Experts explain which foods you should stockpile before dealing with a natural disaster

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer

When it comes time to stock up on food supplies before a major weather event, most people head straight to the shelves for milk, eggs and bread, but nutritionists say those are terrible choices.

Milk spoils without refrigeration, eggs can't be cooked if the power is out and the bread is not going to provide much nutrition on its own.

The idea of stocking up on milk, bread and eggs before a major storm dates back to the Blizzard of 1978, which hammered New England. Many people were trapped in their homes for days and didn't have access to those products.

"Milk and bread are terrible choices because they’re perishable. If the electricity cuts out, the milk will spoil, and in a couple days, the bread will mold. You need nonperishable foods such as canned goods," said Michael Greger M.D. FACLM, a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety and public health issues.

Man at supermarket

Experts recommend instead stocking up on items with high nutritional value and a longer shelf life. (Ridofranz/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends stockpiling at least three days worth of meals.

It is important to focus on nutritious food that can be stored without refrigeration and eaten without cooking, such as ready-to-eat canned goods.

"Other possibilities include instant packaged mixes like instant oatmeal, mashed potatoes and cup soups (though these require water that may be in limited supply), as well as shelf-stable aseptic packaged soups and juices," Greger said.

There’s a cookbook out called Apocalypse Chow which is a humorous, yet serious attempt at palatable “pantry cuisine,” using jarred, canned and freeze-dried foods.

"Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Health’s infectious disease chief, recommends stockpiling a few weeks’ worth of water, a few weeks’ worth of non-spoilable foods.” "FEMA recommends a gallon of water per person per day, with additional allowances for any household pets," Greger said.

According to FEMA, one can disinfect water, sourced from a freshwater stream or lake, by keeping it at a rolling boil for a full minute or, if unable to boil it, by using water-purifying tablets found in camping stores or using bleach.

Other nutritionists also agree milk, eggs and bread aren't the best items to stock up on.

"I don’t suggest buying milk and bread for the simple fact that milk will go bad if left unrefrigerated. What will you do if the power goes out for too long? And bread provides calories but has almost no nutritional value," said Sara Sullivan, a certified nutritionist.

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"When relying on a limited food supply, it’s important to choose energy-rich foods that deliver quality protein, healthy fat and plenty of fiber," Sullivan said.

Peanut butter or almond butter is high in protein and good fats and doesn't need refrigeration after you crack it open. It's a good idea to keep snacks on hand, like nuts and trail mixes. Calorie for calorie, they pack a big nutritional punch, as do dried fruits, which are high in vitamins and fiber.

Sullivan recommends purchasing the items listed below since they don’t require any cooking or refrigeration, plus they are full of nutrients.


"You may think that eating healthy during a natural disaster is out of the question; however, it's 100 percent doable if you take the time to prepare an emergency food supply in advance," Sullivan said.

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