MREs are a life saver especially when out for camping, on holiday, hunting or on emergency situations where you do not have access to food. Though the food is ready to eat, the packages do not have an expiry date on them which has raised so many questions on how long do MREs last? And if you have been wondering whether MREs are your thing, then, you are in the right place. For this piece, we are going to take you through in-depth research on MREs. But before getting into those exciting parts, get to know them better.
What is MREs?
MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are self-packed foods which are ready to eat. The food is commonly bought by the US Department of Defense for use by its service members when out for training or in a mission. The fact that the food is used by the US military does not mean that they are not allowed to be sold. Nowadays manufacturers are producing quality MREs for sale online, so you should not be scared of getting a pack.
What are MREs made of?
MREs have the following foods:
- Entrée – main dish which comprises of beef stew and spaghetti
- Accompaniments/side dish- rice, fruit, corn, mashed potatoes
- Dessert- pound cakes or cookies
- Beverages- tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, dairy shakes, and Gatorade-like mixes
- Bread or cracker
- Candy- Tootsie Rolls, Skittles, M&Ms
- Spread- cheese spread, peanut butter, or jelly
- Seasoning or hot sauce in some packages
- Ration heater(frameless)- for heating the entrée
- Accessories – sugar, salt, toilet paper, chewing gum, spoon, matches, and creamer among others
Benefits of eating MREs
Saves time: MREs do not require cooking. This saves your time and enables you to pay attention to more important issues.
Nutritionally balanced: Before every package is released into the market, it undergoes through stringent inspection to make sure its nutritional content is well balanced. This ensures you supply your body with healthy nutrients and keep your calories intake in check.
Longer shelf life: MREs are pressure packaged to ensure the food lasts you for long. And with good storage conditions, the food can last you for years.
Are MREs Healthy?
MREs are loaded with nutrients and energy to keep your body fueled. However, if you are new to MREs, your body may react differently to the food. This may include a change in urine, stool, energy, appetite, and digestion.
Note that this does not only apply to MREs alone, it is how our bodies respond to weird or foreign food. So that shouldn’t be something to worry about as your body will get used to it after some time.
How many MREs are recommended daily?
Every MRE package is rich in 1250 calories which comprises of 51% carbohydrates, 13% proteins, 36% fat and 1/3 of daily Military recommended mineral and vitamins. So a full day would comprise of 3 MREs. However, if you are looking forward to losing weight, you can consider using a brand which is specially designed for weight loss.
Can you eat MREs daily?
MREs are specifically designed to be used as survival food. Though you can take them daily, it is recommended to be used for a maximum of 21 days. The reason why it is not advised to go past the limit is simply that MREs have low fiber content. Consuming food low in fiber for long can trigger severe constipation.
What happens if you eat too many MREs?
Too much of everything has its implications and MREs are not an exception. Normally, MREs are advocated to be taken during strenuous activities where more calories are burned. And since most people do not engage in high physical activity the digestive system tends to respond to the high nutrients.
Eating too much MREs can have serious implications on the body with the stomach being the most vulnerable. People who consume high quantities may suffer from excessive bloating, high fatigue levels, and severe diarrhea. This is because MREs have high nutritional content and staggering levels of sugar.
However, consuming MREs is healthy if taken in moderation. You should trend carefully when extending the recommended limits.
Tips for eating MREs for long without constipation
In some scenarios, you may find yourself in a situation where you do not have access to food or water which forces you to extend the recommended time. To avoid any effects that come along with long-term consumption of MREs, you should consider the following.
Take advantage of veggies
Taking low-calorie vegetables after taking your meal can help prevent any possible implications caused by prolonged MRE intake. The vegetables will help water down the high protein content.
Keep the quantity in check
Though the MRE packages are designed to be taken as one serving, you can reduce the quantity by splitting it up. This means you won’t strain your system to digest high-calorie meal reducing the chances of developing complications.
Adding vitamins to your diet will help supply your body with essential nutrients which may be missing from the MRE. In case you do not have multi-vitamins, you can use fiber pills.
How long do MREs Last?
MRES packages are thermostabilized to keep the food for an extended time. Without refrigeration, the food can last you for 3 to 5 years when stored at 80°F. However, the lifespan of your MREs can be affected by the storage temperatures. This means it can either be shorter or longer. High temperatures will always lower the lifespan while the contrary applies.
Tips for storing your MRES properly
Proper storage of food is critical and MREs are not an exception. Poor storage will not only reduce your food lifespan but also impact on its nutritional content. Worse still; bacteria may find their way into your food posing serious health complications.
Knowing how to store your food properly is a great way to keep the taste, nutritional content, and all these bacteria at bay while extending your food’s lifespan. And here are some of the tips you can take advantage of if you are looking forward to extending your MRE lifespan.
Keep the temperatures in check
Without refrigeration, MREs can last you for long. So if you do not have a freezer, keeping the temperatures in check can help prolong your package shelf life.
Get a quality freezer
MREs storage temperatures affect its shelf life. Freezing your food package will help extend its lifespan for future use. When properly refrigerated, MRE can last for up to 15 years. When frozen, the package requires careful handling as it is prone to punctures.
Storing it in a freezer will not affect the food quality. However, the package is normally designed to withstand 1000 flexes. Repeated freezing can cause the package to stretch causing the package laminate layer to break. This can increase chances of contamination which can alter the taste, color or quality of your food.
To avoid that, always ensure that your MRE package is well covered or protected when re-freezing it again.
Use freezer safe bags
In case you do not finish your package and wish to refrigerate it again, consider using freezer bags instead of storing it with the opened package. Exposed packages may alter the color or taste of your food and bacteria’s may find their way.
How to know if your MREs are expired
Since MREs do not have expiry dates stamped on the package, it can be hard for you to know when to bin it. And bearing in mind that the food was not exposed to high temperatures before, you can use the manufactory date to calculate its lifespan.
Normally, an MRE manufacturer date is stamped in codes. But in most cases, the packages will have two different codes. One of the codes represents the manufacture date while the second one is for inspection date.
In most cases, the manufacture date comprises of a four digit code with some brands having a letter. And if you have never used MREs before, it can be a challenge to interpret the code. The code usually consists of two parts, that is; the first digit and the last three numbers.
The first digit presents the last number of the manufacturing year while the last three digits stand for the day of the year. For instance, if your package code reads 5365, it means that the 2 stands for the last digit of the manufacturing years which is 2015, while 365 represents a whole year which is in the month of December 31.
To calculate the expiry date of your MRE, you need to add 5 years to the manufacturing year. In case you are a regular user of MREs, you need to calculate your package expiry dates and determine the order at which you should be consuming them.
Some brands have indicators or TTI which help determine the freshness of your meal. The indicator is designed to change based on temperature changes which help you get an accurate readout. The TTI comprises of two parts; the inner and outer circle. To determine whether your package is safe to eat, the center circle should have a lighter color than the outer one. Anything different from this means that the package is already expired.
Whether planning for camping, hunting, or holiday, taking advantage of MREs will keep your body nourished. The packages are sealed to make sure your food stays fresh for longer and are an excellent choice during times of emergency. So no need to starve your body, just get enough to last you for the period you will be out on your mission. Observe the temperatures and use the TTI to determine if the food is safe for consumption. In case you are planning to take your adventure for more than 21 days, consider following the tips we have provided to avoid any complications.
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