Choose and pack the right foods that will keep your energy up on the trail
Credit: Martin Thomas
Tip: Skip the energy barsEnergy bars can be a quick-fix when you’re lacking other foods, but they’re meant to provide enough calories and energy to professional athletes who train hard all day. For a regular day of hiking, Hughes recommends the previous options, as well as veggies, granola bars, crackers and cheese, and/or pepperette sticks. “Energy bars were designed to deliver high levels of macronutrients in a small, portable, easy-to-consume package,” says Hughes. “For the average person, getting enough calories is not a problem.”
Credit: Michael Dorausch
FruitAs a trail snack, fruit offers optimal nutritional benefits and with such a wide variety of fresh options available in Canada, chances are you have a favourite. Choose fruits that are tough enough to withstand being jostled about in your backpack, says Hughes. (So no bananas—unless you’ve got a protector.) Her top choice is oranges, a durable fruit that still offers “a sweet juicy treat.”
If you’re heading out for a long day of hiking with many supplies, keep in mind the weight and size of your fruit. To pack more efficiently, slice it up beforehand. Dried fruit, which is lighter and hard to damage, is easier to pack and can be enjoyed on its own or in trail mix. Hughes still recommends choosing fresh fruit when possible because dried fruit “is very high in sugar, so portion control is key.” In addition, fresh fruit “has a higher water content and a better fibre-to-sugar ratio, so you’ll feel fuller longer without experiencing a big sugar spike.” That sustainability is key during long hikes or trips.
Credit: Denise Krebs
Peanut ButterPeanut butter is a delicious and nutritious snack that provides necessary fats and proteins, flavour, fibre, and small amounts of sugar to keep you feeling full and energized. Spread it on crackers, pitas, fruit or granola bars.
It is important, however, to understand the difference between all-natural peanut butter (made solely from peanuts) and peanut butter produced by the majority of brands that are, according to Hughes, “servings of sugar masquerading as peanut butter.” The extra sweeteners and ingredients included are “a sugar spike waiting to happen that won’t help fuel your activities.” Choose a brand that lists one ingredient: Peanuts.
Credit: Andy Melton
Good ol’ raisins and peanutsYou can’t go wrong with this hiking staple: Nuts, raisins, dried fruits and seeds is a perfect combination for a tasty treat that will get through your hike. (It’s called trail mix for a reason.) Janet Hughes, a certified Personal Training Specialist, recommends this “nutrient-filled, high-energy snack” as a “much-deserved treat while resting to take in the beautiful scenery, or packed as a reserve (generally to be shared with novice hikers that may have underestimated their calorie needs for the day).” Bonus: It’s easy to pack with little cleanup.
You can buy trail mix at the grocery store or make your own: Start with a base of nuts and seeds, and add in treats like granola-based cereals, M&M’s, Smarties, or marshmallows to amp up the flavour. (Dark chocolate chips or yogurt-covered cranberries are healthier options that are just as tasty.) Sometimes using whatever’s in the cupboards is faster, cheaper, and easier than heading to the store—just ensure you’ve got raisins and peanuts in the mix.