In the world of survival planning and preparedness, the importance of calorie-dense foods cannot be overstated.
It’s not just about having enough to eat, but about sustaining your energy levels and overall health during potentially challenging and strenuous circumstances.
This article will provide an in-depth analysis of what makes a food calorie-dense, top calorie-dense survival foods, tips for their storage, and other important factors to consider when making your selections.
What Makes a Food “Calorie-Dense”?
Calorie density, often referred to as energy density, is a measure of the calorie content of food relative to its weight or volume. Calorie-dense foods provide a high amount of calories relative to their weight.
This is distinct from nutrient-dense foods, which are high in nutrients but not necessarily high in calories.
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Foods that are calorie-dense often contain high levels of carbohydrates, fats, or proteins, the primary macronutrients that provide energy.
The inclusion of these macronutrients, especially fats which offer 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram in proteins and carbohydrates, significantly increase the caloric value of these foods.
Top 27 Calorie-Dense Survival Foods
- Peanut Butter: Rich in healthy fats and protein, peanut butter offers about 190 calories per 2-tablespoon serving.
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are all calorie-dense and packed with essential nutrients.
- Trail Mix: A combination of dried fruits, nuts, and sometimes chocolate, trail mix provides a quick and easy calorie boost.
- Dried Fruits: Dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and prunes are high in calories and sugars.
- Whole Grains: Foods like oats, brown rice, and quinoa are calorie-dense and provide sustained energy.
- Canned Meats: Tuna, chicken, and spam are excellent sources of protein and long-lasting when canned.
- Canned Beans: Rich in fiber and protein, canned beans are a good source of slow-release energy.
- Honey: It’s not only sweet but also packed with calories and can be stored indefinitely.
- Cheese: High in fat and protein, certain types of cheese like cheddar can be stored long-term.
- Dark Chocolate: Besides being a morale booster, dark chocolate is calorie-dense and packed with antioxidants.
- Coconut Oil: Besides cooking, coconut oil provides a high calorie content and can also be used for various medicinal purposes.
- Olive Oil: Like coconut oil, olive oil is extremely calorie-dense and can be used for both cooking and medicinal purposes.
- Powdered Milk: When fresh milk isn’t available, powdered milk provides a lasting source of protein and calcium.
- Granola: It’s high in calories and can be easily stored or packed for on-the-go situations.
- Jerky: Dehydrated meats like beef jerky are high in protein and can last for an extended period without refrigeration.
- Rice: A versatile staple, rice is a great source of carbohydrates.
- Lentils: High in protein and fiber, lentils are a compact source of calories and essential nutrients.
- Pasta: Easy to cook and store, pasta provides a reliable carbohydrate source.
- Canned Vegetables: While not as calorie-dense as other items on this list, canned veggies are important for their nutrient content.
- Canned Soup: Dense, nourishing, and easy to prepare, canned soup offers a balanced meal option.
- Canned Stew: Like canned soup, canned stews provide a hearty, balanced meal with a high-calorie content.
- MREs (Meals Ready to Eat): These pre-packaged meals are designed for outdoor enthusiasts and military personnel, providing a substantial calorie intake.
- Protein Bars: These compact bars are high in calories and protein, making them ideal for quick energy.
- Pemmican: A traditional food of Native Americans, pemmican is a mixture of fat, protein (usually from dried meat), and sometimes berries, providing a highly concentrated source of calories.
- Powdered Eggs: These provide an excellent source of protein and can be stored long-term without refrigeration.
- Sardines: Canned sardines are not only high in protein but also in healthy fats, offering a great source of calories.
- Quinoa: This grain-like seed is a complete protein and also provides a good amount of calories, making it a great survival food.
How to Store Calorie-Dense Survival Foods
The key to storing calorie-dense survival foods is to minimize their exposure to heat, light, oxygen, and moisture, as these factors can degrade the food quality and shelf life. Here are some steps to consider:
- Use Proper Containers: Store food in airtight containers, preferably those made from glass, metal, or high-grade plastic.
- Consider Vacuum Sealing: Vacuum sealing can significantly extend the shelf life of foods by removing oxygen, which slows down the oxidation process.
- Temperature Control: Store foods in a cool, dry place. Basements or pantries are ideal, but ensure they’re free of pests and moisture.
- Regular Rotation: To keep your supplies fresh, use the “first-in, first-out” rule. Consume older items first and replace them with new ones.
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Other Factors to Consider When Picking the Best Calorie-Dense Survival Foods
While calorie density is crucial in survival situations, several other factors are essential when selecting the right foods for your emergency stash. Here is a more detailed look at the considerations to make:
- Shelf Life: Survival foods should be able to last for extended periods without refrigeration or other preservation methods. This is why canned goods, dried foods, and certain types of packaged foods often make up the bulk of survival food supplies. Check the expiration dates on packaged foods and aim for those with the longest shelf life.
- Nutritional Value: Caloric content is only one aspect of a food’s value in a survival situation. You also need a balance of macronutrients – proteins, fats, and carbohydrates – to maintain your body’s normal functions. Micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, are also essential for maintaining overall health and boosting the immune system. Foods like nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and certain canned goods can provide a variety of these necessary nutrients.
- Preparation Ease: In emergency situations, you may be limited in your ability to prepare food. Therefore, foods that require little to no preparation or cooking are ideal. Canned soups and stews, MREs, and other pre-packaged meals can be eaten straight from the package. Additionally, consider the water and fuel requirements for preparing certain foods. For instance, rice and pasta need water and heat to be consumable.
- Taste and Variety: Consuming the same food day in and day out can lead to “food fatigue,” a phenomenon where people would rather go hungry than eat the same thing again. To avoid this, ensure your survival food stash includes a variety of foods. Different flavors and textures can keep meals interesting and boost morale during difficult times.
- Portability: Depending on the nature of the emergency, you may need to move your location. Foods that are lightweight and easy to transport become more valuable in such situations. High-calorie, lightweight foods like trail mix, jerky, and energy bars are excellent choices.
- Special Dietary Needs: If you or any of your family members have allergies, dietary restrictions, or specific health conditions, these needs should be considered when choosing survival foods. Gluten-free, dairy-free, or low-sugar versions of certain foods are available for those with special dietary needs.
- Cost Effectiveness: Budget is a concern for many when building a survival food stash. Some foods offer more caloric bang for your buck. Rice, pasta, and canned goods are often less expensive than MREs or freeze-dried meals.
- Water Content: Foods with high water content can also be useful in a survival situation, as they can contribute to your hydration needs. Canned fruits, vegetables, and soups can provide this additional water source.
By considering these factors alongside calorie density, you can build a comprehensive, well-rounded survival food supply that will sustain you and your loved ones in a variety of emergency scenarios.
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In survival situations, calorie-dense foods are your best allies. They provide the much-needed energy to perform essential tasks and withstand the rigors of unpredictable scenarios.
By understanding what makes a food calorie-dense, selecting the right survival foods, learning proper storage techniques, and considering other essential factors, you’ll be well-equipped to weather any storm.
Remember, preparedness is key, and having a well-stocked pantry of calorie-dense survival foods is a significant step towards ensuring your and your loved ones’ survival in emergency situations.