MREs: What are they like, and where can I get them?

I have eaten quite a few MREs (military-issue only), and have three or four cases on hand. They’re surprisingly good. Though as stated by Tripler, they’re quite filling, and they tend to stop you up. Which is why some people refer to them as Meals Refusing to Exit.

Military MREs, apart from being in a fancy plastic package are no different from those canned meals you can find in your local supermarket.

In the Greek army we were issued exactly with that: standard cans you could also find on the market. We also had paraffin sticks and matches instead of the flameless heaters issued by the US army.

I’ve heard people say they cannot stand MREs. I like them. But then, I’ve never had to like them. I think they taste like any number of things that come out of a can (think chicken a la king or such) or non-dehydrated camping foods or TV dinners. They’re generally pretty bland, but many of them come with a single serving of Tabasco in a cute little bottle. The only thing I don’t like is the crackers. Even the ‘vegetable’ ones taste like nothing. Dry nothing. But if you get a can of chicken a la king or some Stouffer’s SOS they make a good thing to pour stuff over. My ex-fiancée, who was a helicopter pilot with the 101st during the first Gulf War said she liked to crush the crackers in a canteen cup, and then make a mixture of the dehydrated strawberries (when they still had dehydrated fruits), coffee creamer, and a little water to make a sort of strawberry shortcake.

I think Tripler is a little low on his price estimate. For case of the full military rations I see prices of around $75, and individual meals at a surplus store seem to go for $7 or $8.

I used to have a couple of cases for ‘earthquake food’. But they were eaten and never replaced. When I worked out in San Bernardino I’d put a meal on my dashboard when I got to the facility, and when I opened it at lunchtime it would be steaming. Convenient, fairly tasty, and you can make two meals out of one pack (main course for one meal and the rest for another – plus the crackers, which get thrown into a box and forgotten). But definitely not for dieting unless a single pack is all you eat in one day.

Thanks for the quick responses!

I concede that if MREs are ~1800 calories, then they are certainly not diet food unless only one is consumed in a day. So if that is the only kind of MRE-like food available, then I suppose I’d have to find an alternate solution.

But I have seen some sites that offer three separate 400-calorie meals in one package. Those could work out.

You might want to consult a doctor or dietician before starting any weight-loss program.

MREs are designed for people who are doing heavy physical work every day. As others have said, they’re loaded with calories. They are NOT diet food.

Having said that…I used to buy them when my husband was in the Air Force, and the commissary would carry them occasionally. They were handy to have around, kept well, and tasted all right. Nowadays, it’s illegal to sell MREs to the public, so companies will put out MRE equivalents. I haven’t tasted any of that kind.

If you want to lose weight, you might try prepackaged food or food plans. Wal-Mart’s version of Slimfast helps me consume a reasonable amount of calories for a meal.

Now, I’m a Fat Boring Old Fart™. But with portion control and only a couple of miles of walking a day I can lose weight. I’d suggest high-bulk, low-Calorie (or is that kilo-calorie?) foods. For example, steel-cut oats (McCann’s Irish Oatmeal) have 100 Calories per serve. A spoonful of jam has 50 Calories. That’s enough to hold me 'til lunch. I like to cook it in a slow-cooker overnight with dried cranberries in it. (Obviously, no jam in that case.) Have some one morning, and reheat the leftover the next and the next and the next. A foot-long Subway veggie sub with all of the veggies comes in around 500 Calories or so. (Hint: Add the jalapeños. They add a very nice flavour, and may entice you to drink more water.) A foot-long sandwich should be enough for anyone in one sitting, and it’s easy to only eat half and save the other half for the long drive home. It can be difficult cutting portions if you’re used to big ones; but after a few days it gets easier.

My downfall is rice. Man, I love rice! Plain white rice with nothing on it. But if I eat it, I’m bound to be heavier the next day. If you find that a particular food does that to you, it’s best to find something else.

I don’t think it’s useful to find prepackaged meals that you eat every day. For one thing, the low-Calorie ones aren’t filling IMO. For another, it’s too easy to get something similar at a restaurant – with different Calorie contents and larger portions. Unless you want to eat a veggie sub every day, look at different foods and learn how to cook them. I like to cook. (No, I really like to cook!) So I can decide how many Calories I put in my meals. Today I made seared ahi. What’s that? 250? 300 Calories? A little more for some soy sauce and wasabi paste. Still not too bad, and it filled me up. (Oh, it would have been so good to have rice with it!) High in protein, low in fat.

So be aware of what you’re eating. Eat less of it. Learn to cook foods you like that are low in Calories. Long-cooking foods (like the Irish Oatmeal) you can make extra of and eat over several meals. Just don’t eat it all in one go. Avoid prepackaged foods.

This is also true of Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, and Healthy Choice frozen food. But it’s also true of just about every type of packaged food, frozen or not. So if you want to go that way, simply read the package.

Having been on an operation y’all may have heard of in 1991, we had occasion to subsist on MRE’s well beyond the recommended duration, and my CO was given reason to recall a dog he had as a child, who used to love to eat the overripe peaches that fell from their peach tree in the idyllic back yard. Days after eating a few juicy one, he would howl with pain as he tried to pass the peach pit, taking a long time to accomplish this task, with a lot of pain.

At 6’0", 340#, you’ve got to shed 150 lbs to be at max wt for 17-20 year olds. That’s a lot of diet and exercise, but if/when you get there, that will be one hell of an accomplishment.

A Surplus store near where I worked (not military surplus, but general store-type stuff) had several different packaged meals that they said were MREs. They certainly looked the part, being packaged in the mylar packaging that resists breaking, but can be easily ripped open at the indent. But there were none of the other things I’ve been told Real MREs contain (like the hot sauce bottle). Nevertheless, they looked like at least a pretty good approximation of real MREs – you could get Spaghetti, or Beef Stew, or some other choices.

They weren’t awful eating, and reminded me of food you get for camping. I could easily see eating them with no or little prep. But diet food they weren’t.
I haven’t seen them since. The were pretty cheap, and I’d have stocked them for camping fare.

Not to discourage the OP, but at 6’0" and 340, he’s got a long way to go to make weight for the Army. Here’s a chart:

A lot of what’s in an MRE is very similar to processed food you can find in the grocery store, the spaghetti is pretty much chef boyardi and the stew is just like Dinty Moore. They come with a little bottle of tabasco, a heating element and some crackers and peanut butter, some taster’s choice coffee and a powdered drink mix. IIRC they have a lot of calories per meal. They are intended to be eaten in the field by people doing physical work.

Dude, you got the right idea there, and you’re not the first person to think of it. It’s the whole principle behind Lean Cousine, etc. Also SlimFast is similar but is like “nutrients without calories.” Of course, I’m a bit suspicious of how much good nutrition you can get from them (since nutrients decay with time and processing), but surely frozen is better than “shelf-life of 3.5 years.”

I still think that Lean Cuisine and other diet meals are too small to satisfy someone who is used to eating a lot. High-bulk, low-cal is good.

If you want to lose weight, you need to count those calories. As has been said in th thread, MREs are designed for people doing a decent amount of physical labor every day - probably not great for a civilian trying to lose weight.

If you’re 18, 6’, 340 lbs - a decent weight loss rate might be to aim for 2000 calories / day. This would be fairly gentle and slow.

Eating an 1800 calorie MRE would mean this would be pretty much your only food for the day. Sure, you could do it. But it might get tedious.

Probably best to take it gradually and reduce intake over a period of several months. Remember the stomach shrinks (and the mind’s preconception of a portion adjusts) and eventually you become fine with it, which is the whole point.

But yeah… you could also just eat salads and paper, without tackling the core problem.

MREs are not just high calorie, they are very high in carbs. They are designed for people who are doing physical labor or in extreme climate conditions or both. They are also designed so that you could live off one a day for a period of time.

For those of you who may be a bit out of date on MREs, they have vastly improved since I ate my first one 20 years ago. I actually don’t mind them now. They each come with a heater pouch for the entree. There are various ethnic and vegatarian meals. One thing they have never been able to do is breakfast. The omlet is still the nastiest thing I’ve ever had. After a week in the field there are a bunch of boxes with just the omlet MRE left.

I’ve tried both eDiets and Weight Watchers’ online programs. So far I’m liking the Weight Watchers online program. Basically they assign a points value to every food based on the food’s calories, fat, and dietary fiber. As long as your daily points are under the recommended value, you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose weight. It’s easier than counting calories since they have most food pre-programmed into the program. The spiffy program online makes it very easy to track what you eat.

I think the important thing here is to pick a diet that you can sustain without losing interest. Sure, you could drink Slim Fasts and eat Lean Cuisines all day, but you’re going to tire of them very quickly. That’s another reason I’m liking the WW online program so far… They give you a weekly allowance of points to splurge that will still let you lose weight, but I think the most important thing of a diet is the ability to treat yourself otherwise you’re never going to be able to stick to it.

I’m not a doctor, but have you tried working with a registered nutritionist? Have you consulted a doctor? Many health insurance plans cover part or all of nutritional counseling - ask your parents. One thing I’ve learned about losing weight (I just took off 30 pounds), is that is has to be done gradually and in a healthy manner. Good luck!

The one time I was on the weight watchers online program I liked it. They have tons of good recipes on there and I still use some now even though I haven’t used it in a long time. For someone like the OP it would work well. At his weight he would be allowed quite a few points. The biggest problem I had was that when I got under a certain weight my points dropped pretty low and it was hard to maintain. I like the fact that you get extra points for exercising. If you stick to it you will lose weight at a steady but healty rate.

Aren’t they also high in salt? I recall reading about the problems that FEMA had, trying to feed people after Katrina - older folks with blood pressure problems couldn’t eat MRE’s due to high salt content.