Vegetarian has long been an option, but as of February, the army will be serving lentil burgers, green salads and whole wheat pita as a friendly vegan menu.

Back in October, a group of vegan soldiers went on strike, demanding food that suited their dietary preference. Until now, vegan soldiers were given small allowances to buy alternatives outside the mess hall.

Omer Yuval, a reservist who served in Operation Protective Edge and initiated the protest, said, “The decision is definitely encouraging, and we thank the IDF and appreciate the willingness to make such a significant logistical change. There is room for optimism, but at this stage I prefer to exercise restraint and to wait for results in the field.”

It was also decided to ease the conditions for recognizing vegan soldiers: Soldiers will be able to declare that they are vegan before an officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel, rather than before a lawyer, as was the case until now; the home visit to soldiers who declare that they refrain from animal-based foods will be cancelled, and instead the soldiers will be interviewed by phone by an army welfare officer; the soldiers will be able to receive non-leather shoes and a beret that suit their lifestyle, without any need for advance recognition by the army of the soldier’s “veganism,” but based on his declaration alone.

In general, the IDF has made large steps towards serving healthier food to its soldiers. One of the changes that hits close to home is the decision to move away from chocolate spread. I have fond memories of the dark brown goo that may not have had an ounce of real cocoa in it, but what it lacked in quality, it made up for in an exuberant abundance of sugar and oil. In a pinch it also made a great nighttime camouflage that could be licked off when the patrol was over.  “We buy a couple of tons a year and the problem is that the chocolate spread has a lot of fat,” Lieutenant Colonel Dan Steinfeld, head of food in the army said. ”We are greatly lowering the amount purchased and replacing it with items such as honey, date spread, and halva.”

The army is also going to stop serving sweetened breakfast cereals. Army cooks are being retrained to cook healthier, using whole grains and removing trans-fats.

“It’s all going to be a lot healthier,” said Colonel Avi Harel, commander of the Food Center, the army’s food logistics arm. “Soldiers don’t want burekas” — the savory, filo dough-filled pastries that are heavy with trans fats — and would like to see fewer salads made with mayonnaise and canned vegetables, said Harel.