Are MREs Healthy?

MREs (also known as Meal Ready-to-Eat) are single-serving packaged meals. MREs are designed to be self-contained, complete meals that are easy to store and don’t require cooking.

All of this makes them ideal for emergency circumstances. 

Are MREs Healthy

Typically, an MRE contains everything you need to make a complete meal. This includes utensils, an entree, a side dish, spreads, crackers, a beverage mix, candy, and a dessert.

They are designed for maximum nutrition and caloric intake and can withstand many harsh environments, including war and military applications. 

Essentially, MREs are survival food. However, does this mean that they are healthy? Luckily for you, below, you will find out whether MREs are healthy or not. 

The Benefits Of Eating MREs

While MREs are typically used in military expeditions, they are becoming more and more popular with civilians; especially on off-the-grid journeys.

Containing approximately 1,250 calories, each pack provides you with enough fat, protein, and carbohydrates for the most physically demanding tasks.

If a soldier is left eating 3 MRE packs a day, they will be receiving their recommended vitamin, mineral, and calorie allowance for that day. 

Therefore, MREs could be considered as healthy; however, only when consumed for their intended applications.

This would be a high-calorie, nutritious meal in the event of limited and/or no available food supplies. Long-term consumption of MREs could harm someone’s digestion and overall health. 

From the offset, MREs sound like a healthy and sustainable meal. However, it’s not until you look at the details that most of the problem lies.

MREs contain many processed ingredients including sugar, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, caramel coloring, artificial flavoring, hydrogenated vegetable oils, etc.

However, while these ingredients may sound shocking, MREs aren’t intended for daily meals. They are supposed to maintain your body, over a short time frame, when you have no other food available. 

When considering the nutritional values of MREs, it’s important to contemplate your current health conditions.

Their dense nutritional value, long shelf life, and high calorific content could have a negative or positive impact on your body depending on your requirements.

Once you have reflected on this, you could go ahead and eat MREs, however, if not, there are alternative snacks to choose from. 

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The Negative Effects Of MREs

As MREs were created with soldiers in mind; who undertake long, physically demanding activities and need the right fuel to sustain this, as a result, MREs aren’t suitable for everyone.

Their high levels of sodium and fat mean that they are ideal for digging trenches and running long distances. Below, you will find some negative effects of eating MREs over a long period.

MREs Contain Very Little Dietary Fiber 

Consuming MREs over a long time can cause digestive problems such as constipation.

In a study conducted by the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, a study group of 60 people ate varying amounts of MRE products over 21 days.

One group ate 2-3 MRE meals a day, while the other group maintained their usual diet.

The study found that the group who ate the MRE meals listed fewer bowel movements than those who maintained their typical diet.  

One reason for this may be that MREs don’t contain “good” bacteria.

This comes from raw fruits and vegetables; however, once they are cooked, most of the good bacteria, which help to release toxins, are killed off.

As all of the food inside MREs are cooked, they don’t contain any bacteria which is why you may experience constipation when consuming MREs long-term.

MREs Have Very High Fat And Sodium Levels 

Typically, your body doesn’t need very high levels of fat or sodium.

Unless you are constantly doing physical and heavy movements, like a soldier, you won’t be able to burn off high-fat contents and expel excess sodium through sweat.

You may put yourself in danger of developing high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average American man receives 34.6% of fat in their diet, while the average American woman’s diet is slightly higher with 35.1% of fat.

However, in an MRE, you will receive a huge 36% fat. Therefore, only the most enthusiastic and busy survivalists will benefit from this. 

Long Shelf-Life

Standard MREs are prescribed to have a minimum shelf-life of 3.5 years when kept in 80 degrees Fahrenheit storage. With proper refrigeration, they can last even longer!

Some people may believe that MREs use additives or preservatives to maintain their longevity; however, this is not the case. In fact, MREs are free from any additives or preservatives. 

However, despite them being completely additive and preservative free, it doesn’t make up for the taste or quality.

While MREs can last a long time, the better question would be: how long would you be able to eat them. With virtually no taste or textures, some soldiers even get sick of eating them after a while. 


If you are in a situation that allows for a different food supply, many different options remain long-lasting, portable, and convenient. These include:

Freeze-Dried foods

There are the most common alternatives to MREs. Not only do they contain a fraction of the amount of sodium and calories that MREs contain, but they also taste delicious and can be combined with other food to make a healthy meal. 

Canned meats

These are a great option for longevity and contain all the protein you need. 

High-Protein Bars

These are a great lightweight option and contain enough fiber to keep your digestive system healthy.


Overall, it’s important to understand that MREs typically aren’t designed with the general public in mind.

They are created for soldiers who release a lot of energy on the field and need to sustain it.

While they are a great option for emergencies, they are not the healthiest option to replace standard diets. Therefore, when purchasing an MRE consider your options as there may be better alternatives for you. 

Matthew Osborn

Matt is an entrepreneur who has created and successfully exited multiple companies and brands. Now, he dedicates his time to Legionary, where he produces content on guns, family, and freedom.

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