Pvt. Collin Cook gets his dinner at Fort Huachuca's Virginia Hall Dining Facility. Before the Army, he weighed 250 pounds. BEATRICE RICHARDSON / SIERRA VISTA HERALD

FORT HUACHUCA - Fried food is out.

Sugary food, including sodas and many cereal products, no longer will be served.

White bread is toast, being replaced by whole-grain edibles.

The fast-food concept at Army-operated dining facilities catering to those who are training in military intelligence courses at this Southern Arizona post is on its last legs, with Feb. 1 being "the drop-dead date," for more nutritious food, said fort food program manager Kendall Brown.

The Army, which began a more stringent healthy diet for soldiers in basic training, has ordered all installations that soldiers attend for advance training to initiate a new concept, which the Army calls the Solider Fueling Initiative.

The object is to "try and get the right foods, the right nutritional foods" into soldiers, especially the generation of those who were brought up on fast food, Brown said.

Many soldiers coming into the Army "are not fit," he said, leading to the decision to change their eating habits by cutting out "fatty and sugary foods," he said.

Some items will completely disappear, such as hot dogs, Brown said.

Others will be replaced by more healthful substitutes like turkey burgers, bacon and sausage, he said.

When beef hamburgers are served, "which will be once a week," the patties will be 90 percent lean meat.

To ensure that there will be no fried foods, the three dining facilities that serve the soldiers in training "will have the deep-fat fryers removed," Brown said, adding that the 11th Signal Brigade's Thunderbird Dining Facility will not be impacted at this time because it serves active-duty soldiers.

However, even though there is no date to stop serving the current food items in the Thunderbird, he believes it will eventually happen.

While it may appear to be a draconian measure to some, post registered dietitian Sonia Blodgett said nearly 50 percent of her patients are soldiers who need to lose weight.

And most of them are in their 20s, she added.

Some enlist in the Army with bad eating habits, and some "don't know how to read food labels," Blodgett said.

In today's society, fast- food consumption is the norm, when in the past it was more like a special treat, she said.

And while more people eat fast foods, "portions have increased," creating additional weight problems.

One soldier who knows the downside of fast food is Pvt. Collin Cook.

At the Virginia Hall Dining Facility, the 18-year-old from Georgia was eating a cheeseburger and fries.

Before he came into the Army he weighed 250 pounds.

"I worked at a fast-food place for two years, and the free meals kind of got to me," the soldier said.

Now he weighs 195 pounds, which is good for his 6-foot-4 frame.

A friend who is almost a foot shorter, Pvt. Johnathan Delfosse, had a different problem. When he went to basic, he only weighed 110 pounds but now is up to 135 pounds on his 5-foot-6 body.

He, too, was consuming a cheeseburger and fries.

When "I was a kid," the 18-year-old from Wisconsin said, "I used to eat a lot of steak."

Brown said that while the tastebuds of the soldiers will change, those working in the dining facilities also will see changes because they have to rework menus and develop new recipes based on what a vendor can provide.

Also part of working the issue will be Shamrock Foods, the vendor for the dining facilities, he said.

It will require many meetings to prepare for the switch, which also will necessitate some expenditures of funds to purchase more baking ovens to replace deep-fat fryers, Brown said.

Sodas no longer will be available, he said.

"Pastries will go away," and desserts will be fruits, with a larger variety for soldiers to select, Brown said.

Ice cream will be replaced by frozen yogurt, and there will be more "leafy vegetables for salads with low-cal dressings," Brown said.