Getting Hurricane-Ready with Healthy Food Supplies

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July 30, 2020


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This post is available in: Spanish

From June through November, it is hurricane season in South Florida.  Every year, the season seems more and more active – potentially causing widespread damage, power outages and flooding. Being hurricane-ready is more important than ever. From mid-August through September is the peak of hurricane season, so now is the time to stock up and have emergency food supplies on hand.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends having at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food in your home. If you think eating healthy during a natural disaster is not possible, think again. With a little bit of planning and preparation , you can succeed in doing just that.

Here is a guide to help you stock up and have a nutritious food supply on hand all through the hurricane season.  With any natural disaster where you lose access to running water and power, two important factors for survival are staying hydrated and consuming an adequate calorie intake.  Consuming nutrient-dense foods that contain adequate carbohydrates and protein, but also fiber, will help you have the nourishment you need during an emergency.

Here are a few tips to help you be hurricane-ready this season.

Stock enough water
A number one priority is to have a sufficient amount of water on hand.  FEMA recommends at least one gallon of water per person and pet each day for hydrating and preparing food. Proper hydration is key to survival – you never want to ration water, even if your supplies are running low. Be aware of alternative safe sources of water in your home – hot water tank or pipes, and know how to access them.

Stock Up on Energy-Rich Foods
With a limited food supply, it is important to choose foods that give you a lot of bang for your buck. We describe these foods to be “nutrient dense” – meaning they provide a lot of nutrition by consuming a small amount.  Think beans – they provide protein, carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Again a food that provides good bang for your buck — not to mention that beans are also budget friendly.

  • Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and broccoli;
  • Whole grains, such as wheat, corn, quinoa and barley;
  • Fruits such as berries, apples, and pears; 
  • Oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sardines 
  • Low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt and milk;
  • Lean meats and vegetables such as mushrooms, sweet potatoes and bell peppers; 
  • Foods rich in healthy plant-based fats — such as nuts, seeds and some oils are also nutrient-dense.  However, they are higher in calories. So try to control portion size that may be of benefit during a time when food supplies could be limited.
  • Foods rich in healthy fats, such as salmon, almonds and walnuts will also help you feel more satisfied after eating.

Choose Comfort Foods Carefully
Yes, potato chips and candy bars can be comforting during stressful times whether it is the pandemic or hurricane season. However, try to limit your consumption of these foods. Many processed foods are loaded with salt and can actually encourage dehydration.  Other processed foods contain a lot of added sugar, which also may give you energy in the short-term but not in the long-term.

Consider Special Dietary Needs
If you or one of your family members has a food allergy or follows a restricted diet, make sure you have the proper food on hand.  Stocking safe foods – gluten-free to dairy-free – for specific dietary needs is essential when access to doctors and hospitals are limited. Have an EpiPen in case of an unexpected allergic reaction. If you have high blood pressure, aim to have low-to-no sodium food options on hand.

Kitchen Tools and Supplies
You have stocked your pantry and have all the necessary healthy emergency foods, but are you stocked up on the proper tools and utensils?  Having a manual can opener seems like a no-brainer, but this kitchen tool might not be on your radar as a tool needed with a loss of power. However, this kitchen tool is critical for you to be able to access your food. Here are a few other items that you should have on hand:  paring knife, aluminum foil, food storage containers, matches,  paper towels, paper plates, bowls, utensils, hand sanitizer and first aid kit.

The goal is to approach your emergency food supply the same way you would when building a healthy plate – including half the plate to be non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of the plate whole grains, and ¼ of the plate lean protein (legumes, nuts, and seeds included).  In addition, when it comes to hydration — yes — water is key. But some foods are naturally hydrating – fruits and veggies – and can help you stay hydrated.

Shelf stable, non-perishable food is essential when stocking up for hurricane season.  These foods have a long shelf life and do not need refrigeration or cooking. Before you rush to the grocery store, check your pantry to see what items you may already have on hand and then make your shopping list. You can shop a little at a time as it leads up to hurricane season so you do not have to buy it all at once.

Sample Shopping List

Canned Goods:

  • Beans and legumes:  black beans, chickpeas, lentils – look for ones that are low to no added sodium;
  • Applesauce – just apples, no added sugar;
  • Vegetables – green beans, artichoke hearts, carrots, beets;
  • Tuna, salmon, smoked fish, and sardines;
  • Low-sodium soups.

Dried Fruits

  • Apricots, figs, dates, raisins. Many dried fruits have added sugar.  Those listed typically are available with no added sugar, just their natural sugar.  Check the label to be sure.

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, peanut – have a variety on hand.
  • Sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax seeds;
  • Nut butters:  peanut, cashew, almond.

Other foods that can be safely stored at room temperature (for extended periods):  whole-grain bread, apples, olive oil. All can help contribute to healthy eating during a hurricane. 

Here are a few more items to have on hand:

Beverages

  • Instant coffee
  • Sports drinks (with electrolytes)
  • Evaporated or powdered milk

Fresh Fruit

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  •  Grapes

Whole Grains:

  • Whole grain crackers, whole grain bread
  • Bulgur (add hot water and its ready)
  • Oatmeal – rolled oats

Will you be ready to feed yourself and your family nutritiously if/when a storm comes?  Be prepared.  Be ready, set and safe!

About the Author

Amy Kimberlain is a registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and Care Specialist (CDCES) with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida. Ms. Kimberlain has 20 years of experience in nutrition and dietetics. Active in the community, she has contributed her expertise to various public health initiatives, including childhood obesity, diabetes and family health. Ms. Kimberlain is an academy media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. She earned bachelor’s degrees in nutrition and Spanish from Florida State University. She is also an avid runner and registered yoga teacher.

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