Freeze-dried foods go mainstream

Posted at 8:55 PM, Mar 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-30 20:55:42-04

Freeze-dried food. You've heard astronauts eat then and maybe even soldiers. Now the food that you can store for decades is going mainstream with supporters calling it the ultimate 'fast food.' 

Misty Marsh is a busy mom of four and when she's in a pinch for dinner, she turns to her freeze-dried favorites. 

"If I just need a quick meal in 10 or 15 minutes, I can do that using all freeze dried ingredients," Marsh said.

She shares recipes and tips in a book about the freeze-dried frenzy, and has a website, too. Her pantry is full of enough food to feed her family for several years. 

"If you're making a soup, you can scoop out a scoop of chicken, scoop out a scoop of onions, some carrots and dump it all in a pot, add some water and some seasoning and simmer, and you'll have a soup in five minutes," Marsh explains. 

"You can also get fully made meals like lasagnas, or meat loafs. Basically, anything that you would normally cook can be freeze dried," said registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Alissa Rumsey.

Rumsey said sales are exploding and it's not just full meals and individual ingredients.

"You're seeing things like vegetarian options, gluten-free options, organic options," Rumsey said.

The dehydrated dishes can be found everywhere from national chains to online sites. Unopened, items can last for decades. So, in general, is the trend healthy?  

"The process of freeze drying itself preserves it, so you don't need to add any sodium or any other additives to the food in order to keep it preserved for so long," Rumsey said. 

The process doesn't change nutrients. As for cost, Marsh said she pays more up front, but saves overall.

"We no longer waste food. not only is this food convenient and healthy, but it also has a shelf life," Marsh said. "If you were to put chicken in your freezer and freeze it, and then de-thaw it, that's what freeze dried food tastes like."

Both Marsh and Rumsey said freeze-drying can change the texture, especially if you still eat it in the freeze-dried form. It can also be tricky to rehydrate, so you'll want to do a few experiments.