Tired of Energy Bars? Great Snack Ideas For Short Hikes & Biking Trips

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 10:02am

By Donna Feldman, MS, RD

When you head out for an all-day hike or bike ride, you need two things: 1) the right gear, and 2) the right foods. For many people, energy bars are the perfect food choice; they’re no fuss, lightweight, ready-to-eat and indestructible. Grab some energy bars and a water bottle, stuff them in your day pack and you’re off.

At some point, though, energy bars can get pretty boring. You begin to long for different flavors and textures. So, what can you choose that is healthy and also “ready-to-eat/easy-to-pack”? Bananas and apples get battered and bruised. Sandwiches end up crushed and soggy. Cheese, meats and yogurt need refrigeration. Dehydrated soup needs cooking and a spoon. Salad? Forget it. Fortunately there are lots of great options in the grocery store that bypass the fuss and mess.

Think 'energy foods' as exercise snacks

A day of physical activity calls for foods that provide readily available calories; in other words: Carbohydrates. Foods that are high protein will take longer to digest and might not give you the energy boost you need. Fats have plenty of calories, but are also slower to digest. Two top choices, then, are breads and dried fruit. Pita bread comes in convenient plastic bags, won’t crumble up like crackers, and won’t squish like loaf bread. An alternative is a half-loaf of some great French bread, one of the artisan styles that are dense and chewy and won’t crush. And of course, bagels are a good choice and come in interesting flavors.

Dried fruit doesn’t just mean raisins anymore. You can find almost as many flavor choices as energy bars. Orange-flavored dried plums, craisins, dates, figs and tropical mixes are just a few. Most come in conveniently sized bags, about 6 ounces, so there’s no fuss. Just grab and go. On the other hand, if you insist on having some fresh fruit, think oranges. They pack well, they taste great, they’re loaded with nutrients, and they don’t get bruised like other fruit.

Plus protein exercise snacks

Don’t forget a protein source. One of the easiest choices is nuts because they require no refrigeration (unlike cheese or yogurt or deli meats). You can find many types of nuts in prepackaged plastic pouches, or you can buy them in jars or cans and pack your own baggie. There are some great new flavors available, including spicy wasabi or jalapeno. The only problem is that many of the flavored selections are high in salt. One way to deal with that is to buy one container of a flavored nut and one of a plain, unsalted variety, and mix the two together. Another high protein snack is jerky. It’s conveniently available in lightweight plastic pouches, but also salty.

Go ahead, bring some chocolate along if you like, but try to keep it away from heat sources, like direct sun on your day pack. Otherwise you’ll have a melted mess on your hands. Speaking of which, don’t forget the water bottle. Enjoy your day outside.