- MREs evolved from the C rations and K rations during World War II to the Meal, Combat, Individual, or MCI, during the Korean and Vietnam wars. In the early 1980s, they became the primary combat rations for the Department of Defense.
- MRE package
An MRE is a self-contained meal that can be eaten hot or cold. Each package contains an entrée, side dish, cracker or bread with spread, dessert, candy, beverages, hot sauce, accessory kit and flameless heater. As of fall 2009, 24 meal varieties were available, including some ethnic and vegetarian choices.
- The purpose of MREs are to provide enough energy, vitamins and minerals to sustain an individual during intense physical conditions. It is generally assumed that women consume two and men consume three MREs per day.
- According to the Natick Soldier Center News Release, all MRE food items now have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration food label, which includes nutrition information and ingredients. The Defense Logistics Agency states that the average MRE contains 1,250 calories (13 percent protein, 36 percent fat and 51 percent carbohydrate) and one-third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance (MRDA) of vitamins and minerals, which are slightly different from RDAs published for healthy Americans. MREs meet the Office of the Surgeon General's nutritional requirements.
- MREs serve a life-sustaining purpose in training and combat environments; however, they are not the ideal picture of good nutrition. MREs are low in fiber, high in calories, contain more than 30 percent fat and are high in sodium.