How Many Calories In An MRE

Military MREs on a table showing number of calories
Photo Courtesy: A.Currell

On average, a full military MRE meal contains 1,259 calories (43.3g of fat, 184g of carbohydrates, and 34g of protein). A full civilian MRE meal contains 1,246 calories (33g of fat, 195g of carbohydrates, and 34g of protein).

An MRE, also known as Meal, Ready-to-Eat, is a self contained meal. The purpose of an MRE is to feed a soldier when they do not have direct access to food.

Civilians eat MREs because it is convinient to make. They require little to no effort to heat up and consume. Civilian MREs are common among backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The rise in popularity of MREs got us interested in the number of calories in each meal. We could not find sufficient information on how many calories are in a full military and civilian MRE.

We decided to conduct a study looking into full military MRE and civilian MRE meals. We also wanted to dig into the different macro nutrients in MREs.

Our study analyzed 26 different full military MRE meals that contain 273 different meal items such as entrees, snacks, spreads, beverages and accessories (source).

Our study also analyzed 95 different Civilian MRE Meal items including:

  • 50 Entrees
  • 6 Side dishes
  • 16 Snacks
  • 15 Desserts
  • 4 Spreads
  • 4 Beverages

Table of Contents:

1. Civilian Vs Military MRE Calories
2. Top 3 Lowest Calorie MRE Entrees
3. Top 3 Highest Calorie MRE Entrees
4. Top 3 MREs With The Highest Calories From Carbohydrates
5. Top 3 MREs With The Lowest Calories From Carbohydrates
6. Top 3 MREs With The Highest Calories From Protein
7. Difference Between Civilian and Military MREs
8. Do MREs Make You Gain Weight?
9. Can you live Completely off MREs?
10. Are MREs Healthy?
11. How Many Calories Do Soldiers Eat?
12. MRE Date Codes are as Important Than Calories
13. Full List of Civilian MRE Meals and Calories
14. Full List of 26 Military MRE Meals and Calories

The study looked into the total calories, fats, carbohydrates, and protein in every meal type. We also looked into other factors that may influence ones decision to purchasing a civilian MRE such as how healthy it is for you, what you need to consider before buying an MRE, and compared different MREs based on macro nutrients.

The information on the civilian MRE food items were extracted from 6 main civilian MRE producers:

  1. ALL MREs
  2. AmeriQual
  3. Back Country
  4. Sopakco
  5. Sterling Foods

Civilian Vs Military MRE Calories

Our study found that an average full military MRE meal will have 1,259 calories on average compared to 1,246 calories in a full civilian MRE meal.

Eating 3 full military MRE meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) can equate to an average of 3,777 calories per day. Eating 3 full civilian MRE meals a day can add up to an average of 3,738 calories per day.

It was a challenge to directly compare the amount of calories in a full military MRE meal vs a full civilian MRE meal because, based on our findings, a typical military MRE meal can include anywhere from 10 items to 13 items.

To visually understand the difference in calories and macros between full military and civilian MRE meals, let’s take a look into the breakdown of each meal item.

Full Military MRE Meal Calorie Breakdown

Here’s a breakdown of a military MRE including the calories and macro nutrients:

TypeItemCaloriesFat (g)Carbs (g)Protein (g)
EntreeSpaghetti with Beef and Sauce280122520
SnackToaster Pastry, Chocolate Chip2076363
Bread/craxItalian Bread Sticks2087335
SpreadHelly, Grape680170
SpreadPeanut Butter1781473
BeverageCocoa Beverage Powder1554272
FruitDried Fruit, Raisins1440.3341
AccessorySugar Free Beverage11030
AccessoryChewing Gum8020
Source

In this military MRE meal, the total comes to 1,259 calories. Soldiers eating this can expect to consume:

  • 43.3 grams of fat
  • 184 grams of carbohydrates
  • 34 grams of protein.

Full Civilian MRE Meal Calorie Breakdown

Now let’s look into an equivalent full civilian MRE meal with the same amount of meal items.

BrandTypeItemCaloriesFat (g)Carbs (g)Protein (g)
MRE StarEntreeTuscan Beef with Cannellini Beans22062813
MRE StarSnackToasted Corn2076363
MRE StarBread/craxCrackers1806294
MRE StarSpreadFruit Jelly700180
MRE StarSpreadChunky Peanut Butter1601387
MRE StarBeverageDrink Mix900210
MRE StarFruitDried Fruit Mix3002502
N/AAccessorySugar Free Beverage11030
N/AAccessoryChewing Gum8020

In this Civilian MRE Meal, the total calories amounted to 1,246. Here’s the breakdown of the macro nutrients:

  • 33 grams of fat
  • 195 grams of carbohydrates
  • 29 grams of protein

To get the closest comparison to a Military Issued MRE, we selected civilian MRE items that closely matched the Military Issued MRE example above. We also included the same number of meal items to keep the full meals as close as possible.

Furthermore, we kept the accessory items the same as that is subjective dependent on other factors and they are typically not packed with calories anyways.

Our study looked into more than 90 MRE meals and from that, we were able to gather some interesting insights. Let’s dig into some of the interesting insights of this study.

Study Findings on MRE Calories

Top 3 Lowest Calorie MRE Entrees

EntreeCalories (g)Fats (g)Carbs (g)Protein (g)Serving Size (oz)Brand
Chicken Chunks (white meat)1503.51315AmeriQual
Potatoes Au Gratin15062035ALL MRES
Santa Fe Rice & Beans18062455ALL MRES

The chicken chunks with white meat topped the list with only 150 calories. While it does not sound like the most appetizing entree out there, its essentially just chopped up white chicken breast and wings.

The next 2 MRE options with the lowest calories were vegan options which are the potatoes au gratin and rice & beans.

It must be noted that the serving size is on smaller than usual. Most MREs had a serving size of 8 ounces, with the average serving size of all 51 entrees amounted to 6.8 ounces.

Top 3 Highest Calorie MRE Entrees

EntreeCalories (g)Fats (g)Carbs (g)Protein (g)Serving Size (oz)Brand
Turkey Chili with Beans48028154110Back Country
Chili Macaroni3802622158AmeriQual
Sandwich Wrap Mexican Style Beef370948184.4Bridgford Foods

Turkey Chili with beans topped the list for a civilian MRE with the highest calories. Packed with 28 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of protein.

While a meal of only 480 calories may not sound too heavy, remember that in a military setting, the calories add up when you also include other things that one eats alongside of the entree which include snacks, side dishes, desserts, a beverage, and other accessories.

What stood out to us is the brands that make the MREs with highest calories. Back Country tops that list. This can be a good thing since the purpose of an MRE is to keep you satiated.

It’s important to note here that the turkey chili with beans entree has a serving size of 10 ounces, the biggest serving size in our study.

Top 3 MREs With The Highest Calories From Carbohydrates

If high carbohydrates is what you’re looking for in an MRE, well then you may want to consider the options below.

EntreeCalories (g)Fats (g)Carbs (g)Protein (g)Serving Size (oz)Brand
BBQ Chicken with Black Beans & Potatoes300163118MRE Star
Sandwich Blueberry Turnover33085353.5Bridgford Foods
Sandwich Apple Turnover33085353.5Bridgford Foods

The bbq chicken with black beans and potatoes is packed with carbohydrates coming in at 63 grams. Followed by the blueberry and apple turnover sandwiches.

The serving size is saying a lot here. Both sandwiches have less than half of the serving size of the bbq chicken entree, yet the grams of carbs are really close.

Bread is the king of carbohydrates.

Top 3 MREs With The Lowest Calories From Carbohydrates

If you’re trying to stay away from carbohydrates, perhaps you’re following a keto diet or just trying to watch what you’re eating, you may want to consider the MREs below.

EntreeCalories (g)Fats (g)Carbs (g)Protein (g)Serving Size (oz)Brand
Chicken Chunks (white meat)1503.51315AmeriQual
Beef Strips in Tomato Sauce250814308AmeriQual
Chicken Noodle230814298AmeriQual

The chicken chunks are a great choice if you’re looking for an MRE with the lowest carbs, its white meat as well so its the healthier part of the chicken. We question the taste though.

Coming in at second are the beef strips in tomato sauce, a great option if you’re looking for low carbs, high protein, and flavour.

Top 3 MREs With The Highest Calories From Protein

If you’re lifting weights and looking for that protein boost to help with your recovery, you may want to look into the MRE options below.

EntreeCalories (g)Fats (g)Carbs (g)Protein (g)Serving Size (oz)Brand
Turkey Chili with Beans48028154110Back Country
Chicken Chunks1503.51315AmeriQual
Beef Strips in Tomato Sauce250814208AmeriQual

In a single MRE entree, the turkey chilli with beans is packed with the most protein. Granted, the serving size helps gives it a boost in macro nutrients, but it does hold first place nevertheless.

Should you eat 2 servings of the chicken chunks, you’d be looking at consuming 62 grams of protein. It definitely is the “healthiest” option from the rest, especially that it does have the lowest amount of calories.

Difference Between Civilian and Military MREs

Now that we covered the difference in calories, you may be looking at the tables above and wondering..

What is the difference between the civilian MREs mentioned above and Military MREs?

Short answer is, not much. They are both made for use by the Department of Defense. The obvious difference would be the packaging.

The U.S government warning label (on military MREs stating that it shouldn’t be sold to civilians), and some additional accessories that civilian MREs don’t have (source) are the only difference.

U.S Government Does Not Sell MREs To Civilians

If you look at the packaging of a MRE issued for the military, you can easily identify the disclaimer that reads “U.S. Government Property, Commercial Resale is Unlawful” printed on each case (source).

This is because there were instances of soldiers selling MREs to civilians which can be dangerous because MREs have a specific storage temperature and expiry date which can be harmful if consumed when expired or stored at the wrong temperature.

However, there are no laws that forbid the resale of MREs (except by military personnel) (source). Therefore you can find military MREs sold in gun shows, Ebay, army surplus stores, or by someone who was in the military (source).

We definitely do not encourage buying them because of the date codes (expiry) and because you dont know how long the person selling it has had the MREs for and what the storage temperature was when they stored it.

Government issued MREs
Military MREs

Do MREs Make You Gain Weight?

It depends. If the calories you consume from the MREs are more than what you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than what you consume in MREs, you will not gain weight.

According to GoArmy, the military recommends that a soldier eat 3 full MRE meals per day (source). That means that on average, a soldier can eat up to 3,777 calories per day. It’s rare that you see soldiers gaining weight, and that’s for good reason.

Soldiers exercise frequently to meet military physical requirements. Furthermore, a staple exercise in the military is rucking. Soldiers will carry heavy rucksack and ruck march for hours.

It is therefore safe to say that soldiers can easily burn off the calories that they consume from MREs.

Learn more about how rucking is made for weight loss and fat loss.

As for civilians, if you eat 3 full civilian MRE meals which can add up to 3,738 calories on average without exercising to burn off the calories, there is a strong chance that you will gain weight from MREs.

Note: gaining or losing fat from MREs depends on a lot of other factors as well such as genetics, metabolism (how good can your body burn off energy/calories), physical activities, current weight, and many other variables.

Can you live Completely off MREs?

Yes, technically you can live completely off MREs. It’s not recommended though and it’s not healthy. They’re designed to be a temporary solution should you not have access to hot food.

However, they’re not designed for that purpose and the U.S military actually recommends that no one should eat MREs more than 21 days in a row (source). Soldier typically supplement MREs with hot food, and they do so for good reason.

Should you live off MREs, you can expect the following:

  • Frequent visits to the bathroom
  • Low energy
  • Feeling bloated
  • Mentally unclear

Here’s a cool video by Christopher Chaos explaining how its like surviving off eating MREs.

Are MREs Healthy?

No, most MREs are not healthy. MREs are associated with leaky guts. They do not contain fresh foods which means you consume less fiber. They also have high levels of sodium which is bad for your health.

MREs are designed to be temporary solutions to lack of availability of food. They’re also designed for long maximum shelf life, it typically ranges from 3 to 5 years on average (storage temperature of MREs help prolong or shorten the life of an MRE).

MREs are heavily processed for various reasons, but mainly to extend lifetime and to withstand rough conditions. This means that MRE food options contain no fresh foods (since fresh foods like salads expire quickly).

Furthermore, MREs have high sodium levels. On average, a single MRE contains 3,800 milligrams of sodium (source). To put this in perspective, the CDC recommends that an adult should have no more than3,400 milligrams of sodium a day (source).

If you’re eating 3 MRE meals a day, you would be consuming 11,400 milligrams of sodium. That is more than 3 times the recommend daily sodium intake. Too much sodium in your diet increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, which can cause strokes and heart disease (source).

MREs are a good source of nutrition for people with no access to food, however they should not be relied on as a main source of nutrition.

How Many Calories Do Soldiers Eat?

Soldiers eating 3 full MRE meals a day can expect to eat up to 3,777 calories. This is because one full MRE meal averages out to 1,259, assuming they eat all 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

MRE Date Codes are as Important Than Calories

MRE date codes refers to the the shelf life of an MRE. The reason why we’re saying that date codes are as important as calories is because there are a lot of scammers out there on ebay or other sites selling expired military MREs.

To prevent eating expired MRE foods, there are date code calculators online where you can put in the 4 digit code that will be found on the packaging of every MRE meal to find out the manufacture date on an MRE.

Source: The Ready Store

Based on our study, we found that the average shelf life of an MRE spans between 3 to 5 years.

Full List of 96 Civilian MRE Calories

BrandMeal Type (Entree,MealTotal CaloriesFat (g)Carbs (g)Protein (g)
Back CountryEntreeTURKEY CHILI With Beans (HOT)480281541
AmeriQualEntreeChicken Chunks1503.5131
AmeriQualEntreeBeef Strips in a Savory Tomato Sauce25081430
AmeriQualEntreeChicken Noodle MRE23081429
AmeriQualEntreeShredded Barbecue Beef MRE24082125
AmeriQualEntreeSouthwest Style Beef & Black Beans with Sauce26072525
AmeriQualEntreeMexican-Style Chicken Stew MRE23052224
AmeriQualEntreeChicken Burrito Bowl MRE2302.52823
AllMREsEntreeChicken Burrito Bowl29044321
AmeriQualEntreeBeef Stew MRE230181820
AmeriQualEntreeBeef Stew23081820
AmeriQualEntreeBeef Taco Filling227141819
MRE StarEntreeBEEF STEW WITH VEGETABLES290112919
AmeriQualEntreeMeatballs in Marinara Sauce280142018
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich Wrap MEXICAN STYLE BEEF37094818
SopakcoEntreeSpaghetti with Meat Sauce MRE26093016
AmeriQualEntreeChicken with Rice MRE25024016
AmeriQualEntreePasta with Marinara Sauce MRE30064316
AmeriQualEntreechili Macaroni MRE380262215
MRE StarEntreePinto Stew with and Ham29064215
MRE StarEntreePINTO BEAN STEW WITH HAM29064215
AmeriQualEntreeItalian Sausage with Peppers and Onions in Marinara Sauce350232114
AmeriQualEntreeChili with Beans25092814
MRE StarEntreeSPICY VEGETARIAN CHILI WITH BEANS25044014
MRE StarEntreeLentil Stew with Potatoes and Ham29054614
MRE StarEntreeLENTIL STEW WITH POTATOES29054614
MRE StarEntreeTUSCAN BEEF WITH CANNELLINI BEANS22062813
AmeriQualEntreeTuscan Beef MRE22062813
SopakcoEntreeBeef Ravioli in Meat Sauce MRE25073413
MRE StarEntreeCHICKEN NOODLE STEW WITH VEGETABLES19011812
MRE StarEntreeSOUTHWEST CHICKEN2201.53412
MRE StarEntreeCHEESE TORTELLINI WITH MARINARA SAUCE330134012
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich HONEY BBQ CHICKEN29094112
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich HONEY BBQ BEEF29094112
MRE StarEntreeCURRY CHICKEN22072811
MRE StarEntreeNEW ORLEANS CHICKEN GUMBO2204.53111
MRE StarEntreePASTA MARINARA WITH VEGGIE CRUMBLES25063611
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich ITALIAN STYLE320143911
SopakcoEntreeCheese Tortellini in Tomato Sauce MRE26063911
MRE StarEntreeBBQ CHICKEN WITH BLACK BEANS AND POTATOES30016311
MRE StarEntreeCHICKEN & RICE WITH VEGETABLES22014110
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich Bread WHITE FLAT BREAD33010418
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich CINNAMON BUN35010506
AllMREsEntreeSanta Fe Rice & Beans 4 Pack1806245
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich FILLED FRENCH TOAST33010495
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich BLUEBERRY TURNOVER3308535
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich APPLE TURNOVER3308535
Bridgford FoodsEntreeSandwich CHERRY TURNOVER3208535
Bridgford FoodsEntreeShelf Stable MRE Tortillas2206354
AllMREsEntreePotatoes Au Gratin1506203
MRE Starside dishWhite rice with veggies1505384
MRE Starside dishWhite rice1502293
MRE Starside dishLong Grain White Rice1502253
AllMREsside dishPlain Tortillas2205375
Epicenterside dishMexican style Corn14011193
MRE Starside dishFlour Tortilla1604264
MRE StarSnackMRE MILITARY CRACKERS1806294
MRE StarSnackNUTS AND RAISIN MIX350n/an/an/a
MRE StarSnackToasted Corn2608404
MRE StarSnackDRIED FRUIT MIX3002502
MRE StarSnackHIGH ENERGY BAR41018538
ALlMREsSnackCrackers With Peanut Butter & Jelly120n/an/an/a
ALlMREsSnackMRE Royal Kreem Crackers1203.5202
ALlMREsSnackItalian Bread sticks and MRE Jalapeno Cheesen/an/an/a
ALlMREsSnackGranola Cereal With Latte230n/an/an/a
ALlMREsSnackChicken Salad With Two Packages of Crackers43075117
ALlMREsSnackDried Fruit Mix300n/an/an/a
ALlMREsSnackBanana Chips1509161
ALlMREsSnackCorn Nuts260n/an/an/a
ALlMREsSnackOld Wisconsin Beef Stick90814
ALlMREsSnackNut & Raisin Mix350272212
ALlMREsSnackZ-Ration Granola - Double Chocolate or Tri-Berry270n/an/an/a
ALlMREsDessertCornbreads2609353
ALlMREsDessertLemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake27012353
ALlMREsDessertCinnamon Buns, MRE Desserts3209516
ALlMREsDessertLemon Pound Cake27012353
ALlMREsDessertApplesauce Pound Cake27013303
ALlMREsDessertVanilla Pound Cake27013303
ALlMREsDessertMarble Pound Cake30012344
ALlMREsDessertOne MRE Chocolate Banana Nut Muffin Top29013254
ALlMREsDessertCinnamon Bun3209457
ALlMREsDessertMaple Muffin Top20013323
ALlMREsDessertPeanut Butter Dessert Bars24018166
ALlMREsDessertApple Turnover2604
Sterling FoodsDessertAppleSauce Cake27013333
MRE StarDessertOatmeal Cookies26012384
MRE StarDessertSugar cookies28012404
MRE StarSpreadBacon Cheddar Cheese1201104
MRE StarSpreadChunky Peanut Butter1601387
MRE StarSpreadFruit Jelly700180
MRE StarSpreadChocolate Peanut Butter Spread24018158
MRE StarBeverageDrink Mix900210
MRE StarBeverageGRAPE Power Stick with Electrolytes100
MRE StarBeverageORANGE Power Stick with Electrolytes100
MRE StarBeveragePINK LEMONADE Power Stick with Electrolytes100

Full List of 26 Military MRE Calories

NAMECALORIESFATS (g)CARBS (g)PROTEIN (g)
Chili with Beans
10 items
124048174174
Beef, Barbecue, Pulled
11 items
12804417151
Chicken, Noodles and Vegetables in Sauce
12 items
11923219437
Spaghetti with Beef and Sauce
9 items
12483919137
Chicken Chunks, White, 5 oz
10 items
14215618354
Beef Taco Filling
10 items
12276412150
Beef Brisket
10 items
12533320240
Meatballs in Marinara Sauce
11 items
12856131180
Beef Stew
12 items
11974117239
Chili and Macaroni
12 items
12314916939
Vegetarian Taco Pasta
10 items
12594618636
Elbow Macaroni in a Tomato Sauce
11 items
12172821731
Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Sauce
11 items
13454719638
Fettuccine, Spinach and Cream Sauce
11 items
12844019440
Mexican Style Chicken Stew
10 items
13014319144
Chicken Burrito Bowl
11 items
13144319941
Pork Sausage Patty, Maple
11 items
12156513230
Beef Ravioli in Meat Sauce
11 items
11504915237
Beef Patty, Grilled, Jalapeno Pepper Jack
13 items
12745916433
Hash Browns with Bacon
11 items
13066016637
Tuna, Chunk Light, Lemon Pepper
9 items
11854315716
Asian Style Beef Strips with Vegetables
9 items
12484417944
Pizza, Pepperoni
10 items
14245420639
Southwest Beef and Black Beans
9 items
12675116349
Beef Strips in a Savory Tomato Based Sauce
10 items
12943819647
Beef Goulash
9 items
13415219838

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