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Nearly any type of food can be freeze-dried to remove the water, allowing the food to last for many years without spoiling. Fruits and vegetables are some of the most commonly freeze-dried foods and are often eaten dried rather than being rehydrated before eating. Meats, grains and flavored beverages are also commonly freeze dried. Usually water is added to these foods before they are eaten.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are often freeze-dried. Fruits are usually sliced into bite-sized pieces so that they can be enjoyed right out of the pouch. Though it is possible to add water to these freeze-dried foods to reconstitute them, many people choose to enjoy them as crunchy fruit chips which are much healthier than fruit chips, such as banana chips, that are made by frying slices of fruit in oil. Vegetables are also commonly freeze-dried and may be enjoyed freeze-dried or may be reconstituted and cooked.
Beverages can also be freeze-dried. Instant coffee is commonly freeze-dried so that it will last longer without losing its flavor. Pouches of powdered drink mixes are also freeze-dried and allow sweetened or fruit-juice flavored beverages to be made from plain water. Certain ingredients, such as herbs and spices, may also be freeze-dried to increase their shelf-life.
The popularity of freeze-dried foods has spawned a variety of companies that specialize in creating prepared meals. Foods such as lasagna, rice pilaf, stir fry, and fajitas can all be cooked and then freeze-dried for future consumption. These meals can be eaten when fresh foods are unavailable or when a person wants to save time by preparing a quick, easy meal.
Some of the most recognizable types of freeze-dried foods are pouches of freeze-dried ice cream. These products have been popular as a novelty dessert item and have been marketed as "astronaut ice cream" because they have been eaten by people in space. Many foods that astronauts eat are freeze-dried because they are easier to eat in the absence of gravity.
Freeze-dried foods can be bought individually or in packages that contain entire meals. Backpackers frequently make use of freeze-dried meals that come with everything needed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. All that needs to be done to enjoy these meals is to add water. Individual foods are also popular among people who wish to have more choice in what they will eat. Kits that contain a year's supply or more of freeze-dried food are also available.