ST. MARYS -- Quality meals aren't just a luxury for the Navy's submarine force. They're considered a necessity.
The rigors of deploying months at a time, confined inside a ballistic missile submarine, make good meals important to maintain high morale.
The change is part of an initiative by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to serve healthier, more nutritious meals to sailors. It's based on the SEALs' Fuel to Fight Program where more lean proteins, vegetables and complex carbohydrates are served.
Lt. Robert Haag, officer in charge of the galley at Kings Bay, said the goal is to prepare meals better without sacrificing quality.
"We're doing our part to provide healthy options," Haag said. "We try to make that as clear as we possibly can."
Other than seeing more fresh fruits and vegetables in the chow line, the menu hasn't changed that much. It's just the way the food is prepared.
"We've replaced fried food with acceptable replacements," he said.
Acceptable doesn't mean delicious meals can't be served, Haag said.
"Maintaining the level of customer satisfaction is important, or they'll go to McDonald's," he said. "The food is still good."
The galley also has a fast food line, but it has fewer items than in the past. On a typical day, sloppy joes and macaroni and cheese may be the only items offered in the fast food line, though French fries are served occasionally.
Matthew Lewis, chief of the galley, believes Kings Bay may be ahead of the curve when it comes to promoting a healthier diet in other ways. The galley now serves what he call a "grab and go breakfast."
Some sailors have traditionally skipped breakfast because they aren't allowed to eat in the galley in the clothes they wear for physical training. Now, they are allowed to come to the galley after physical training to grab a boxed breakfast to go.
The boxed breakfasts contain items such bagels, breakfast sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, fruit and high nutrition bars.
The galley has also expanded the hours it serves breakfast as a way to encourage sailors to start the workday on a full stomach.
"Grab and go revolves around convenience and PT," Lewis said. "We almost doubled the number of breakfasts served. It's a cornerstone meal."
Haag said a sailor who eats breakfast will not have strong cravings for unhealthy food such as a cheeseburger or fries later in the day.
"It leads to better choices at lunch," he said. "You're able to go through and think more clearly."
Lewis said some of the equipment to prepare meals on submarines was changed so sailors at sea could still have healthy meals.
"They added different equipment on boats like steamers to cook healthier meals," he said.
Haag said around 1,000 meals a day are served at the base galley and the number is growing. He has noticed fewer sailors in the fast food line and more of them are looking at the calorie listings for each portion on the menu.
"They have lots of options," he said. "Everything is designed around a healthy diet."