Warmer weather invites outdoor trekking! What could be more fun than going for a hike in a park or on a trail? The fun of exploring a new place looking for animals, insects and flowers will make your hike or walk very enjoyable. Even if your plans are just for an afternoon jaunt, it is critical to be safe while having a good experience in the outdoors. Staying properly fueled is an important part of any physical activity. Make sure to pack the right food and drinks to keep your energy up, muscles fueled and stomach content on the trail. Not eating enough can lead to dizziness, cramps, nausea, and a feeling of malaise.
You’ll want to pack foods that are light and won’t take up much room in a pack. A soft, insulated lightweight lunch bag works well to keep cold food cold and it is easy to pack.
Bring a variety of snacks that offer nutritious carbs, lean proteins and healthy fats. Combining all three nutrients will keep your energy up, your muscles fueled, and your stomach happy.
Before you start your hike, plan to take a tasty snack with you. Check out the following ideas for some easy, nutritious suggestions.
- Granola bars are easy to carry and pack. Look for brands with fewer than 10 grams of sugar and at least a couple grams of fiber per bar.
- Fresh fruit is good for a day trip. Apples, oranges, pears and firm peaches or plums travel well. Or put fresh firm grapes or cherries in plastic bags. A natural carbohydrate fix, and almost everyone has a favorite fruit they will eat.
- Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, mango, papaya and dried apples) are common favorites. Dried fruits are packed with carbohydrates and offer a quick energy fix.
- Veggies such as carrots or celery sticks can be packed in small plastic re-sealable bags.
- Whole-grain crackers are great vehicles for cheese, or peanut butter.
- Pretzels, mini rice cakes and tortilla chips are a good combo of crunch and salt – and are lightweight, too.
- Whole-grain breads or pitas can be paired with hummus, peanut butter or cheese.
- Peanut butter combines protein and fat and is perfect in a sandwich with jelly or sliced banana. Another favorite is spreading a bagel with peanut butter and sprinkling plump raisins on top. Peanut butter has nutritional value, plenty of protein, a good amount of fat that can be balanced with the carbohydrates from the bread.
- Nuts and seeds are delicious alone or combined in a trail mix with dried fruit. Use plain roasted almonds, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.
- Whole-grain cereal squares can be added to trail mixes.
- Trail mix can be homemade or purchased. It usually combines dried fruit and nuts, with a little chocolate sometimes.
- Beans (bean dip or hummus) can be packed in small plastic containers and used on a pita or crackers.
- Low-fat cheese, such as part-skim string cheese or individually wrapped low-fat cheese, serves as a fat and protein source. It can be eaten alone, or used on crackers or pita/bread.
- Hard-boiled eggs are little bundles of pure protein that travel well.
- Nuts provide a source of protein, fat and fiber.
- Tuna in pouches (versus cans) can be opened easily on the trail and placed in pita or on crackers.
- Real beef jerky is a fantastic trail snack. It’s tasty, lightweight and offers a great balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It is readily available at most stores and keeps really well in a backpack or pocket.
Avoid snacks that have empty calories with little or no nutritional value, such as potato chips or candy bars. And though you might get a quick pick-me-up, sugary snacks can cause a drop in blood sugar, especially during physical activity.
Finally, pay strict attention to your fluid needs. Hiking, especially in hot weather, can be dangerous if you are not properly hydrated. Try to drink at least a cup of liquid every 30 minutes or more as needed. Water is your best bet, though some kids may want a sports drink or a juice pack.
Hiking is a great way to burn calories and improve your health. Proper nutrition is essential on any hiking trip. Water and salty snacks should be consumed on any hike lasting longer than 30 minutes. Hikers also need to eat about twice as much as normal to meet energy and electrolyte needs.
Hiking uses more calories than regular daily activities, so a variety of snacks high in protein, carbohydrates and vitamins are essential for staying energized throughout the day’s activities. Happy hiking and healthy snacking!
(Sources: Backpacking-Guide.com; www.chow.com; The Pennsylvania State University, Cooperative Extension)