T Nation

Military MREs - your opinions please?


Hey fellas (and ladies) - am doing some analysis of the military MRE - am curious to hear some reactions to the 'nutritional strategy' (cough) of the military for 'high performance' of the soldier. I include a breakdown of calories and 'suspect' ingredients - please let me know what you think. Too much sugar? Not enough fat? Certainly not enough protein (and they use soy protein as well). Anything you'd add? Tyrosine? BCAAs? Would you eat this if your life depended on it?!

MRE Composition ?Grilled Chicken Breast?

Grape Jelly: 70 cals, 12 grams sugar ? corn syrup, water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar

Cocoa: 20 grams sugar, 2 grams protein, 5 grams fat 190 cals ? sugar, corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, dextrose

Fudge Brownie ? sugar, bleached flour, partially hydrogenated soybean/cottonseed oil, 29 grams sugar, 4 grams protein, 18 grams fat 330 cals

Wheat Snack Bread ? 180 cals, 2 grams sugar, 5 grams fat, 3 grams protein. Bleached flour, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, soy flour

Iced Tea mix ? sugar, 15 grams, 60 cals

Spiced Cider ? 21 grams sugar

Grilled Chicken Breast Fillet with Rib Meat ? corn syrup solids, hydrolyzed soy protein, 13 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 1 gram sugar 90 cals

Skittles ? 240 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 45 grams sugar ? sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, dextrose

Minestrone Stew ? 150 cals 6 grams sugar, 5 grams fiber, 7 grams protein, 2 grams fat ? monosodium glutamate

Cals - 1394
Sugars ? 151 grams (x4 = 604)
Protein ? 29 grams (x4 = 116)
Fat ? 16 grams (x9 = 54)
Sugar makes up 45% of the caloric value of this MRE.
Protein is less than 10%.
Fat is about 4%.
Other 40% of calories is ?complex carbohydrates? ? generally maltodextrin.


Well, my life has depended on them and I have eaten them.Having said that, I will agree that they are not the most nutrtionally perfect food for members of this forum.I think that the high sugar and carbs are probably for energy,that just a guess.I really hope that Tampa Terry will give us her take on this,armed with her usual excellent breakdown we can forward them to the Dept.of Defense(where someone will say "Holy Shit,someone actually read the nutrional break down of MRE's.What do we do now?"


Had to eat american MRE's for a couple of months and I found that I would need at least two a day and preferrable three a day, after your post I can see why. The lack of protein and amount of sugar and salt is despicable but of course is done to save money.

British MRE's though not having as much variety seemed alot more substantial. But we only had about 6 different MRE packs to choose from.


I've been trying to come up with the perfect field food for years. I don't think it will ever happen. A natural med doc nutritionist even suggested eating the local vegetation for calories and nutrients.

They biggest thing is to cycle your protein down prior to going to the field and brining good poogey bait. I have to go this weekend. So I'll let ya know what I try. Maybe some day a cheap super food will be available for us. Till then, it's sunflower seeds, chex mix and MRE's.



Well, as least they don't come with a pack of smokes anymore!


look on the bright side. if your stuck in the desert or irac or afghanastan an mre is a hell of a lot better than the alternative of camel shit!


The main purpose of the MRE is to provide a practical meal while deployed.

That said, I'd love to see Mr. Berardi try to tackle this one - possibly write up a well-put argument as to why it would be in the military's best interest to make these meals more nutritious, argue how it would improve their performance, how it would be more practical, and hopefully give a few ideas as to what meals could be made that have both taste, nutrition for a physically demanding environment, durability, and practicality.

What do you say John, want to tackle this one, and possibly become known for the man who changed the military's meals?

We all know one of Berardi's meals would be much more befitting of a soldier than the current MREs - and improving performance, or at least preventing muscle-wasting, strength/endurance loss would be of great benefit to anyone finding themselves deployed on a field.


I am a Navajo and I grew up poor as hell. I was in the Army and I didn't mind eating MRE's. What ever the other guys didn't want, I ate. I guess I got enough protein. I never had a problem putting on muscle during that time.


Great stuff - I would love to see what Berardi could come up with; but the problem is that Americans tend not to look at food as potentially being 'performance salient'; that is, food is food, drugs is drugs, and never the twain shall meet. What would happen if we started thinking of food as drugs? Bet they'd be a bit more interested in the MREs then if they saw that chocolate fudge brownie as a drug rather than as a comfort food. For you fellas who've been in the field, to what extent is the 'comfort' aspect important? Should we sacrifice spot on nutrition for psychological comfort? Hard to snuggle up to an MRP, after all, though I've learned how to. It helped that it was poured onto my wife. Waddya think?


having served in the military and eaten plenty of these things, I can tell ya. The only benefit these things have(if you want to call it a benefit) is putting a high amount of calories in one meal for someone who is burning extreme amounts of calories(as in a soldier in battle). I always wondered why the military wouldn't take a more performance nutrition based approach, it would only increase energy, delay fatigue, etc. Then I remembered the almighty dollar and the fact that all DOD money goes to the lowest bidder. All these MRE's are packed with refined sugar and trans fatty acids, thanks uncle sam!!


I've already posed this question to JB. I think he would be the best for it.

But as some have said, it has to taste good. A soldier may be dehydrated, but if water is warm he won't drink it. Or at least not as much. Same with food. I know plenty of guys who won't even eat the MRE's. Some won't even touch the stuff cooks make for us. It would be nice to make a nice performance food. But there is a couple slight problems. 1. Joe doesn't eat anything healthy or tastes bad 2. Several units can only pack 1 MRE a day and have no access to chow runs like my COLT team. Although we have a vehicle and can load it up, we are still rationed to 1 MRE a day per guy and a hope of a chow run to come by.

So for govt use, it has to be cheap, small to pack, keep fresh for weeks(min, preferablly months to years) and tasty. But the reality is if a company came up with something that could meet all these standards, the govt wouldn't need to spend money on it. Just supply it in every PX and make it available abroad. Word of mouth is what makes sales in the military. Make a quality product and everybody will use it.

Maybe Biotest would like to take this project on. Just make sure you give it to some of us to try before you finalize :smiley:

4/133FA COLT chief


after reading the ingredients, it confirms even more what is suspected. you guys don't follow the goverments guidelines for food, why would you think that MRE's, which probably by law follow the guidelines, would be remotely healthy?
yes, they're made as cheap as possible, and they have the most calories at the best price and convenience.

i heard that they decrease your BM's so you don't have to go as much when you're out fighting the war. i also heard a rumor that they put a laxative in the chewing gum so you don't get stopped up. anyone know if either of those are true? hahaha

in the way way past, soldiers ate whole foods consisting mostly of fat and protein. pemmican is one the indians used, it was a mixture of dried meat (powdered up) and fat. sometimes they put berries in if they were available. this was excellent energy and could sustain them for as long as needed. eskimoes and indians used that for food and they were in excellent health and had amazing strength and endurance for their environment.

i have also heard of dairy products being used for soldiers. The mongolians were fierce fighters, and if i recall correctly they would take lactating horses with them to fight and make a type of yogurt out of the milk. portable and full of energy. that was all they had for food and they were some of the best fighters.

that being said, beef jerky, cheese, nuts and dried fruits and berries make great stable foods to take camping or otherwise out on a long trip for energy. i have made pemmican but the flavor leaves a lot to be desired. i suspect under the right conditions, you could eat it with much delight, but normally it's not that great.

i ate the equivalent of MRE's, however it was freshly prepared. it was on the wildfires. they tried to pack as many calories in that little lunchbag as they could. candy bars, nuts, fruit, sandwiches, chocolate bars, etc. NOT what i would call idea. myself and a few people tried to stay 'low carb' like we were eating before, but i know it was practically impossible for two weeks to eat low carb. i had to compromise. even with all those carbs, you do burn all those calories off and i certainly didn't gain weight...


Yes MRE's do stop ya up. And the chewing gum if swallowed will loosen it up. Same with the Tabasco sauce. I've heard of some guys swallowing cigarette filters instead. Pretty gross.

Along the lines of the nuts and beef, the most common poogey bait is sunflower seeds and jerky. Toss in some dominoes and a deck of cards for spades and your ready to go!



I wouldn't use them for daily life. Understand something food expendibility is totally different in the military than in civilian life. MREs are made calicorally dense and loaded with sodium.......trust me being a Marine (0331) I relied on these things just as much as CLP ( don't ask, its a grunt thing). You burn so many calories when training in the field MREs come to extreme use. The downfall was they constipated the hell out of me.
So the bottom line, there loaded with calories, daily civilain use is not recommened, but put some in your car, and at home in case of any kind of distress


You guys also got to remember that MRE's are also deisgn to last forever so they have high sugur and salt contant. So that food won't get spoiled. When you can't have real food for 30 days or more an MRE taste like a steak. They, take MRE's out when they go out on a mission for days maybe even months, then they come back to base to eat real food.


They are calorically dense and I believe they have additives that are designed to "back you up" a little bit. You can't have soldiers taking a dump every morning and reading the paper I guess.


you definitely hit the nail on the head when you said it was to preserve the food. British MRE's don't have an expiry date on them, can't remember if the US ones do. If you are stuck with British Ratpacks then US MRE's taste like Lobster Themadore.
There's definitely a constipatorary agent put into them. We used to have a biscuit with 'AB' stamped on the package, more commonly known as Arse Blockers.


During the Gulf I was on a LRSU team and we would live on one a day during an 8 day mission. Field strip it and get rid of all anything that is not essential. I also packed protein powder and Ramen noodles. I didn't have enough water so I would make it into a paste and eat the noodles raw. MREs do reduce the amount you dump. I am glad, because we had to dumb in the MRE bag and I would hate to fill it up.

Me Solomon Grundy


Solomon - did you also take multivits/minerals? Any supplements?


The reason they are like that is because there WILL be many times when a soliders has a chance to eat only once and that is it. It's about energy, it's not about being a body builder and watching everything you eat while you are in the field. When I went through boot we had days when those were all we would eat, they arent bad tasting at all. Like other poeple have said not good for you, but what there ARE used for they are great.