Food for Thought

Outdoor Health and Fitness
Food for Thought

Do you make sure you eat enough when you are on a long hike? Bonking on the trail can be dangerous. You’ve made it up to the summit but you’re out of energy. Going back down is not going to be easy if you are stumbling around due to lack of strength. WebMD puts it best, “Foods provide the gas to the body’s engine, and fluids provide the water to your body’s radiator. Without these crucial fuels and fluids, your body will have a hard time performing at its best.”

Dad and Erica having lunch on Chocorua

I’ve been there before. I’ve forgotten to bring enough food and I’ve ignored the “need to feed” because I was too tired to eat or I didn’t FEEL hungry. In situations like the latter, I have learned to force myself to eat because being light headed on the trail is scary. My dad has also done this, more than once. I have been known to harp on him from time to time to eat or drink more on the trail. We like to have a snack every hour to hour and a half while hiking. Sometimes we stop for a break, other times we just grab our snacks out of our pockets and pop them in our mouths as we go. These on the move snacks are usually Honey Stinger Chews or Sport Beans for us because they are so easy. I also like to use GU or ClifShots.

Snacks are important during outdoor activity but meals are even more important.  Personally I like to pack a bagel sandwich. A bagel fits great in a Ziploc bag for easy packing. It’s satisfying, but not too filling so I’m able to get back on the trail without a food coma taking me down. On my bagel I put some sort of protein. In the hotter months my protein is peanut butter. It doesn’t go bad in the heat and packs a great punch for giving some energy on the trail. In the cooler months I will make a cold cut sandwich if I can. Ham and cheese tend to be the way I go. Carbohydrates are the main energy source of your body so if you are using up your energy you will want to replace some of those carbs. That’s what the bagel is for. Proteins are the building blocks of your muscles. You are definitely using your muscles while hiking so you want to replace those too.

Kristal enjoying a bagel on Mt. Lincoln

Having just a bagel usually isn’t enough. Often times I take a single serving apple sauce with me. Again these are very easy to pack. When I am done, it just goes into the Ziploc bag I used for the bagel to carry out. Maybe not the best fruit to have, but it is easier than taking along a banana which will get bruised. To help replace the sodium I am losing through sweat I have been taking Pretzel Crisps with me. My favorite combination is putting peanut M&Ms in with the Sesame Pretzel Crisps. Pretzels, peanuts, and chocolate just go together so well.

I’m always up for suggestions on other foods that are easy to take along for day hikes. Drop me a comment and let me know your favorite trail snacks and meals.

Amy Parulis

A former Strength and Conditioning Specialist and captain of the University of North Carolina track team, Amy now looks for her next mountain to climb or mud run to take part in to keep in shape. Her favorite hike was to the crater rim of Mt. St. Helens where she witnessed a steaming lava dome and she some day hopes to summit Mt. Rainier. In the meantime she can be found helping customers at the Waterford EMS. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @amyparulis


  1. February 1, 2013, 1:26 am

    Trail mix is a good snack food for the day-long lunch. You can buy trail mix already put together at the Price Club (inexpensive) or nearly all supermarkets. You can also mix your own and put in exactly what your Scout likes. Most trail mixes consist of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, etc. A recipe that most Scouts like is one part of M&Ms, two parts peanuts, and one part raisins. You can also throw in a little shredded coconut and some dried banana chips, if he’ll eat them. Other good things include shelled sunflower seeds, carob, mixed nuts, pretzel sticks, or the little Japanese cracker-like snacks. (Go easy on the candy part – it’s better to have less candy and more other stuff.) As to how much he will need, for each day of hiking the most he will need is a double handful (less than a cup, if you have to measure it). By comparison, one pound of trail mix will last for a week in the high Sierras. Whatever you get for him, make sure your Scout likes it by having him try it at home first.

  2. January 24, 2013, 6:29 pm

    Hey there, I am a 20 year f\a and I have been really fine tuning my food bag lately. Morning I get those ready made protein shakes from Costco , snacks I portion out almonds in small ziploc bags. Lunch I make bagel sandwiches with grilled chicken, I wrap those in foil and heat them on the coffee makers burner or you can eat them cold. Trader Joes also has some nice burritos in the frozen section that are pretty good. I am an am flier so I usually eat out at the hotel, I try to have salmon, grilled chicken, a veggie and a salad. Hope this helps. Look at my diary if you want it is open.

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