Strap on your boots, grab your pack, and head out to your favorite trail. Hiking in the beauty of nature is one of the most rewarding forms of exercise there is. The US Forest Service has compiled a list of scientific studies that show many of the health benefits of hiking. Hikers generally have lower rates of disease, heart attack, stroke and depression than non-hikers.
To keep safe, healthy, and feeling great on any hike, make sure you pack lots of water and high-energy snacks. Food is fuel—and you want to make sure you’ve got plenty of gas in the tank to power you all the way to the peak, and back down again too. We’ve got some tips that will help you choose the perfect snack foods to bring on your next hiking adventure.
When you hike, your body draws energy from glucose (blood sugar) and glycogen (a form of glucose stored in your muscles and liver). Carbohydrates break down quickly into glucose, so carbs provide your body with bursts of energy that your body can use right away. Trail nutrition experts recommend that you eat carbohydrate-rich snacks frequently throughout your hike to prevent fatigue and low blood sugar.
Despite what you may have heard, you don’t need to load up on lots of protein during a hike, although it can help sustain your energy, and also helps your body heal and recover after strenuous exercise.
How to Choose Snacks for Hiking
Foods that make the perfect trail snacks are:
- Energy packed (with the right balance of carbs and protein)
- Convenient (require no cooking or preparation)
- Durable (will not bruise or spoil)
- Easy to digest
There are a lot of energy bars, gels, chews, and sports drinks on the market that claim to be the best snacks for hiking. Though they might be lightweight and convenient, most of these are highly processed and made with loads of additives, preservatives, and refined sugar. The all-natural, whole-food alternative to processed bars is trail mix.
Quick, Easy, and Delicious Trail Mix
If you want nutrition, energy, portability, and digestibility (without all the junk) make your own trail mix that includes freeze dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and a few other special ingredients. Below you will find three categories of trail mix ingredients that are delicious and nutritious. Mix and match your favorites.
Nuts and Seeds
For most day-hikers, eating nuts and seeds on the trail will supply the right amount of protein to help your body recover after your hike. Nuts and seeds are also loaded with healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals.
- Hazel nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds
Freeze dried fruit like banana slices, pineapple, apples, mangoes, peaches, and cherries provide a great source of healthy carbohydrates to fuel you on your hike. Many dried fruits are also rich in potassium, a mineral that can help prevent muscle cramps. And because they are freeze dried, these fruits are lightweight and will not bruise.
Sweet and Savory Ingredients
When you make your own trail mix, you can customize the recipe to suit your taste. Season with cinnamon or a hint of cayenne pepper for an extra kick.
- Chocolate chips
- Peanut butter chips
- Crystallized ginger
- Wasabi peas
You can buy many of these ingredients in bulk and mix up a large batch of trail mix that will last for many long hikes or backpacking trips.
We hope these tips and tasty trail snacks help you have a healthier, happier hike!