Give Me Something Good to Eat

28 10 2009

iStock_000004282863XSmall[1]Ah, Halloween.  The one night a year when it’s perfectly acceptable to beg for, scarf down, and get sick from twenty-seven pounds of chocolate and nougat in one go.  (The one day a year when it’s perfectly acceptable to scarf down twenty-seven pounds of savory foods like turkey and stuffing and potatoes and is one month later, of course, because you need the time to recover.)

Now, I like chocolate as much as the next girl, and will probably head for the store on Sunday to buy discounted Halloween candy, even though I shouldn’t.  I won’t be taking any of this chocolate on a hike, however.   First of all, it melts in the heat.  Second, it provides quick but fleeting energy boost and in the end will just make you feel crappy.

So, you may ask, what is the right food to take on a hike?  We’ll talk in more depth about this as time goes on, but here is my general practice:

If it’s a short hike (1-2 hours) in familiar territory, I’ll usually just grab a couple of energy bars…what kind, you ask?  I have my preferences, but you’ll have to check back to find out another day.  For now, pick what you like, try different ones, see what works for you.

If it’s a longer hike, particularly if it spans the lunch time frame, I’ll be a little more elaborate in the edible goodies I put in my backpack.  My favorite hiking lunch draws from a variety of categories: crunchy, salty, filling, light, and sweet.  I tend to stay away from gooey and dairy, because gooey is messy and dairy can spoil.  (These are technical categories, developed after decades of scientific study…I mean, developed in my head a minute ago.)

In seriousness, you want food that will give you energy, fill you up but not slow you down or make you feel heavy and lazy, and is satisfying.  Salt is also important because, as you sweat, you lose sodium, which needs to be replaced if you’re drinking a ton of water as well.  (See hyponatremia.)

A typical hiking lunch for me:

  • Sandwich (turkey, ham, other protein) with mustard and lettuce.  Tomatoes make the bread soggy unless you pack them separately and I don’t like tomatoes enough to make that worth it.  Mayo is a big no-no (the whole “dairy spoils” concept, remember?).
  • Tortilla chips or pretzels .
  • Grapes/cherries/apple/some other easy-to-eat fruit.  I don’t like bringing oranges because then you have to deal with the peel, and I think they’re messy and sticky, but some people don’t mind that.
  • Energy bars/granola bars

Obviously, this isn’t by any means an exclusive list.  In the future, we’ll talk more about food: brands, homemade recipes, and what to eat when you camp.  You’ll find what combination works for you.  What I have found is that the combination above is about right for me on a longer hike.  I have also found that I eat more than I think I will when hiking — I get hungrier from the activity — so I pack more than I might eat if I were just sitting around in front of a computer, like I’m doing right now.

Up next: in further honor of Halloween, on Friday we’ll talk about the importance of costume.  In the meantime, go beg for candy.

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