Low-Carb Emergency Food

Low-Carb Food to Have on Hand in an Emergency

can being opened
Photo © Igor Terekhov

Hurricanes, earthquakes, and blizzards are some of the natural disasters which can isolate us from sources of food, water, and power. Having a stockpile of food and water is a very good idea. It also comes in handy when illness strikes your household or when it's inconvenient to run to the store.

If you look at lists of emergency foods, you will see a lot of foods that have a high content of starch or sugar - such foods as cereals and crackers are commonly recommended.

Since most of the foods we eat to keep our blood sugars low are fresh and perishable, this can be a issue to devote a little extra attention to. It is certainly possible to get though a food emergency without raising blood sugar.

How Much Food to Store?

Experts used to recommend having a three-day supply, but many sources are now recommending having up to two weeks of emergency food in your home. This means you should store food that you like to eat as part of your normal diet, and rotate the food so that none of it goes bad or loses nutritional content.

Basic Plan for Power Outages

Use food in this order:

1. Refrigerator - Eat the most perishable food in the refrigerator. Meats, eggs, dairy, mayonnaise, and the like. This food should not be over 40 degrees F for more than 2 hours. (The one exception to the "dairy" rule is aged hard cheese such as cheddar, which can last at least a day or two, and sometimes much longer, before going bad.) If you have coolers and ice, transfer these most perishable foods to them.

A lot of the food in a typical refrigerator doesn't go bad nearly as quickly as the most perishable foods. Most fruits and vegetables will last for a few days and even up to a week or more, depending upon the item (apples, for example, last a long time). Many condiments (jams, relish, mustard, ketchup, oil-based salad dressings, etc.) will last for weeks.

2. Freezer - How long the food in the freezer will be safe to eat depends upon the temperature in the room (a kitchen in Florida without air conditioning vs a kitchen in Michigan with not much heat.) The rule of thumb is two days, but I have experienced longer power outages where the food in the freezer stayed frozen. The more food that was in the freezer when the power went out, the longer it will keep.

3. Pantry - The mainstay of food during a period without power is the pantry food. The rest of the article will be devoted to this.

Protein from the Pantry

Eating enough protein is not only important on a low-carb diet, it's an area which can be neglected in emergencies, when it's so important to get adequate nutrition to cope with stress and physical exertion. Here are some shelf-stable sources of protein to have on hand:

1. Canned Seafood - Tuna, salmon, and sardines are excellent choices for protein, and also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Crab, clams, and oysters are also possibilities.

2. Canned Meats - Ham, spam, chicken, and ham salad spreads

3. Dried Meats (Jerky) - Look for ones without added sugar, if you can find them

4. Nuts, Peanut Butter and Other Nut Butters

5. Dried Beans - Beans are less glycemic when you soak them and cook them yourself rather than eat canned beans, as the resistant starch in beans is partially broken down in the canning process.

6. Canned Soy Beans - particularly black soy beans

7. Dry Soy Products - For those who tolerate soy, these products can be great additions to the emergency pantry, as they keep a long time. Examples are TVP and Dixie Diner Meat Replacement Products.

8. Freeze-Dried Foods - Although usually used for more long-term food storage, freeze-dried meats are another possibility. Camping supply stores and food storage companies often carry them.

9. MRE's and other shelf-stable "Complete Meals" - MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) usually have quite a lot of carbohydrates, but if you care enough you can search for examples that have less carb.


Eating as wide a variety of vegetables as possible is important for good nutrition. Here are some vegetables to consider adding to your pantry:

Canned Vegetables such as:

  • Tomatoes
  • Green chilies
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Pumpkin
  • Tomato paste
  • Other canned low-carb vegetables, such as green beans and spinach, if you like them

Pickled Vegetables such as:

  • Dill pickles
  • Italian pickled vegetables or hot peppers
  • Sweet pickles such as Mt. Olive Brand (no sugar added)

Jars of:

  • Salsas
  • Pasta sauce or tomato sauce with no added sugars
  • Roasted red peppers (rinse if there is sugar in the ingredients)
  • Dried tomatoes in oil (a little adds lots of flavor)
  • Jars of pesto or other vegetable-based sauces and spreads


It's difficult to find non-perishable fruit. Canned and dried fruit usually has sugar added or is high in sugars to begin with, although there are exceptions - read labels carefully. Freeze-dried fruits are the probably the best option, from sources such as "Just Tomatoes" or food storage companies as mentioned above. Berries and peaches are good bets. (As of August 2011, Trader Joe's has freeze-dried blueberries and strawberries.)


Most oils are stable for up to a year, if stored in a cool, dry place. Olive oil and coconut oil are good bets.

Emergency Water

Water is even more important than food. Without water, we would die in a few days. Here are some resources with information about planning for water in an emergency:

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