Cooking up a storm for hurricane season
In Florida, we share a history of bad dinner guests. You may not have had personal contact with Katrina, Ivan, Wilma, Charley, Frances and their buddies who blew through in recent years, but it's likely you know someone who did.

Seven days into the start of hurricane season, it's time to stock the pantry in case more unwanted guests pop in.

"Preparing now will alleviate the stress that comes during and after a huge storm -- especially for newcomers," says dietitian Susan Mitchell. "When you go to the store, buy an extra can of tuna, box of cereal or jar of peanut butter. That way you will avoid the last-minute crowds."

Mitchell, who practices in Winter Park and is on the Health and Medical advisory board for Family Circle magazine, recommends dating items with a Sharpie and "every six months, rotating out the food items that need to be used and replacing them with new ones."

Your stash should include nonperishables chosen with nutrition in mind, but leave room for a few indulgences.

"Be sure to have good-quality protein on hand such as nuts, canned chicken, tuna and peanut butter," says Mitchell. "Whole-grain crackers and cereals are healthier choices than chips, cookies, soda, but you have to strike a balance."

Mitchell recommends following what she calls the 80-20 rule: "Try to eat well 80 percent of the time, and then fit the snacks in the other 20 percent." That said, Mitchell admits she plowed through the snack stash two years ago while waiting out a hurricane.

"My cats and I were staying with a girlfriend, and Tom Terry on [WFTV]-Channel 9 kept saying don't eat all of your snacks while you're waiting on the hurricane," says Mitchell. "We looked at ourselves and laughed out loud. We were doing just that."

If an unwanted dinner guest comes our way, the list at left shows what Mitchell and experts at the National Hurricane Center say you should have on hand.

Heather McPherson can be reached at hmcpherson@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5498.