It’s a well-known fact—everybody loves a treat!
And when you’re walking in nature, whether hiking a long distance trail through the wilderness or strolling through the bush listening to birdsong and breathing in the fresh air, a healthy snack always goes down a treat!
In fact, deliciously-healthy treats can sometimes be used as a lure to get reluctant walkers (be they children, partners or friends) out on the trail with you!
You know how it goes: ‘I’ve got some of your favourite scrumptious bliss balls, let’s eat them on the trail’!
Whether you have 2 or 20 walks under your belt, you’ll know that the key ingredients of an enjoyable walk, along with good footwear and suitable gear, are effective hydration and nutrition.
In a nutshell, what you eat and when you eat while walking can make or break your walk!
We can’t think of a better reason to indulge in some delicious snacks along the trail so here are a few pointers to treat yourself well.
What to pack
Fresh fruits make healthy snacks | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Follow these pointers for selecting treats that will help you along the trail.
- Pack lightweight food.
- Include easy to digest (high GI) foods that offer a quick energy boost, such as fruit (oranges, watermelon, frozen grapes and apples) cut into small servings. Bananas are also great but these don’t travel well inside a day pack! Dried fruit and nuts, muesli bars in bite sizes, crackers, home-made health balls, bars or muffins also offer an energy hit.
- Avoid foods with high fat or protein content. These foods take longer to digest, leaving you with that heavy, sleepy feeling after the lunch stop, when you still have a few hours of hiking ahead of you.
- Pack food that lasts. If it is hot and humid, avoid foods that will melt or be otherwise unsuitable for packing. For example, honey doesn’t travel well and inevitably leaks in your pack!
- Balance salty and sweet foods. Limit the chocolate—it melts in hot weather—and opt instead for a mixture of tastes. If it’s really hot, and you sweat a lot, you might crave something salty.
- Try out new recipes—there are many recipes for healthy hiking treats online. Try them out before your walk to see how they go down.
- Leave no trace. Always pack food in re-usable zip lock bags, eco-friendly packaging or wax wraps. Take a zip-lock bag for rubbish and ensure you carry home all scraps such as fruit peels, seeds and cores.
When to snack
Take frequent snack breaks | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Sometimes we set off on a walk and get so carried away with spotting wildlife and soaking up the scenery that we forget to eat and drink!
If you’re heading out on a longer hike (more than 3 hours), you should take a snack break every 45–60 minutes. Snacking frequently helps to maintain your blood glucose levels during exercise and reduces your chance of ‘hitting the wall’.
Exercise, such as walking, diverts blood from your digestive system to your muscles, and your digestion slows down. If you eat too much, either just before or during your walk, food can sit in your gut, and cause discomfort. Snack on small amounts of bite-sized food, rather than large meals such as heavy sandwiches.
Refuel with healthy wraps | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
As a guide:
- hydrate and ‘fuel up’ about 2 hours before you set out
- have frequent ‘pit stops’ to eat and drink small amounts; small and often, repeat the mantra: small and often
- don’t eat just before a big ascent; do eat on the flat terrain or when you are resting at a stream or a lookout
- ‘refuel’ and rehydrate after your walk.
Treat yourself well
Carry healthy snacks in your day packs | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Follow these guidelines for treats, and when to eat them, and you’ll find that by looking after your body, you’re set for an enjoyable hiking experience.
Find out more about walking safely in Queensland National Parks.