Healthy, Must-Have Foods for Hurricane Season

By Rachel Savelle

Reviewed by Karla Shelnutt, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida, and Gail Kaulwell, PhD, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida

Whether you are new to Florida or a life-long Floridian, you are probably familiar with the state’s ever-changing climate. But one thing is certain – June 1 through November 30 marks the season for when we are affected by hurricanes in the neighboring Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Although each storm may not make landfall, each season averages 12 tropical storms, 6 of which develop into hurricanes.1 Hold on to your hats, folks! The strong winds of these storms can knock out trees and powerlines, so it’s imperative that you stock your shelves for a potential power outage.

What’s in Stock? – Plan Ahead!

Plan for at least three days’ worth of water and shelf-stable, nutrient-dense foods for each family member.3 Foods that are nutrient dense supply plenty of nutrients and are low in sugar, saturated fat, sodium, refined starches, and other substances associated with increased disease risk.2 Be sure to plan ahead for special diets, as well as for babies and older adults.3 Below are some examples of healthy, must-have foods to keep on hand and their approximate shelf-life:3

6 months:

  • Non-fat powdered milk is a great source of nutrients like calcium (promotes bone health), protein (builds/repairs cells), and vitamin A (important for vision and skin), just like conventional milk. 4 Be sure to have clean water available for preparing the powdered milk.
  • Dried fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals and helps meet your daily fiber requirement. Look for “no sugar added” varieties!
  • Dry, crisp crackers and ready-to-eat cereals, especially whole grain, provide nutrients like B vitamins and fiber.

1 year:

  • Canned vegetables/soups. Canned beans and legumes are low-cost, high-fiber foods that also provide protein.5 Find “low/no sodium” labels to avoid the not so great for you components that sometimes come with shelf-stable items.
  • Peanut or other nut butters/canned nuts don’t require any prep. If you’re like me, you may want to eat peanut butter with a spoon, but you can easily spread some on crackers or make a sandwich. Nuts provide your body with heart-healthy fats!

More than 1 year:

  • Canned meats/fish are high-protein foods. Salmon contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as do sardines, a great dairy-free source of calcium. These products, if unopened, will stay fresh for years after their printed date. Just check for off colors and/or odd smells before eating them!
  • Water is probably the most important must-have. Buy bottled water for each hurricane season, or sanitize a bathtub and fill it with water when storms are on their way. Plan for one gallon per person, per day.3

Watch the Clock! –Food Safety Reminders and Take Home Message

Keep in mind that once the power goes out:

  • Eat foods that will spoil first.
  • After 4 hours, don’t eat anything from the fridge or freezer.3
  • Try to keep the fridge/freezer doors tightly closed.

Prepare for hurricane season with healthy must-have foods! The ideas listed above are a great place to start, but there are plenty of other nutritious options to please the whole family!


  1. Hurricane Safety. National Weather Service. Accessed Sept 7, 2016.
  1. Hingle MD, Kandiah J, Maggi A. Practice Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Selecting Nutrient-Dense Foods for Good Health. J Am Diet Assoc. 2016;116(9):1473-1479.
  1. Emergency Preparedness and Response. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated Jan 14, 2016. Accessed Sept 7, 2016.
  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture: Household USDA Foods Fact Sheet. Milk, Nonfat, Dry, instant. Oct 2012.
  1. Drewnowski A. New Metrics of Affordable Nutrition: Which Vegetables Provide Most Nutrients for Least Cost? J Am Diet Assoc. 2013;113(9):1182-1187.

UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones


Posted: October 6, 2016

Category: Disaster Preparation, Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, Work & Life
Tags: Disaster Preparedness, Family Resource Management, Nutrition And Food Systems

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