Everyone has their favorite trail snacks and backpack foods. I thought that most of my choices were quite healthy these days (excluding the ramen and Cornuts). While most of my trail foods are healthy, it turns out that some of my choices are no longer healthy for me. I recently ran into some issues with some of the foods I have been eating for most of my life- including a lot of what I eat on the trail and in the bush. These days it seems that almost every other person you meet has some kind of food sensitivity- lactose, gluten, soy, peanuts, and so on. Well, I am joining that group. For me it is not that big of a deal, nothing that is life-threatening. It is more about how I feel after eating certain foods, both physically and mentally.
My changes start with cutting out some of the big culprits- gluten, peanuts, and lactose. It is not really that hard to do at home. But out in the desert at the back of the truck, or on the trail, it is a different story. I have started to make the changes in the snacks that I eat. From regular pretzels to gluten free pretzels, no more sesame sticks, no more fake jerky (made from wheat). I have switched the wheat-based “jerky” for actual turkey jerky sticks. And nearly all of my favorite bars are now off-limits. This includes Power Bars (now owned by Nestle and full of things I cannot pronounce), Kind Bars (peanuts in everything), and even Lara Bars (peanuts and gluten). To work around this problem, I did a search online for “gluten free energy bar recipes” and was immediately given over one million options for this part of my new diet. I am sure a few of those were repeats though, and I cut it down to about 5 recipes. From those, as I always do, I created a couple of my own.
To summarise the process of my first try at custom energy bars, I started with pitted dates, a little warm water, and a food processor. Once I had the sticky paste to bind everything together, it was just a matter of adding my favorite flavors to it. It used flake coconut, almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries, dried currants, and added mini-chocolate chips to one of the bars. I also added a little sea salt, almond butter, blanched almond flour, and vanilla to the bar that I finished by baking. Next time I might try chia, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds, and maybe dried cherries. The list of ingredients is limited by what you prefer, and what you can find dried.
My first batch, after mixing, I just pressed into a plastic wrap-lined baking dish and chilled in the refrigerator. The other batch with more liquid and vanilla, I poured out, flattened and formed, and covered with almond flour. I then laid it on a piece of baking parchment and baked it at 250 degrees for about half an hour. The first batch, without the almond flour coating, were definitely a bit sticky. The second batch can be eaten without much mess. And both tasted great. The big test will be in warm weather- will they hold up in the heat, or will there turn to sticky, messy masses? I’ll let you know next summer.
Moving on to backpack meals, this will take some more time. I plan to go through all my recipes and just remove or swap out ingredients. And of course give them a try at home before I head into the bush. For me, again, there are not massive changes to be made. There will be some work on the staples- I’ll switch the standard ramen noodles with rice noodles and end up eating a lot more Vietnamese noodles soups. Fine with me. Rice and beans won’t need any changes- what luck! Pasta will be easy. At our local natural food store, Vitamin Cottage, they sell quinoa and corn pasta in all forms- penne and macaroni most importantly. Easy to change. The hardest thing for me is cutting out lactose- being a tea drinker, I have had a hard time there. But I am back to green tea for the most part. And then there is my hot breakfast recipe- mostly wheat. I’ll work on that.
On the positive side for me, with my menu changes I have noticed that I am not as hungry and am eating less. In the end this will help lighten the load a bit and make my walks even a little easier.
For more on our desert adventures, visit the Desert Explorer website.