Diagnosis Fast-food junkie prone to trailside bonking “I like to buy easy food and snacks at the gas station on my way to the trailhead,” Paul says. “I usually decide to head into the backcountry at the drop of a hat. Food is an afterthought—the goal is to get out.”
Makeover by Mary Howley Ryan, MS, RD. Philosophy: “Ultimately, it’s about balancing nutritional needs with the practical. Good food is just as important as good gear.”
Meal Rx Although we didn’t want to crimp Paul’s spontaneous style, we endeavored to make his menu more healthful with complex carbs (to avoid sugar crashes), muscle-building protein, and unsaturated fats, plus more fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, key for producing energy and repairing damaged cells. We created a simple portable pantry that’s convenient yet nutritionally sound, and schooled him in good choices for on-the-go snacks.
Ready-to-Deploy Meal Kit
Keep a box with the following food in your trunk, so the next time you jet into the high country, you have wholesome, easy meals already at hand.
» Dried soups from the health-food bulk section, along with a measuring cup and zip-top bags
» MSG-free ramen and boxes of pasta, rice, and mac ’n cheese (can transfer to zip-top bags)
» Packets of Alfredo, pesto, and tomato sauces
» Foil packets of tuna, chicken, and Alaskan salmon
» Whole grain crackers and summer sausage
» Packages of dehydrated apples and cherries (available in most natural groceries and outdoor stores), and sun-dried tomatoes in sealed packages
» Instant oatmeal packets
» Instant coffee, hot chocolate, tea bags, powdered milk, and powdered energy and/or electrolyte drink mix
» Multivitamin tablets or Emergen-C mix (to make up for any nutritional deficiencies)
Pimp Your Ramen
Rather than adding the nutritionally empty flavor packet to your noodles, mix in a vitamin-rich bulk soup (or the packets from maryjanesfarm.org) and a chicken or tuna packet for lots of protein. Simmer until the meat is heated (about three minutes). Our favorite trio:
- 1/2 cup Mary Jane’s Organic Peasant Tomato soup
- 1 package cooked ramen noodles
- 1 4-ounce chicken packet
Red-flag ingredients to avoid…
- Trans fats, which raise the risk of heart disease
- High fructose corn syrup, a highly processed form of sugar linked to obesity
- Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a chemical associated with migraines
Just how much energy did you burn on that last hike? Find out at backpacker.com/caloriecalculator, and make sure you’re refueling with the right amount of food.