- An MRE can be a critical food resource for military personnel and those trying to make it through emergency situations like natural disasters.
- Eating MREs over a short period of time is not likely to be harmful, but extended consumption of MREs alone might lead to higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, and increased bouts of constipation.
- You can improve your health while eating MREs if you drink more water and supplement your diet with healthier foods like fruits, vegetables, and probiotic foods.
If you are looking to stock up on emergency food resources that can last for years, you should find out if MREs are healthy to eat.
MREs are not healthy to eat over a long period of time since they generally don’t provide enough fiber and nutrients for a standard diet. In a survival scenario where food is extremely scarce, MREs can be much healthier to eat than spoiled food or no food at all.
An MRE can include a wide selection of food, so some MREs may be healthier than others. Though I often enjoy eating MREs, I try to eat other food along with them to maintain as balanced a diet as possible.
What Is An MRE?
One of the most convenient food resources you can have during a military operation or survival situation is an MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat).
An MRE is a common food ration provided by military organizations like the Army, Navy, and Marines.
Though MREs are traditionally developed for military use, many companies develop MREs for civilian use during hiking trips or natural disasters.
If you have limited access to food, an MRE can be much better to eat than other options like no food or contaminated food.
What Are The Benefits Of MREs?
One of the primary benefits of storing MREs is having easy access to portable and calorie-dense food that is safe to eat.
Since they often pack loads of calories and nothing imminently harmful, MREs can be a solid food resource when trying to maintain good basic health.
I find MREs to be similar to sugary sodas since they both are not particularly healthy, but can be effective for basic sustenance when food is scarce.
For the amount of space MREs occupy, the high amount of calories they provide can be valuable to get you through a survival period.
If you need to survive for a few days in an isolated area, an MRE can be a safe food option since they are packed in airtight containers to keep the food inside consumable.
In an emergency situation, you may not have the cooking supplies needed to prepare your food the way you might in a kitchen.
Some MREs come with canned heat, utensils, and other supplies to help you warm up and eat the food.
When you're on the go in survival mode, you will likely have a very limited amount of space to bring items with you.
Food that is healthier than an MRE might be too large to fit in extremely low storage space.
Aside from food, you would need to bring other items to stand a real chance at survival.
Having clothing, shelter, tools, and other supplies can be just as important as food to make it through tough times.
Are MREs Healthy To Eat?
Though I’d be grateful to get my hands on any kind of food in an emergency, I’d prefer eating food that is as healthy as possible.
Since the food included in an MRE must have a long shelf life, MREs usually don’t include healthy perishable items such as fresh vegetables and fruits.
MREs can generally provide basic nutritional needs to survive and persist, but most of those calories are often allotted to carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Eating MREs may not be disastrous to your health over a few days, but they are not ideal meals to eat over longer periods since they tend to lack fiber, nutrients, and other healthy elements such as probiotics.
Since stockpiling and prepping is a popular interest these days, it wouldn't be surprising to find MREs with a broader range of ingredients that could satisfy more nutritional needs.
A civilian MRE might be used for camping, preparing for natural disasters, or other situations where food might be hard to come by.
Since MREs options are now as wide as ever, there is a better chance you may find healthier MRE choices today than in years past.
MREs that provide a wider variety of nutrients are more likely to be complete meal kits as opposed to snacks, desserts, or other smaller items.
A big reason an MRE is less healthy than a standard meal is the preservatives that are added to push the limits of its shelf life.
Salt may seem harmless, but eating high amounts of it with other food-preserving chemicals can lead to higher blood pressure and cholesterol.
MREs are often high in fat and sodium and low in fiber compared to a standard well-balanced meal.
If you're in a non-emergency situation, MREs should not be used for daily eating purposes as they can increase constipation due to the lack of fiber.
If you are not as active as a soldier in combat, you probably won’t be able to burn off the excess fat, sodium, and general calories you consume from the MRE.
How Can I Improve My Health When Eating MREs?
Since an MRE often contains different types of food in separate packs, you can consume a portion of the MRE and keep the rest sealed for later.
If you only require a certain amount of calories per meal, the food you don’t need to eat doesn’t have to go to waste.
Eating more calories than you need can be unhealthy and wasteful to your limited food supply.
The unopened packs in the MRE might not be as secure as they were in the completely unopened MRE package, but they should still have a longer shelf life than if they were opened.
If you enjoy regularly eating MREs, you should try to supplement your nutrition by eating healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables.
You should also try to eat foods with good bacteria such as yogurt and sauerkraut, which can help to improve your gastrointestinal health and digestion.
Since an MRE can often contain high levels of sodium, you should also try to drink plenty of water to help offset your sodium intake and improve digestion.
What Are Alternatives To MREs?
Depending on your situation, there may be other food options with extensive shelf life that can be healthier than an MRE.
Since storing fresh vegetables and fruits might be difficult in a survival situation, having dried or freeze-dried fruits at your disposal might be an easier way to complete your nutritional needs.
Raw natural foods with low water content can provide a hefty amount of nutrition and be stored for an extensive period of time.
The cost of an MRE can be quite high due to its specialized production and packaging, so the price you pay for it could be much higher than canned or frozen foods with the same ingredients.
If you bought an MRE with ravioli, a similar canned or frozen ravioli might cost less than half as much and include a higher volume of food.
Since canned and frozen foods sometimes have less preservatives than food in an MRE, the canned and frozen foods might also be healthier.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker