Considering special food needs is important when preparing emergency foods for the hurricane season, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
Most experts advise preparing a three-day emergency food supply to feed yourself and family members following a storm.
“If you're on a low-sodium diet, dieting to curb hypertension or just trying to reduce the amount of sodium you eat, you probably have seen that many of the foods listed on typical emergency food lists are high in sodium,” Reames says. These foods include canned meats, canned soups, canned vegetables, peanut butter, crackers, chips and other packaged products.
The nutritionist notes, however, that many of these products offer reduced-salt versions of their regular fare. To identify which ones they are, she says to check the ingredients and nutrition facts label on the product or ask your grocer for assistance.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines recommend healthy Americans age 2 and older eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (about a teaspoon of salt) each day. The recommendation for middle-aged adults, African Americans and those with hypertension is to consume not more than 1,500 milligrams daily.
Reames offers these shopping strategies for healthier emergency food supplies:
– Vegetables. Canned vegetables often have salt added and are high in sodium. Choose low-salt or sodium-free canned vegetables.
– Fruits. Regular canned fruits and juices don't have added salt, but they do contain unnecessary calories. Choose fruits canned in water or juice without added sugar. Raisins and dried fruit are naturally low in sodium and are great for snacks or dessert.
– Legumes. Canned beans are a good source of protein and are very low in fat. They don't need cooking and can be mixed with other foods. Choose from several varieties (red, kidney, black, navy) canned without added salt.
– Nuts and seeds. Choose unsalted nuts and seeds (almonds, mixed nuts, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.) for snacks or toppings. Select low-sodium peanut butter instead of regular peanut butter with added salt.
– Meat, poultry, fish. Most canned meats, fish and poultry have added salt; check labels to find those lowest in sodium. Some brands offer no-salt-added products such as tuna, salmon and sardines. In addition, these foods often may be canned in water rather than oil.
– Dairy foods. Choose low-fat canned milk or other shelf-stable milk. Dairy products contain some sodium naturally, but salt usually isn't added to canned dairy products.
– Soups. If you have facilities to heat foods, low-salt or low-sodium canned soups are a tasty option.
– Grains. Most single-serving cereals and instant or mix-and-eat varieties are high in sodium. Ready-to-eat cereals that are practically sodium-free include plain shredded wheat, puffed rice and puffed wheat. Choose low-sodium crackers and Melba toast.
– Snacks. Canned and dried fruit and unsalted nuts and seeds are healthy snack options. If you're hungry for chips, choose low-salt varieties. Make a healthy trail mix by combining plain, spoon-size shredded wheat minis, unsalted nuts and/or seeds and dried fruit.
Editor: Mark Claesgens