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Find all the information you need on the best healthy foods to stockpile to ride out the storm during hurricane season.

September 08, 2017

Hurricane Irma’s destructive winds and heavy rain have already left countless communities in its path without power and running water. Now, as this powerful Category 5 hurricane barrels toward Florida, many people along the East Coast are bracing for the worst by stocking up on emergency supplies such as non perishable food. With Harvey’s devastation in Texas fresh on our minds, hurricane preparedness is more important than ever. Active hurricane season, which peaks from mid-August to mid-September, is far from over—now is the time to stockpile healthy emergency food in your home. While eating healthy during a natural disaster may sound unrealistic, it’s 100% doable if you take time and care to prepare an emergency food supply well in advance.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends having at least a three-day supply of non-perishable emergency food in your home. Our hurricane preparedness survival guide shows you how to maintain a nutritious emergency food supply full of energizing foods such as canned beans, legumes, vegetables, fish, and boxed oatmeal. Below, find healthy eating tips, non perishable food lists, and more so that you and your loved ones can avoid pre-hurricane chaos and survive a storm safely.

Hurricane Preparedness

Whether a Category 1 or Category 5 storm, hurricanes can cause widespread power outages and flooding that make conventional cooking methods useless. Ensure nutritious food options for you and your family (pets included!) by stockpiling non perishable foods that do not require refrigeration, cooking, or large amounts of water to be consumed. Canned goods are an essential emergency food staple, but there are plenty of other smart, shelf stable options to consider. Before you rush to the grocery store, check your pantry to see what items you already have on hand, then make a list of items you plan to buy.

During any natural disaster that cuts access to running water and power, the two most important factors for survival are staying hydrating and consuming enough calories. When preparing, prioritize energy-rich foods high in protein and fiber to help you stay focused in the case of an emergency. Try to build a balanced food supply kit in the same way you build a balanced plate—consider ways to include vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and lean meat. When it comes to drinking enough water, keep in mind that some foods are naturally hydrating and can help you reach your daily needs. Below are four essential categories of healthy emergency foods to stow in your home.

Protein: High protein foods also tend to be higher in calories and fat, essential nutrients when your food supply is limited. Canned tuna and salmon are excellent sources of protein and pack in omega-3 fatty acids. Canned beans and legumes and unsalted nuts and seeds are also smart protein sources, and can easily be combined with olive oil and vinegar for an easy and hearty salad. Lastly, energy bars are protein-rich, but check the ingredient list beforehand and avoid those with excess sugar and artificial ingredients.

See More: 5 of the Healthiest Granola Bars, According to Nutrition Experts

Fruit: Consider fresh fruits that don’t need refrigeration such as fiber-rich apples, which can last up to several weeks if stored properly. Dried fruit is also a good option, but try to choose varieties without added sugars—dried figs, apricots, dates, and cranberries are smart options.

Vegetables: Canned vegetables are your best bet when refrigeration isn’t an option—to get the most nutrition, aim to stock a variety of colors including corn, beets, green peas, carrots, and artichoke hearts. Opt for low-sodium when possible.

Grains: Like beans and legumes, grains are energy-boosting and filling. Soaking steel-cut oats, bulgur, and whole-grain couscous in water brings them to life overnight, making for perfect ready-to-eat meals, no heat required.

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Hurricane Eating Tips

Up your preparedness game by taking to heart these five healthy eating tips to make your emergency food supply hurricane-ready.

1. Stock enough water, no matter what.

Having a sufficient amount of water on hand should be your number one priority during a natural disaster. FEMA recommends at least one gallon of water per person (and pet) each day for hydrating and preparing certain foods. Above all, proper hydration is key to survival—consume at least a half gallon daily, taking into account that children or those who are pregnant will need more. Never ration water, even if your supplies run low. Be aware of alternative safe water sources in your home, such as the hot water tank or pipes, and know how to access them. The Centers for Disease Control has additional information on ensuring safe drinking water during a natural disaster.

See More: Buying Water Online Isn’t Crazy—Here’s How to Do it Right

2. Choose comfort foods carefully.

While potato chips and candy bars can be comforting during a stressful time such as a hurricane emergency, try to limit your consumption of these foods. Many processed items are loaded with salt and can encourage dehydration. Also be wary of treats with added sugar (we're looking at you, Pop Tarts). Smart choices include baked veggie chips, multigrain tortilla chips, pita chips, flavored whole-wheat crackers, and dark chocolate candy. 

See More: Top 10 Healthy Chips

3. Focus on energy-rich foods.

When relying on a limited food supply, it’s important to choose foods that offer the most bang for their buck energy-wise. Beans, apples, dried figs, and some whole-grain cereals have plenty of fiber that will help keep you full. Foods rich in healthy fats such as salmon, almonds,  and walnuts will also help you feel more satisfied after eating.

See More: Choose the Best Healthy Cereals

4. Consider special dietary needs.

If one of your family members has a food allergy or follows a restricted diet, make sure you have the proper food on hand. From gluten-free to dairy-free to nut-free, stocking safe foods for specific dietary needs is essential when access to a doctor or hospital is limited. Consider emergency medicine such as an EpiPen in the case of an unexpected allergic reaction. If you have high blood pressure, make sure to have low-sodium food options.

5. Don’t forget kitchen tools and supplies.

You may have all the necessary healthy emergency foods, but do you have the proper tools and utensils for them? Attempting to pry open a can of beans without a can opener puts you at risk for injury—avoid this, and other adverse scenarios by keeping these tools and products on hand:

  • Can opener (manual)
  • Paring knife
  • Aluminum foil
  • Food storage containers
  • Matches
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic utensils
  • Paper bowls and plates
  • Hand sanitizer
  • First aid kit

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Non Perishable Food

Shelf stable, non-perishable food is an essential part of any emergency food supply kit.  The CDC is an excellent resource for learning the exact shelf life of your foods and for knowing the best way to store them. Below, find the best healthy non-perishables to stock:

1. Canned Goods

  • Beans and legumes such as kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, and lentils
  • Applesauce
  • Vegetables such as corn, green beans, artichoke hearts, carrots, peas, and beets
  • Tuna, salmon, smoked fish, and sardines
  • Low-sodium soups

2. Dried Fruits

  • Dried cranberries, apricots, or figs
  • Raisins

3. Nuts and Seeds

4. Healthy Snack Foods

  • Energy bars
  • Trail mix
  • Jerky
  • Rice cakes

5. Dry Pet Food

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Healthy Food List

While they may not necessarily be non-perishable, certain healthy foods can be safely stored at room temperature for extended amounts of time. While some foods such as whole-grain sandwich bread, apples, and olive oil will spoil after time, all can greatly assist in eating healthy during a hurricane emergency. Always check your food for spoilage beforehand to ensure that it’s safe to eat.

1. Beverages

  • Instant coffee
  • Sports drinks with electrolytes (such as Gatorade)
  • Evaporated or powdered milk

2. Fresh Fruit 

  • Apples
  • Oranges

3. Whole Grains

  • Whole grain crackers (such as Triscuit)
  • Whole grain sandwich bread
  • Bulgur
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain cereals (such as Kashi Whole Grain Cereals)

4. Condiments

  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Low-sodium soy sauce

Sources

“Food and Water in an Emergency.” FEMA and American Red Cross. https://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/f&web.pdf

Duyff MS, RDN, FAND, CFCS, Roberta L. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food & Nutrition Guide, Revised & Updated 5th Edition. New York: Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2017. Print.