Typical Food Available for Soldiers Back in WWI and WWII

Food for soldiers back in the day was not always a pretty sight.  With poor conditions and a lack of options, it’s hard to imagine how so many men were able to still fight while being forced to eat the food they were given.  There were no XMRE Meals or fresh water like there is today.  Especially in WWI, soldiers struggled mightily to find a decent meal.  To shed a little light on exactly what went on back then, we decided to take a look at the typical meals for soldiers back in WWI and WWII.


During World War I, a new style of fighting had emerged: trench warfare. For weeks, soldiers were holed up in unsanitary trenches while trying to gain the upper hand on their enemy. During this time, these men got their food in daily rations, and the availability of meat and vegetables varied. For those were positioned on the frontline of the war, it wasn’t uncommon to eat a meat stew and hard biscuit each day. Corned beef and bread were typical WWI staples, although theoretically, troops were supposed to also have vegetables, jam, and butter as well. Unfortunately, these delicacies became harder to obtain as time went on.


During World War II, food for soldiers consisted a lot of canned goods–and for good reason. Canned foods were fairly easy to come by, and they didn’t need to be preserved in a cool environment. Oftentimes, troops could be seen with canned macaroni, Spam, dried eggs and like always, candy was a tasty, popular choice. Being able to keep powdered eggs and milk that were easy to prepare was crucial for keeping a balanced diet for fighters on the front line–even if these supplements didn’t taste the same. Chocolate was also important–the company, Hershey’s, specifically made a chocolate bar for World War II soldiers that had a significantly higher nutritional value and melting point. Unfortunately, with these changes, the chocolate lost some of its beloved flavors and was often used as a last resort for sustenance.

Overall, the diets of a WWI soldier compared to a WWII soldier are somewhat different. World War I struggled to keep their troops consuming a balanced diet with limited supplies of vegetables and fresh meat. With the introduction of so much canned food in World War II, this goal was slightly more achievable, and although dried eggs and powdered milk didn’t sound appetizing, it could easily be followed up with a little candy or chocolate for flavor. Even today, as the concept of what a soldier needs food-wise to perform their best is evolving, nutritionists and dieticians are still fighting to find accessible, healthy options.

Veterans Affairs Services of America