When you go hiking or camping, you don't have to leave your health regimen behind. Follow these tips for hiking and camping “the natural way” from Jim Gallagher, MS, RD, CD:
When going on a hike, make sure you:
- Bring enough filtered water for the trip. Most people need a minimum of 2-4 liters when on a day hike. Stop frequently and drink, since that will improve your stamina.
- Bring a trail mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. You can either make your own or buy a pre-made mix. (Be sure to use unsweetened dried fruits without sulfites.) These mixes work well because they contain fat, protein and essential fatty acids. “That mix will keep your energy high and your blood sugar stable,” says Gallagher, adding that eating a consistent balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat is an ideal combination for any kind of travel.
For overnight trips, avoid prepackaged “hiking/camping food” which can be found at outdoor equipment stores. “Those foods have a lot of additives and preservatives, and they also tend to lose many of their vitamins and minerals in the prepackaging process,” says Gallagher. “Besides, they have a lot of waste in their packaging and they are expensive.” Instead, travel lighter—and lighter on the earth—by packing your own foods, including:
- Dried soups, such as split pea soup, found in the bulk section of natural foods stores. “Dried soups are great because they have calories, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals and fluids,” says Gallagher. Avoid packaged instant soups, for they often contain preservatives and extra sodium.
- Dehydrated vegetables, which can be found in the bulk section of natural foods stores.
- Organic dried hummus (just add water) or dried falafel mix (just add water and oil).
- Pita bread, tortillas, crackers, flat breads and/or bagels.
- Cashew or almond butter.
- Dried beans and nutritional yeast for making burritos. Nutritional yeast contains B vitamins and can be used like cheese. You can also bring a block of organic cheese.
- “Quick-cook” or regular brown rice and dehydrated whole or refried beans. This meal is a complementary protein. You can also add your own spices.
- Rolled- or steel-cut oats. Avoid the little packets of oatmeal, as they contain extra sugars and artificial flavorings, according to Gallagher. Instead, add dried fruits to the cooked oats.
- Hard-boiled eggs (which should be eaten within a day). You can also bring a vacuum-packed carton of tofu, which does not have to be refrigerated. Textured vegetable protein can also be used like taco meat.
- Chopped vegetables in ziploc bags, such as peppers, carrots and celery. These lightweight snacks contain carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- Sweet potatoes to cook over a fire (for a good fix of energy-boosting carbohydrates).
- Energy bars. Pick more wholesome brands with mostly organic ingredients and few additives and preservatives. “Grainier” bars tend to be less refined.
- Drink decaffeinated or caffeinated green tea instead of coffee, which has a dehydrating effect.