What’s For Lunch? If you’re half way through a 10 mile hike, or any length hike for that matter, it’s an important question. You want food that will nourish you, strengthen you, revitalize you, and taste really good. If you're contemplating how much food to pack, error on the side of taking a little more. Hunger pangs aren’t a good feeling and may distract you from the other joys of a hike (scenery, good conversation with hiking buddies, great workout buzz, etc.)
Rather than take a prolonged break for a midday meal (involving unpacking, preparation, cleanup and repacking), a quicker strategy is to graze on a series of low maintenance, modest energy-boosting snacks throughout the day.
Here are some ideas, but before you read further, I must preface my list with this….always, always have plenty of water. With that said, onto the food ideas.
10 Great Hiking Food Ideas
1. Your Favorite Nut Butter. There are so many different, tasty options when it comes to nut butter, such as a nut butter & jelly sandwich, nut butter & honey tortilla wrap, a bagel smothered in nut butter, and nut butter & banana sandwich. The nut butter squeeze packets are also handy to cram into small pockets. Nut butter provides a punch of healthy fat and protein, and when paired with the necessary carbohydrates from the bread, bagel, or tortilla, you have a great energy-filled food.
2. Energy Bar (see my homemade bar recipe…delicious!). Whatever energy bar is your favorite, they’re a quick, well-balanced, lightweight choice when you’re burning a lot of calories. Clif Bar minis are also handy because they’re smaller, and I often only eat half the normal size bar, so why not buy minis? One downfall, they’re more expensive than other hiking food choices. If you eat them often, consider buying in bulk from a warehouse store or online.
3. Jerky. I’m not talking the convenient store SlimJim, people! Nothing against it, but real jerky is so much better…tastes better and is better for you. There are different types of jerky, such as beef, buffalo, and turkey. It’s nearly indestructible, is nonperishable and lightweight, and is a great protein and salt source. With all that sweating, you want to eat something salty. Ideally, find a nitrate-free brand.
4. Fresh Fruit. Nothing better than a fresh pear, apple, orange or grapefruit, and everyone has at least one fruit they like to eat. It’s a great source of easily digested, natural carbohydrate. I suggest packing a fruit with minimal trash that needs packed out (i.e.: banana peel, and fruit that can take rolling around in your backpack without getting crushed. The last thing you want to deal with is smashed fruit debris on your stuff.
5. Fig Bars. They’re filled with carbs and calories, plus they’re slightly sweet, which is perfect when you need a quick pick-me-up along the trail.
6. Gorp, aka: Trail Mix. I love this food because you can do so much with it. Pick and choose just about anything you love! One idea: Combine 1 cup unsweetened whole-grain cereal, ¼ cup nuts, and ¼ cup dried fruit in a ready-to-go container. Other possible additions: coconut flakes, chocolate chips (beware: they may melt), dates, goji berries
7. Granola. It comes in a variety of flavors ranging from honey and nut to more exotic combinations like blueberry and cherry. Loaded with fat and carbohydrates, granola is an excellent choice out on the trail.
8. Dried Fruit. They pack more caloric bang per ounce than fresh fruit, which is important considering a high carbohydrate snack is what you muscles want when you’re in the midst of a long day hike. Raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, dried bananas, and dried apples are all tasty choices.
9. Hard Cheese and Crackers. Hard cheeses are robust enough to survive on the trail and can take a moderate amount of heat. Sitting on a scenic bluff, eating some cheese and crackers with sliced apple is a pretty stellar way to spend the afternoon.
10. Tuna Fish. Paired with whole grain crackers, or eaten on bread or a bagel, tuna is a healthy, high protein source while out on the trail. Be sure to purchase either the pull-top can (to avoid a can opener) or the tuna in a pouch, and if you insist on adding mayo or mustard, pick up a few of the restaurant size packets.
A fueled body will get you further. Happy Hiking!
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods