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If I don't worry about morale, would daily, average sized meals from the following be sufficient to stay alive for three years in space? I'm assuming only water is recovered from waste.

Assume enough electricity for cooking, zero gee pots and pans, ISS type kitchen equipment, spare parts for waste treatment hardware, and an routine waste dumps to space as needed.

  • Dried beans
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Dried meat, fish, squid, etc. (if one partakes)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Vitamins (+omega 3, 6)
  • Electrolytes
  • Powdered/dried seasonings
  • Water

edit: For this mission, dried bulk items were chosen because they can potentially tolerate larger excursions in temperature for long periods of time. There are no freezers or refrigerators, and the mission may go inside Earth's orbit as well as way beyond, so keeping the food "outside" in the cold was not an option on his budget flight.

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    $\begingroup$ This diet is likely calcium deficient, at least. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    May 15 '17 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ Food like this would be extraordinarily difficult to cook properly in space. There really isn't any facility on ISS that can boil water in a cooking fashion (boiling in a pot is heavily reliant on gravity-driven convection), which would make beans and oats tricky. Powdered anything is an absolute no-go in space -- once spilled, it's almost impossible to clean up. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    May 15 '17 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ Infuse your seasonings in fluid to eliminate the powder problem. On shuttle: "Polyethylene dropper bottles contain bulk supplies of liquid pepper and liquid salt. The pepper is suspended in oil and the salt is dissolved in water. " $\endgroup$ May 15 '17 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ Some additional protein I think. Beans contain some protein and rice too. But an astronaut in space does not need so much carbohydrates to get enough protein from beans and rice only. Soybeans have more protein than usual dried beans. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    May 15 '17 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh vitamin/mineral pills may contain some calcium, but not enough (also of other minerals. I've got these at the moment (I wouldn't normally have something so fancy but the own brand were out of stock but these were on offer). $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Aug 13 at 8:24
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Fruit and vegetables are two food groups missing from the list. Fruit could be processed and turned into a low moisture gel prior to travel. Something like fruit rolls ups, but with less sugar and healthier, or even a stiff jam as used for cooking or baking. Dehydrated vegetables could be used, even dehydrated fruits.

Protein will be provided by both the beans and the dried meat or animal based seafood.

Carbohydrates will be provided by the beans, rice and oats. Another item that could be included, to offer a change from rice, is couscous.

Fiber will be provided by the beans and oats and if brown rice is used instead of white rice, more fiber can be obtained from the rice. Gut microbes need to be kept happy!

Fats and oils will be provided by the olive oil and the omega 3 & 6 supplements. Minor amounts may be obtained from the dried animal meats.

Supplements could provide the rest: vitamins, calcium, minerals, fatty acids, electrolytes & potentially sugar pills (or just some form of candy ;-), if one can be disciplined).

Seasonings should be liquid based to avoid messing the inside of the craft and contaminating equipment.

To reduce cooking times in space the rice could be partly cooked & vacuum sealed before going into space. The same would apply to couscous, if it were included. It would make things easier when cooking a "one pot mix" containing rice and dehydrated vegetables, etc.

In one of your comments you state, " I always considered vitamin pills to be an honorary member of the Fruits and Vegetables group". Personally I'd like something mixed in with the rice or oats (in porridge) for both flavor an bulk. I stand to be corrected on this, but I recall information a long time ago which stated that for good digestive system health bulk was required.

Tablets and supplements do not provide bulk, whereas re-hydrated vegetables and fruit will provide some bulk. In addition to assisting with scraping the walls of the digestive system and removing old cells, so of which could be malignant, bulk also provide gut microbes with a habitat.

The other thing with the digestive system is, yes the body does absorb some of the nutrients from the food that is eaten, but the gut microbes also consume some of the nutrients provided by the food & they convert them into something else our bodies require. It's a form of symbioses. For our own health and to avoid digestive system illnesses, such ulcerative colitis, we need to keep the gut microbes happy and a lot of tablets and very little bulk, isn't going to do that.

The gut brain connection needs to be considered as well, as Gut Bacteria Can Influence Your Mood, Thoughts, and Brain. With more than 100 million nerve cells lining the gut, more than in the spinal cord, the enteric nervous system, associated with the gut, is referred to as the second brain.

When it comes to providing food for a space flight crew, much more needs to be considered than just nutrition.

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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: as an after thought, I though the rice could be partly cooked & vacuum sealed before going into space to reduce cooking times in space. It would make things easier when cooking a "one pot mix" containing rice & dehydrated vegetables, etc. Regarding fruit & veggies in compressed powered form - supplement tablets, that would be possible, but personally I'd like something mixed in with the rice or oats (in porridge) for both flavor & bulk. I stand to be corrected on this, but I recall information a long time ago which stated that for good digestive system health bulk was required. ... $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 17 '20 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ ... Tablets & supplements do not provide bulk, whereas re-hydrated veggies & fruit will provide some bulk. In addition to assisting with scraping the walls of the digestive system & removing old cells, so of which could be malignant, bulk also provide gut microbes with a habitat. The other thing with the digestive system is, yes the body does absorb some of the nutrients from the food that is eaten, but the gut microbes also consume some of the nutrients provided by the food & they convert them into something else our bodies require. It's a form of symbioses. For our own health & to avoid ... $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 17 '20 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ ... digestive system illnesses, such ulcerative colitis, we need to keep the gut microbes happy & a lot of tablets & very little bulk, isn't going to do that. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 17 '20 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ As another after thought, there is the gut brain connection to consider as well. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 17 '20 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ The comments have been included in the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Oct 20 '20 at 20:35
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If I don't worry about morale

This is where the list starts to go wrong. Psychological health is not somehow entire disconnected from the rest of the functions of the body. Severely limited ("boring") dietary options hurts morale in a major way, which has easily measurable physical effects on health.

What the list is missing is:

  • Occasional variation items, rare treats, snacks, and varied choices.

As an added bonus, more variation dramatically reduces the chances of some important micro nutrient accidentally being overlooked.

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