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Why Is There So Much Sodium in Freeze Dried Meals?

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: September 5, 2020
Why Is There So Much Sodium in Freeze Dried Meals?

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A lingering question in the minds of many preppers is “why the heck do freeze dried entrees have such a high sodium content?”.  I had my own thoughts on the matter but they were unconfirmed so I decided to take the question to my two favorite freeze dried meal companies, Mountain House and Legacy Food Storage.

In this special report, I am sharing their responses verbatim.

Why Is There So Much Sodium in Freeze Dried Meals | Backdoor Survival

The Question

Here is the question that was posed by a Backdoor Survival reader and posed to the two food storage companies:

Do you know why most pre-packaged meals contain so much salt (sodium)?

If you look at the nutritional info for them almost everyone has 20, 30 .. maybe even 40% or more .. of the RDA for sodium! My guess is that it is there for taste purposes but, my gosh, these things are just LOADED with salt. Seems to me that in a survival situation a person wouldn’t want to be loading up on too much salt. Sure a meal might taste as good but I would gladly trade off some taste for a more healthy meal.

Legacy Food Storage Weighs in on Sodium Content

“Manufacturers use sodium for two primary purposes: preservation and taste. In order to prolong the shelf life of products, the amount of sodium in foods is typically increased to certain standard levels. Aside from preservation properties, sodium also helps bind ingredients. It enhances the color of the food, improves taste and function as a stabilizer.

Legacy Foods has strived to keep sodium levels lower compared with other companies.  Our servings are 2-3 times larger than what other companies provide so while the sodium seems high initially, spread over the larger 1 1/2 – 2 cup portion actually makes it lower overall.  Another great reason to choose Legacy!

A great option to cut sodium if you or someone you know is sodium sensitive yet still enjoy the wonderful tastes would be to add smaller portions to sodium free rice or other base ingredients.  Also, Legacy Essential items which are all sodium free or low sodium,  are also available to build low sodium meals or add to existing meals for extra calories/flavor.

During strenuous survival situations (vs. resting), you’ll sweat out more salt, use more calories, need more fat and will need to replenish these.  Storage food is designed for these higher stressful times. ”

Mountain House Also Responds

“Our meals are meant to be eaten by active individuals. If you look back on our history, we originally started making Long Range Patrol Rations (LRPs) for military personnel in the Vietnam War. Then shortly after we made a deal with REI to use this same concept, just add water meals, for backpackers. The intent was for military and active hikers who need to replenish sodium and all those nutrients/calories/carbs, etc. Our process control, history, and expertise are what make our shelf life so incredible and a natural fit for emergencies.

There is naturally a lot of sodium in home comfort foods. If you take our Beef Stew and compare it to a can of Campbell’s Beef Stew, is one significantly better?  No, because the meals are what have a lot of sodium. Freeze drying is the most natural form of preservation, so it’s not the process of freeze drying that creates sodium, it’s the food itself.”

Beef Stew Comparison | Backdoor Survival

The Final Word

By way of full disclosure, please note that I do have a bias for these two companies that is based on quality, taste, and nutritional value.  These are the meal entrée’s I include as part of my own food storage strategy and both are excellent choices.

Legacy Food Storage is an excellent value for both cost per calorie basis and cost per pound of food basis.  They also have gluten free options and all of their products are non-GMO.

Mountain House has been around since the Vietnam era and is known for proven packaging and shelf life, plus, as I mentioned in my review of a Mountain House Emergency Food Supply Kit, they include meat in most of their lunch and dinner meal selections.  For additional information, visit the Mountain House website, Emergency Essentials.


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12 Responses to “Why Is There So Much Sodium in Freeze Dried Meals?”

  1. Unless my death was certain you couldn’t pay me to eat any processed beef stew. This is a subject (high sodium content survival food) that I had asked my doctor about a few months ago. Turns out she is also a prepper. Her response was that of course our bodies need salt. Not sea salt which is now loaded with plastics but kosher salt (less milligrams than plain old iodized salt) or himalayan sea salt which is the lowest in sodium. Even in an intense survival situation a 1 and 1/2 cup serving should be no more than 20% sodium. If you are not in a situation where you are sweating most of your salt intake out of your body between meals those meals should ideally be no more than 10%. There is also a difference between real salt and many of the sodium products used in prepared food of almost every kind which I didn’t know.
    She bought a freeze drier like I just ordered for just that reason. She can make and freeze dry the food that she and her family like and make it way healthier for 1/2 the cost even including the cost of a medium size freeze dryer. I’m hoping she is right about that! Now I realize that purchasing one of these things is expensive. It took me 4 yrs to save up the money to order one and that was on a really good sale.
    Why do companies like Campbells use so much salt? Because all of the overly processed ingredients have no flavor left, hence a ton of salt for flavor. What does it taste like when you dilute the meal with flour? I don’t know but If a SHTF scenario were to hit before I am ready I guess I’d be at Sam’s or Costco finding out! U gotta do what u gotta do!

  2. Love the comments; I am very salt sensitive, in my 50’s, and somewhat overweight. I would need a LOT of water to wash out this salt and feel hydrated! Thank you, all, for this great article and comments.

  3. Think about it, Beans good source of protiein. 1# of beans 6 cups of water boiled.Now you need 2 cups of bean water to hydrate one PKG of freeze dried of your choice, then add to remaining beans. Now you have cut the sodium by 2/3rds plus you have extended your emergency supplies, beans are cheap.

  4. I believe we would all do better focusing on ingredients rather than meals. We will want to use as much naturally available food as possible and not become dependent upon meals. Yes, meals have a place in prepping but I think a much smaller place than ingredients.

  5. I’m sorry but that is hogwash, I have spent the time to check ingredients in several products before I made the leap. and this one example = Emergency Essentials® – Freeze-Dried Ground Beef (Cooked) has only 30 mg (1% RDA instead of the 30% some others have) I have eaten Mountian House pouches to taste test them, true, they are as salty as prepared canned foods (like stew) but for the sake of just buying the basics that I can build meals out of…. I can add salt, pepper, sugar, hot sauce, what ever… to my own liking.

    Emergency Essentials foods are all like this, no sugar added to the fruits, minimal salt, if any (most likely naturally occurring) and they have the 20 – 30 year shelf life, sometimes wicked good sales (that’s when I buy on my puny budget) and they taste great!

    There are options and the baffle me with BS just doesn’t cut it if you’re informed.
    Same goes for “sports drinks” colored water with 2 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt… WTH? That’s not a healthy hydration drink, that’s marketing steeling your money and making you believe it was a good thing. Even my own kids get suckered in to believing that crap… but that’s a different rant! 😉

    I could hint to the web site beprepared or you can just google ” Emergency Essentials” and find them.
    Check it out for yourself 😉

    • Just FYI that this inquiry had to do with meal pouches and entrees and not individual ingredients. Most suppliers of FD “ingredients” use little or no salt and sugar as additives.

      I too am a fan of Emergency Essentials but do feel it is important to make a distinction between “meals” and “ingredients”. EE meals have a similar sodium content to these.

  6. I’m with David on this. I appreciate each company’s attempt to discuss a touchy subject, but their replies do not match 100% with actual health information. Yes, sodium is important if we are in a crisis and are being very, very, very physically active. But what about the crises where we are required to stay put and hunker down, not running around sweating in the wild trying to build a shelter out of leaves and sticks?

    Excess sodium will make you more thirsty & likely cause you to need to drink MORE water than normal, hence the reason that most emergency food bars are extremely low in sodium. And as we all know, water is of critical importance during crises and is likely to be a scarce commodity. Hence, nearly all of the canned vegetables & canned soups that are rotated in my food supply are either low-sodium versions or “no salt added.” We eat the low-sodium versions 100% of the time in our house. I also purchase a lot of individual ingredients, as Renee above said. Most of them are much lower in sodium than the pre-packaged meals. You often have to give up the convenience of pre-packaged meals to get the sodium down. Then you can add your own seasonings, to taste.

    Yes, sodium/salt is a preservative. But as Renee mentioned above, lots of Americans, like it or not, have high blood pressure, diagnosed or undiagnosed. Suddenly consuming a larger-than-normal amount of sodium could significantly raise someone’s blood pressure if he/she is salt-sensitive. That, in turn, will put the person in a health crisis and will make them feel bad physically and mentally, making them less likely to be able to function during an emergency. Not a good combination….

    As far as a lot of “home comfort foods” “naturally” (???) containing a lot of salt, I seriously beg to differ. Uh, popping open a can of “Campbell’s Beef Stew” is not my idea of home comfort food. Homemade beef stew, made very simply & easily in a crock pot, can contain practically no sodium… use raw veggies, meat that hasn’t been marinated or injected with a sodium solution, and regular spices. You can even buy seasoning mixes for roasts that are made without added salt. Or even use something like Mrs. Dash. Same goes for homemade spaghetti sauce and other such comfort foods. I completely understand that very few people actually cook today compared to even when I was a kid, but the explanations by these companies aren’t fully accurate when carefully examined. And even if you make your own “dump” soup (dump in a bunch of cans of foods & simmer — canned chicken, veggies, beans, broth, rice, etc.), you can make it quickly and easily with low-sodium canned foods.

    Finally, as for Mountain House talking about their company’s origins and their products being intended for the military and active hikers, that’s all well and good. But how can they explain the high sodium content of their disaster / “just in case” 2-day, 3-day, and 4-day emergency food kits for the average American family? Right on the “Just in Case – Classic Assortment” bucket it states that it is “ideal for emergency preparedness, camping, or backpacking.” Same thing goes for their “Breakfast Bucket” and others.

    Don’t get me wrong, sodium is an issue across the board, not just with these two prominent companies. We as consumers simply need to be aware of the problem and find ways to incorporate such products, if desired, as starters for a meal, adding our own lower-sodium foods to the products to balance things out. That can mean eating smaller portions of a pre-packaged lasagna mix as part of a meal with more “no salt added” sides or adding “no salt added” canned veggies and rice/pasta/beans to a pre-packaged stew to help extend it but also to reduce the overall percentage of sodium per serving.

  7. Can’t take the price and the items that I have bought just about gag all of us with salt and why you have to put sugar in corn is beyond me. We have decided to bite the bullet and buy an at home freeze drier, take advantage of sales and just make our own buckets. Definitely more work but no excess salt and sugars. Also I can basically cook from scratch which is what I do anyway. I have to say that Essential Food powdered milk is very good and when it’s on sale the cost per gallon is about the same as the store. I haven’t tried Bob’s Red Mill powdered milk but have read good reviews. If it’s good I’ll switch since it’s a lot cheaper per gallon. Also like that you can buy 25 lb bags of a lot of things. Non GMO, no pesticides, etc.

  8. I don’t entirely buy the argument. Sodium isn’t the only salt we’re going to sweat out–we’re going to lose potassium too. I realize the salt substitute can be bitter, but just a little shouldn’t affect the taste. And there are also a lot of other foods with high amounts of potassium that could be added.

    Too little potassium will lead to muscle cramps, which will impair both hikers and strenuously-working preppers.

  9. We decide red to try some of our freeze-dried meals last year on a camping trip. We had mixed results with taste (we tried several different brands) and how the change in diet made us feel. The most alarming result was a sudden late night emergency room trip for my husband a few days later. He had previously undiagnosed high blood pressure, and I believe the sudden change in diet caused a spike in blood pressure. Thankfully my husband is ok. I’m glad we tried some of our foods in a trial run. My plan moving forward is to purchase more individual ingredients and less entrees.

  10. Thank you for this article. We have tried a number of freeze dried meals and added cooked rice to as a way to dilute the salt. In a real grid down emergency perhaps chopped potatoes, corn, or other veges would/could be used. And as was discussed…. in an emergency more salt would probably be needed. (We wouldn’t be ‘snacking’ on sodium high snacks either!)

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