MRE Ingredients & Nutrition
The taste-tested and battle-proven MRE has helped the army travel on its stomach since the early 1980s. Since those days, global tastes and access to various foods have expanded worldwide. Today there is a vast selection of menus available. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat and potatoes kind of person, MRE nutrition will meet your needs.
As boundaries around the world blend together, exposure to ingredients and techniques also merge. For example, there are more types of foods available today and new technology assists in producing or obtaining anything desired from anywhere in the world.
The ingredients of an MRE are basic. The same holds true for freeze-dried meals. The main difference is the fact that MREs are already prepared meals whereas freeze-dried meals need to be rehydrated with water in order to be eaten. It also has been proven that freeze-dried meal nutrition is not generally as good as MRE nutrition since the freeze-drying process tends to dilute certain nutrients.
US military forces travel and rely on their MREs. Soldiers need food that is nourishing, satisfying, and healthy. Added vitamins and minerals were adapted from the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) to meet those needs of soldiers in combat. Food is supplemented with some vitamins and minerals to make it appear healthy. Many items are fortified with A, C, and B vitamins, calcium and iron. Additionally, the importance of eating the entire meal to receive the full balanced nutrition is stressed. It is advised that high carbohydrate items be eaten first for energy and to save the unopened snacks for when the person is on the move.
MRE calories range from 1,200 to 1,300, but many of those calories are considered empty calories. The average daily calorie requirements in combat are 2,800 – 3,600 for males and 2,000-2,800 for females. The main requirement of MREs to have a long shelf life and to not spoil in warm temperatures requires preservatives to be added such as hydrogenated fat and sugar to keep them from spoiling and assuring that they will last 3 years on the shelf if the temperature is kept below 80 F(27 C).
There are approximately 24 MRE meal menus available today. 20 of them contain meat products, 4 are vegetarian with 2 of the 4 being vegan. Four popular vegetarian MREs are pasta with vegetables, bean and rice burrito, cheese tortellini, and pasta with alfredo sauce. There are also kosher vegetarian meals offered such as stuffed shells in sun dried tomato sauce or vegetarian pepper steak.
In spite of this, after reading labels more closely, it was determined that the bean and rice burrito meal was not completely vegan because of a spice pound cake dessert that contained egg whites and polysorbate 60. And after a second reading, the pasta with vegetables in tomato sauce included egg whites, parmesan cheese, and sugar. This deemed those two meals NOT truly vegan.
Below is a sample of the MRE Nutrition Facts and Ingredients of a complete vegetarian MRE meal.
Pasta with Vegetables in Tomato SauceCalories 210
Calories from Fat 45
Total Fat 5g
Saturated Fat 1g
Total Carbohydrate 36g
Dietary Fiber 4g
INGREDIENTS: WATER, TOMATOES, ENRICHED MACARONI (SEMOLINA, EGG WHITES, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, AND FOLIC ACID), TOMATO PASTE, CARROTS, CORN, GREEN BEANS, ONIONS, PEAS, FOOD STARCH-MODIFIED WITH ERYTHORBIC ACID ADDED, MUSHROOMS, SOYBEAN OIL, GARLIC PUREE (PASTEURIZED AND ACIDIFIED WITH CITRIC ACID), PARMESAN CHEESE, SUGAR, SALT, CELERY, RED BELL PEPPER, AND SPICES.
Calories from fat 10
Total Fat 1g
Saturated Fat 0g
Total Carbohydrate 24g
Dietary Fiber 4g
INGREDIENTS: PINEAPPLE AND PINEAPPLE JUICE, WATER, SUGAR, SODIUM CITRATE/CITRIC ACID, ASCORBIC ACID
CrackersTotal Fat 5g
Saturated Fat 1g
Total Carbohydrate 28mg
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars less than 1g
INGREDIENTS: WHEAT FLOUR, VEGETABLE SHORTENING, YEAST, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, SODIUM BICARBONATE, EXTRACT OF MALTED BARLEY AND CORN.
Spice PoundcakeCalories 280
Calories from Fat 110
Total Fat 12g
Saturated Fat 3g
Total Carbohydrate 36
Dietary Fiber less than 1g
INGREDIENTS: SUGAR, ENRICHED BLEACHED FLOUR (BLEACHED FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), EGGS, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND COTTONSEED OILS WITH MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, EGG WHITES, WATER, GYCEROL, MALTODEXTRIN, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF THE FOLLOWING: SPICES, SALT, XANTHAM GUM, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, GUAR GUM, SOYBEAN OIL, LEAVENING (SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, SODIUM BICARBONATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATES), ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, POTASSIUM SORBATE (TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS), HYDRATED MONOGLYCERIDES, POLYSORBATE 60.
Peanut ButterCalories 260
Calories from Fat 170
Total Fat 19g
Saturated Fat 2.5g
Total Carbohydrate 9g
Dietary Fiber 2g
INGREDIENTS: ROASTED PEANUTS, SUGAR, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (RAPESEED, COTTONSEED, AND/OR SOYBEAN OILS), SALT, VITAMIN C, VITAMIN A, VITAMIN B6, VITAMIN B1
Peanut, Shelled, RoastedTotal Fat 14g
Saturated Fat 2g
Total Carbohydrate 7g
Dietary Fiber 3g
INGREDIENTS: ROASTED PEANUTS, SALT
Iced Tea Drink MixCalories 60
Total Fat 0g
Total Carbohydrate 15g
INGREDIENTS: SUGAR, INSTANT TEA, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL LEMON FLAVOR, TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE (PREVENTS CAKING).
Spiced CiderCalories 84
Total Fat 0g
Total Carbohydrate 21g
INGREDIENTS: SUGAR, MALIC ACID, GUM ARABIC, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, CARAMEL COLOR, SODIUM CITRATE (CONTROLS ACIDITY), TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE (PREVENTS CAKING), AND ASCORBIC ACID.
The MRE nutrition information above is common for the type of ingredients usually found in one. Most ingredients are genuine and they provide a complete meal from entrée to beverage and dessert. In addition, the caloric count is sufficient in assisting a soldier under extreme measures.
MREs have been relied on by the military, outdoorsmen and disaster relief and have saved many lives in all of those scenarios. And because the worldwide state is considered unsettled, they are becoming a common necessity of the future.
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