If you’ve been hiking more than a time or two, you know that trail snacks are LIFE and you always need to be packin’ snacks. It only takes one time of getting caught on a hike MUCH longer than you anticipated, completely out of food to vow to never let that happen again! Once I hiked the tallest Colorado 14er, thinking it was 9 miles long and it really turned into 14 miles. I packed two granola bars and we ended up hiking from about 6 AM to 3 PM- let me tell you it was NOT enough.
But as a health-nut and Personal Trainer, I also don’t love the idea of just filling my body with junk for the sake of getting calories in. I’ve talked to SO many frequent hikers and campers who say “HELP – I always end up eating like crap on my mountain weekends because I don’t know what healthy, but easy + nonperishable options to bring!”. Especially if you’re hiking and/or backpacking frequently, you probably don’t want to feel less-than-ideal because you’re constantly eating unhealthy options on the trails! So today I want to share with you my healthy go-to snacks for feeling my best on the trails!
Let me preface this with stating a few considerations:
- The following options aren’t going to be AS healthy as home-cooked, veggie-filled meals simply because in the outdoors you are more limited to non-perishable items. I’m simply presenting the best options given the circumstances.
- Higher fat options don’t always agree well with people’s bellies while participating in physical activity. If you find that higher-fat options feel good for you and help keep you full, great! Just be sure to listen to the responses your body gives you as you try these out.
- While sometimes hiking and eating simultaneously is the only option (if you’re in a time crunch), I don’t necessarily recommend that method from a digestion standpoint. You will likely feel better if you can take a moment to sit, snack, digest and then get moving again.
- The following are recommendations for day hikes, not necessarily overnight backpacking trips. When you’re backpacking you are likely packing items for cooking which you wouldn’t be bringing on a day hike.
- The amount of snacks needed per person will vary. I personally don’t love eating a ton while hiking most of the time because movement suppresses my appetite. Make sure you listen to your hunger cues, and fuel properly based on the duration and intensity of each hike.
1. High protein bars
Making sure you’re eating ample protein when you snack will ensure that you remain satiated as you expend calories. That’s why I tend to prefer snacks that are higher in protein over only carb-heavy snacks. So be sure you aren’t mistaking granola bars for protein bars! They are quite different. When picking a high protein bar, you want to look for at least 10-20 grams of protein per every 200 calories. Here are a few of my personal favorite brands that I often hike/backpack with:
- Think Thin High Protein Bars: 20 G protein, 0 G sugar, 23 G carbs, Gluten-free, 240 calories
- Pure Protein Bars: 21 G protein, 3 G sugar, 17 G carbs, 180 calories
- ONE Bars: 20 G protein, 1 G sugar, 22 G carbs, 210 calories, Gluten-free
2. Meal replacement bars
For longer hikes (4 hours or more), meal replacement bars can be CLUTCH for a calorie-dense, but lightweight meal alternative. These bars will naturally be higher in calories, and have fairly well-rounded macronutrient ratios (carbs, proteins and fats). Here are a few of my personal favorite brands that I often hike/backpack with:
- Gomacro Bars: 11 G protein, 10 G sugar, 30 G carbs, 11 G fat, 260 calories.
- Bobos Nut Butter Protein Bar: 11 G protein, 13 G sugar, 39 G carbs, 11 G fat, 270 calories
3. Nuts or Seeds
For shorter hikes, having a handful or two of nuts or seeds can tide you over well without bogging you down. This one totally depends on your preference, as there are numerous types of nuts and seeds you can pack along on a hike. Here are some of my personal favorites:
- Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds: 1 serving size (28 nuts) = 6 G protein, 5 G carbs, 16 G fat, 170 calories
- Wonderful Chili Roasted Pistachios: 1 serving (1/4 cup) = 7 G protein, 6 G carbs, 14 G fat, 170 calories
- Thrive Market Organic Sriracha Cashews: 1 serving (1/4 cup) = 4 G protein, 8 G carbs, 15 G fat, 180 calories
- Power Up Protein Packed Trail Mix: 1 serving (1/4 cup) = 7 G protein, 16 G carbs, 13 G fat, 190 calories
4. Fruit w/ Nut Butter
A simple but delicious and filling go-to trail snack is the CLASSIC fruit and nut butter combo! Fresh fruit will obviously be better on short hikes before it has time to get smashed or go bad. As for the nut butter, it will definitely be more spatially efficient to pack nut butter packets such as Justin’s, Yumbutter, Trail Butter, RX Nut Butter, or Thrive Market Nut Butter are some of my favorite combos:
- Apple + Justin’s Almond Honey: 280-300 calories total, 6.5 G protein, 33 G carbs, 16 G fat
- Banana + Yumbutter Cashew Butter (1 serving size = 2 TBSP): 285 calories total, 6.3 G protein, 37 G carbs, 15.4 G fat
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5. Healthy-Style PB&J Sandwich
We’ve all had a PB&J in our day but I doubt the word “healthy” comes to mind when you think of it! There are a few swaps you can make to enjoy a healthier version of this childhood favorite! These sandwiches are ideal for long hikes when you need a more substantial meal than little snacks can offer. Here are the brands I recommend to craft your perfect healthy-style PB&J:
- Rudi’s Organic Whole Grain Bread (1 serving): 100 calories, 4 G protein, 18 G carbs, 1 G fat.
- Good & Gather Cashew Butter (1 serving): 190 calories, 4 G protein, 9 G carbs, 17 G fat.
- Smuckers Sugar-free jam (1 serving): 10 calories, 0 G protein, 5 G carbs, 0 G fat.
6. Canned Tuna, Salmon or Chicken
When you think of nonperishables, tuna, salmon and chicken likely don’t pop into your head! However, if you shop for the canned versions of these items, this can be an amazing way to get your protein in on the trails! These are ideal for longer hikes, when you don’t want to just keep eating protein bars endlessly. Below is the nutrition info on canned tuna, salmond and chicken:
- Mountain House Canned Chicken (serving size = ¾ cup): 170 calories, 25 G protein, 0 G carbs, 7 G fat.
- Wild Planet Albacore Wild Tuna (serving size = 3 oz): 100 calories, 21 G protein, 0 G carbs, 2.5 G fat.
- Safe Catch Wild Pink Salmon (serving size = 2 oz): 90 calories, 14 G protein, 0 G carbs, 3 G fat.
7. Jerky or Biltong
Another classic trail snack! There are soooo many jerky/biltong brands out there, so let’s sift through and find the healthier brands among all the less-healthy ones! When looking for a quality jerky/biltong, you want to look for lower fat, less sodium and less artificial ingredients. The fewer ingredients the better! Here are a few jerky/biltong brands that I look for keeping health in mind:
- Krave Jerky (1 serving = 1 oz): 90 calories, 8 G protein, 12 G carbs, 1.5 G fat.
- Lorissa Kitchen (1 serving = 1 oz): 80 calories, 10 G protein, 7 G carbs, 1 G fat.
- Kalahari Biltong (1 serving = entire package): 160 calories, 32 G protein, 1 G carbs, 4 G fat.
8. Homemade energy balls
The sky is the limit with this one! I think it’s fun to get creative and use all your favorites to make unique flavors. The beauty of these is that no cooking is required. You will simply mix all ingredients together into little ball-sized bites and refrigerate until your hike. Nutrition info with vary based on which ingredients you choose and how much. The following are ingredients I like to include in my homemade energy balls:
- Base ingredients: oats + nut butter of choice
- Other mix-in options: dried fruit (cherry, blueberry, strawberry, etc), protein powder, cacao powder or nibs, crushed nuts or seeds
- Toppings: coconut shavings, cacao powder
So there you have it! Eight healthy snacks to pack with you on the trails. Choosing healthier snacks when hiking allows me to feel my best while doing what I love! What’s YOUR go-to hiking snack?? Tell me in the comments!