View topic - The Absurdly Low Caloric Content of Freeze Dried Dinners

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 7:03 am 
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On my last trip I used up a bunch of Mountain House Freeze Dried "Two Servings" dinners that had been languishing at the bottom of my canoe tripping food collection at home. I had bought them at various times over the years on sale, and I was happy that after a 3km portage all my evening meals for the remaining 9 nights of the trip could be these ultra lightweight foods. Also on the upside - they were tasty and wicked easy to prepare.

But on the downside the package seems wasteful and, while reading the nutritional labeling on the back I was startle to discovered that a "two serving" backpacker dinner had a total of 600 Calories. That's ABSURD. My basal metabolic rate (using the "Harris-Benedict Equation" is still over 2,000 Cal/day. Anyone who is backpacking, canoe tripping, or doing other strenuous outdoors activity easily increases their metabolic rate by a factor of 1.7. More when the weather starts to get chilly. So I'm burning in the vicinity of 3,400 Cal/day, and this $7 dinner for two provides about 1/6th of my daily caloric needs.

I lost weight fast during those 9 days.

How can these people legitimately market this stuff for anyone but couch potatoes?

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 7:41 am 
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Home dry instead. Or live with the low-cal meals and add the desired number of choc chip cookies for desert. (Can't lose either way ;-) )

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 8:23 am 
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Had missed that completely!

Does using dehydrated (instead of freeze-dried) food make up enough caloric content? At first glance, can't see that it does.

More generally, I was worried that I was not getting enough fat with either freeze-dried or dehydrated food. I guess that food with little fat will have far less caloric content.

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 8:28 am 
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One portion = 300 calories, which is just great between two days of paddling if you want to come home looking ripped.

Another thing to check when you buy freeze-dried is the grams of protein per portion. It can vary quite widely from one recipe to the next.

There is no shortage of sodium in those meals!


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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 8:40 am 
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Allan Jacobs wrote:
...Does using dehydrated (instead of freeze-dried) food make up enough caloric content? At first glance, can't see that it does.

More generally, I was worried that I was not getting enough fat with either freeze-dried or dehydrated food. I guess that food with little fat will have far less caloric content.
Not sure what you mean by "at first glance". You can make home dehydrated as high in calorie content and portion size as you wish. True enough, it should be low in fat to prevent early spoilage during long term storage, but in my experience a little residual fat is really not a problem, especially if you plan to use it within a few weeks. Beyond that, well packaged home freeze dried food keeps nearly indefinitely in the freezer until you are ready to use it.

For the first Yukon 1000 canoe race, the (ridiculous) official requirement was that we have 22kg of food per person (food weight in the boat, water not included). In our voyageur crew of 7, I proceeded to home dehydrate something well in excess of 200 pounds (dehydrated weight) of casseroles and the like for breakfast and dinner main meals. We ended up using less that a third of what we were required to carry. It was all very tasty and everyone ate all of what they were served. No one lost any weight during the 6 day race.

To add more fat to your meal, simply pack a small plastic bottle of olive oil, or in cooler weather bring butter with you. Either will work well.


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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 9:09 am 
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I agree with nessmuk. I add 2 large tablespoons of virgin olive oil to every meal I eat when tripping. That a 120 calories per spoon or 720 extra calories a day. It blends in well with my home made dehydrated meals. I also take with each meal 3 x 1000 mg flax oil capsules for omega 3 fatty acids. That adds another 90 calories to the days calories. I have no extra fat to burn and if I do not supplement I lose strength after the first week out.

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 9:37 am 
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Animal fat is probably what fueled the evolution of the human species. Our bodies are very well adapted to burning it.

Brains for breakfast anyone? :D

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 1:59 pm 
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Going back at bit less, there was the voyageur pork and beans diet. :D
You can still buy salt pork in some places if you want some on your trip.

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 2:20 pm 
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What about pemmican? I recently read that autumn fat was the most highly saturated and therefore kept the longest. Now's the time.....

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 7:25 pm 
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Great suggestions!
I had no idea that others not only were concerned with getting enough fat but also had figured out how to get it.
Don't understand where the fat goes when freeze-drying, or does it?
And does fat go when dehydrating?

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 8:16 pm 
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Me, on the other hand, desires the weight loss that I get from tripping!! 8)

I actually think it's too much food. Because as you say it serves 2. In fact I'd like to see a single serving available for additional weight loss both from my waist and pack!

Don't forget, other caloric components are probably consumed in addition to your 600 calory meal? (energy drink, snacks, maybe beer or wine...) they add up too.

But they do make some pretty good meals, pretty tasty! :thumbup:

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 8:27 pm 
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It's the fat that spoils, so fatty foods dont really dehydrate well to begin with (i.e. why you have to cook ground beef and render the fat out before dehydrating. Cold cured meats dry out most of the fat by drawing it out of the meat using salt...et al)

Another source that I am getting into is coconut milk powder, using it as a condiment & add-on into dishes as a milk alternative. Half a 50g packet will add another 200 calories to a meal, tastes good (spaghetti coconut bolognese anyone?) and it's almost all good saturated veggie fat with a shot of protein.

I even throw in a tablespoon of the stuff as creamer in my coffee, woot an extra 100+ calories.
Yeah, I am one of the few people that GAIN weight when I go tripping, me likey my food. :thumbup:


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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 8:50 pm 
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SteveBoal wrote:
But on the downside the package seems wasteful and, while reading the nutritional labeling on the back I was startle to discovered that a "two serving" backpacker dinner had a total of 600 Calories. That's ABSURD


That is absurdly low! As Gerald said, its very easy to carry a liquid fat source like olive oil or the oil of your choice. Animal fat will keep if its rendered (like lard, or beef tallow). In my bannock mix, lard is already cut into the mix at home.

I carry olive oil in narrow mouth Nalgenes (the only leak-proof containers I have found that I can trust), and add a generous amount to my dehydrated one pot meals for dinner, and fry up Ovaeasy eggs and pancakes in olive oil in the morning. I pour by eye, but keep an eye on the graduated measures on the side of the Nalgene. If there will be lots of fish meals to fry up in the pan, I allocate 50 ml per day on a trip. If no fish or only occasional, about 30-40ml per day.

I tried the Mountain House and other meals, but find the salt content repellant. Ya I can eat them but I like my home and grocery store dehydrated mixes better, and adding olive oil to my one pot meals makes them come alive with flavour and texture.

Lots of fat is very good, at home or in the bush. Fat won't make you fat, it's the carbs, but that’s another topic! :D

I read a lot of history of the Canadian bush, and what is a constant theme about food and diet, is how everyone talks about how much meat and fat they eat, and how good and strong it makes them. In the literature, new folks to the bush initially balk at the diet and don't consume much meat and fat, until they start to get ground down by the toughness of life and travel, and they remark at the incredible stamina and good health of the northern bush people. Then they always shift their diet to heavy on the meat and fats, and the new-comers remark about how it changed their life, and how much better they feel, and how they can start to keep up with the hard core travelers.

I still bring lots of carbs (rice, pasta, baked beans in my dinners, and granola and pancakes and jam for breakfast), but I always top up the fat generously with olive oil.

Most folks are not doing expedition level tripping for a month or more. Read their accounts, and its just about standard operating procedure that the diet is high fat: vegetable oils, lard and butter. Expeditioners tend to fade and drag their butts and be miserable without a high fat diet.

I cannot imagine being a vegetarian. But if a veggie, I recommend a high fat diet, and olive oil is my best recommendation for the fat – its incredibly good for you.

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2013, 8:56 pm 
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I like fats and oils for flavour. There’s no shortage of calories in our meals. Coconut milk comes in a paste form, which we use for Thai dishes. It keeps well and is a great addition to the menu. Olive oil is no stranger to every dinner meal. It keeps well and is tasty. The lard cut into my bannock mix adds calories no doubt. Butter stays home, though ghee sometimes comes along. I’ve never counted calories. As long as nutritious and filling meals start and end our days, with soups in between, then I’m a happy camper. How many calories are there in Scotch? Never mind. I forgot, I don’t count calories.


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PostPosted: October 9th, 2013, 8:26 am 
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Whiskey is zero carbs. :D

For an oil container, I keep those small spritz bottles that eye glass cleaner solution comes in & small hairspray pumps. Leak proof...and cheap. Plus the mist pumps let you be a little judicious with their use spritzing a steel pan to keep non-stick & keeping knives & axes rust free.

Ghee goes in the Nalgene screw top "peanut butter" jar, or if I'm going with a group I've had luck using empty peanut butter jars without getting a leak. But the Nalgene's are def more robust.


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