The aim of the three-year study commenced in 2007 is to influence the eating habits and food-related attitudes of the national servicemen. Since 1994, the average weight of a conscript has risen from 70.8 to 77 kilograms.
This spring the research project has reached the stage where light meal and snack alternatives are offered to the draftees at their primary places of provisioning, the garrison canteens and cafés.
The project is carried out in co-operation with the service clubs of Kajaani and Hämeenlinna garrisons. Later, the light alternatives will be introduced at other service clubs as well.
The garrison cafés do their best to maximise the attractiveness of the low-fat and low-sugar products. The sugar-free soft-drinks, for one, are situated at eye-level in the cooler cabinets.
This does not always work. National serviceman Tuomas Okkonen has 60-gram donuts on his tray. In addition, he takes several bags of crisps and sweets back to the barracks.
None of the soldiers queueing in the café check-out line choose low-calorie pastries.
“The exercises are so strenuous that one has to get something more substantial”, points out Joni Nuutinen, while devouring a pizza. His friend Jussi Vörlin has opted for two large donuts.
“Even in the army it is very difficult to alter the eating habits learned at home. We eat more than we consume. In addition, there are more and more tempting food items on offer”, says weight control specialist, professor Pertti Mustajoki, from the University of Helsinki.
Even the diameter of our dinner plates has increased in the past 40 years, Mustajoki points out.
Previously in HS International Edition:
HS Gallup: Finns oppose penalty charges for being overweight (5.3.2007)
Study shows Finns seriously overweight in all parts of the country (8.1.2007)