Soldiers work in various extreme environments, including the High Arctic, where energy requirements are increased compared with temperate climates. Soldiers often do not reach their energy needs with combat rations and face additional challenges to feeding in the Artic, which can hinder the performance. The purpose of this study is to document soldiers' perception about individual, dietary, and environmental factors influencing intake of combat rations during Arctic field training.
This qualitative phenomenological study included in-depth semi-structured individual interviews with 16 soldiers of the Canadian Armed Forces participating in the Arctic Operations Advisor training in Yellowknife (Northwest Territories) and Resolute Bay (Nunavut) from January to March 2019. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and then coded using a directed content analysis approach. Data were analyzed with NVivo qualitative data analysis software.
Five themes related to the individual (personal preferences; mood and morale), the diet (water availability; food variety), or the environment (meal preparation time) were identified. A sixth theme found was related to the diet and the environment (food/water temperature). Soldiers explained food and water were frozen, thus limiting water availability and greatly increasing meal preparation time. Food variety was deemed adequate by some, but others preferred more options. Individual food preferences and soldier mood and team morale could be barriers or facilitators to intake. Overall, the complexity of combat ration intake in the Arctic stemmed from the interaction of factors.
Various factors related to the individual, diet, and environment were found to influence intake of combat rations by participating soldiers during Arctic training. Reducing barriers to combat ration consumption by enhancing operational suitability of rations for the Arctic environment could promote dietary intake. Bearing in mind many interrelated factors influenced intake of soldiers, the military would benefit from further assessing which challenges related to intake in the field could be addressed.