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UF expert: Keep healthy eating in mind when preparing for hurricanes

By Tom Nordlie

Media Contact: Beverly James, 352-273-3566,

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last-minute grocery shoppers should keep healthy eating in mind when preparing for Hurricane Irma, says a nutrition expert with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“In any high-stress situation, it’s important to eat well to be able to cope with the situation,” said Linda Bobroff, a professor with the UF/IFAS family, youth and community sciences department and a UF/IFAS Extension nutrition specialist.

For anyone recovering from a disaster and living without electricity, a steady diet of non-perishable foods can mean consuming unhealthy amounts of sodium, fat and sugar if the meals aren’t planned well, said Bobroff, who is also a registered dietitian.

“Sometimes, people use hurricane preparation as an excuse to go out and buy all their favorite ‘once-in-a-while’ foods,” said Bobroff. “Some comfort food is okay, but for the sake of your health, don’t overdo it.”

A little effort can help shoppers make sensible choices, she said. Thinking in terms of putting together meals, even without being able to cook, helps ensure that everyone in the household eats foods from the five basic food groups — grains, vegetables, fruits, proteins and dairy. These provide the nutrients needed for health and stamina during a disaster. For more information, visit

Before the next shopping trip, Bobroff advises, take a look in your pantry and see if all five food groups are adequately represented. Canned beans, tuna and salmon, peanut butter, nut butters, nuts and seeds, and shelf-stable chicken all provide protein. Shelf-stable milk can take the place of fresh milk during a disaster.

When choosing grain-based products, be sure to choose some that are whole-grain items, to get the fiber your digestive system needs.

“One simple guideline you can follow is, overall, half your plate should be covered by fruits and vegetables,” Bobroff said.

There are many healthy options for getting fruits and vegetables into meals, she said. They include low-salt canned vegetables, canned fruit packed with fruit juice rather than syrup, and fresh produce items that keep relatively long without refrigeration, including apples, bananas and citrus. Vegetables with long shelf lives, including potatoes, carrots and onions, can be grilled outdoors.

Shoppers should be aware of any special nutritional needs for people in the household, including anyone on a diet that restricts consumption of sodium, fat or sugar. The easiest way to check the nutrient profile of a packaged food item is by examining the “Nutrition Facts” panel on the label.

For more tips on smart shopping for hurricane preparation, see this video from UF/IFAS Extension

For information about safe handling of food and water, see this publication for the UF/IFAS Extension online EDIS library


The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.