Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Home Front: survival nutrition

 Its always interesting to see how food and nutrition is handled in disaster situations in film and TV. From The Walking Dead's baby formula and prison storerooms  to The Day After Tomorrow's vending machines, not to mention ZombieLand's Twinkies and Bill the (delicious) Donkey in The Postman.

I did a little reading about the "average adult daily energy intake" which lead to some interesting findings.

It is common to see "8,700kJ" as the average recommended intake, usually quoted on fast food menu's and the like, (as seen here on this poster for some tasty poultry products seasoned with 11 secret herbs and spices, as devised by a well known Kentucky Colonel.)

This figure is based in part by the Food Standard Code as published by the Australia New Zealand Standards Code (FSC). The FSC lists that value for daily intake levels based on an average adult diet. It is interesting to note however, that this doesn't take into account activity levels, and lifestyle.

It is it seems, more of a "minimum level" for and it has been suggested that it is more suited to bed-ridden individuals, rather than active survivalists, running, ducking, dodging and weaving their way through the ruins of civilization.

Interestingly when I looked up the nutritional content of current MRE kits, they suggested that servicemembers (who were classified as highly active men between the ages of 18 and 30) typically use about 4,200 Calories a day. The conversion is  1 kJ = 0.2 Calories (Cals)or 1 Calorie = 4.2 kJ, giving a figure of 17,640 kJ a little over double the "average adult intake diet".

Lets assume that post-disaster, you will not be having a sedentary desk-job life, and will be a rugged, fighting, and self-reliant survivor, chopping wood for fire, hunting and foraging (or farming) for food, and perhaps battling off marauders, zombies, triffids or the elements.

According to the FSC, and "MyDailyIntake.net", a "balanced diet for an average adult" is made up of the following nutrients each day:

Quantity Per Day
8,700 kilojoules
50 grams
70 grams
310 grams
90 grams
Sodium (salt)
2.3 grams
Dietary Fibre
30 grams
Saturated Fatty Acids
24 grams

To meet up with our projects "serviceman" levels, you basically have to double that. Obviously, people have done with much less, for millennia and still managed to fight, survive and prosper, till you now find humanity all over the world. 

These "USCG/ SOLAS standard exceeding" food-bars state on their wrapper that  A daily maritime diet (being stuck on a life-boat, i presume) equals 3,333kJ, and a similar land based situation (say, stranded on a desert island) equates to 5,000kJ. However this is a base-survival diet, and wouldn't be much fun, or enough on its own to keep you fighting-fit.

Again, looking around at the figures, I found the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council published this table.

The average amount of kilojoules required daily is represented in the following table:
12-15 years
10 900 kj
9 550 kj
16-18 years
12 900 kj
10 200 kj
19-50 years
11 550 kj
9 300 kj
51-70 years
10 450 kj
8 800 kj
Adults over 70 years
9 450 kj
8 300 kj
Source: NHMRC, Canberra. These figures represent average requirements for the Australian population. Actual energy needs for individuals will vary considerably depending on activity levels, body composition, state of health, age, weight and height. 

This follows the same sorts of levels as I might expect of an average, active person, lying as it does between the "sedentary 8700kJ" and the "active serviceman 17,640kJ", and well above the "marooned on a lifeboat 3,333kJ" levels the USCG suggest.

So, how do you get that level of nutrition, and maintain it, with limited resources?

Prison-style nutra-loaf?

Stockpiles of MREs?

Mainstay Survival Rations?

a truckload of 2280 kJ Quarter Pounders?

There are lots of choices out there, and it comes down to how you aim to prepare, what you are preparing for, and how you want to live, before and after a crisis comes.


  1. Great article. I'm trying to work out how much staple food to put away in case there is a disruption to food supplies, and this really help. Thanks.

  2. New Diet Taps into Revolutionary Plan to Help Dieters LOSE 12-23 Pounds within Just 21 Days!


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