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Eating Patterns and Leisure-Time Exercise among Active Duty Military Personnel: Comparison to the Healthy People Objectives

Tracey J. Smith, Laura E. Dotson, Andrew J. Young, Alan White, Louise Hadden, Gaston P. Bathalon, LesLee Funderburk, Bernadette P. Marriott


August 4, 2014

To assess whether active duty military personnel meet Healthy People 2010 objectives for physical activity and fruit, vegetable, and whole-grain intake; the relationship of select demographic characteristics, lifestyle factors (eg, smoking), and eating patterns (eg, frequency and location of meals) on achieving diet and exercise-related Healthy People 2010 objectives; and the relationship of eating patterns to self-reported weight gain.


Secondary data from 15,747 participants in the 2005 Department of Defense Health Related Behaviors Survey was analyzed.


More than 57% of respondents met the Healthy People 2010 guidelines for moderate or vigorous leisure exercise but only 3% reported eating fruit (once), vegetables (3 times), and whole grains (3 times) daily. Individuals who reported gaining weight during the previous year were more likely to skip breakfast and eat at, or from, a restaurant ≥2 times per week compared with those who did not gain weight (P<0.001). Regression analysis indicated that women were more likely to eat fruits (odds ratio [OR] 1.25) and vegetables (OR 1.20) and less likely than men to eat whole grains (OR 0.76) or engage in moderate or vigorous exercise (OR 0.71). Military personnel who skipped breakfast ≥2 times per week (OR 0.45) or ate at a restaurant/takeout food (OR 0.54) ≥2 times per week were significantly less likely to meet Healthy People 2010 guidelines for food intake (defined as achieving a daily intake of one or more fruits, three or more vegetables, and three or more servings of whole grains) and exercise (OR 0.88 and 0.82, respectively).


Although the majority of military personnel met guidelines for physical activity, their intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains was suboptimal. Skipping breakfast and eating at, or from, restaurants were risk factors for poor nutrient intake and associated with weight gain. These data suggest that skipping breakfast and eating out deter achieving Healthy People 2010 objectives and provide targets for military programs to promote achieving these objectives.

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