I have recently received questions from people asking if they can be a vegan and go through basic military training (BMT) successfully. The short answer is yes, but it would be very difficult.
My longer answer is….
A vegan is someone who does not eat any animal products, which includes eggs, milk, or cheese. They must either takes supplements (which are not allowed at BMT), or identify other non-animal substitute foods to make up for the lack of nutrients. Foods such as avocado, beans, legumes, nuts, kale, tahini, are all common ingredients in a vegan diet. However, they are not all very common in a BMT chow hall.
Another consideration is the nutrient content of the vegetables provided at basic training. As a true vegan will tell you, any vegetable that has been processed, such as canned or frozen, does not contain the full amount of nutrients as it does in its raw form. Vegans often closely regulate how much heat is used when cooking their food (if any); knowing that at a certain heat index the vegetable looses much of its nutrients. The vegetables at BMT are processed and often cooked, lessoning their nutritional value. However combined with other foods, such as meats and dairy products they can create a complete nutritional meal. Without meats and dairy, they may not provide the necessary nutrients your body will need.
Because of these considerations BMT is not conducive for a healthy vegan diet.
This is not to say that it cannot be done. The human body is extremely resilient; however you will not feel or perform your best while living in this high stress, highly physical environment. Anyone who has gone through BMT will tell you that physically and mentally you are taxed the entire time. Feeling your best is essential to making BMT as stress free as possible, but if you are adamant about sticking to your vegan diet, just know that it is yet another hurdle you will have to surpass.
SGT Michael Volkin is the author of The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook, which helps recruits ace basic training. He is also the inventor of the new fitness product Strength Stack 52. A deck of bodyweight fitness cards designed to get you in shape for basic training.