I, Ducky, confess that I am kind of a health nut.
And this can be rough on trail.
Even before I started the trail, I remember Googling healthy hiker meal ideas. I wandered around the grocery store where I lived and imagined what I would buy to bring to eat on trail. I read every article The Trek has ever posted about nutrition and tried to internalize the tips. I’m not a very technical person, but learned that I should focus on protein, carbohydrates, and fat; whole foods; and getting enough calories.
My Food Bag History
Coming into the 100-mile wilderness, my food weighed an astronomical amount. I’m not ultralight, so I never weighed it officially, but I’m telling you, it was a lot, a lot.
Throughout the trail, I’ve struggled frequently with a too-heavy food bag that is choked full of random healthy food. I’m guilty of packing out fresh fruit, full containers of hummus, and snap peas. It’s so hard to turn down my favourites.
But, I’m starting to get it together. And that’s why I’m finally sharing a day in my foodie life as a thru-hiker.
**A disclaimer should be made, of course, that everyone’s food consumption varies widely on trail, as it should. Food is fuel and every hiker (and person) should do what works the best for them, gives their body the nutrition needed to thrive. I am not recommending this food in particular, nor am I stating that it is nutritionally sound or the best plan out here. Please do not compare your personal nutrition, diet, or consumption with my own. This article is purely for interest and fun, to share ideas.**
Breakfast has always been my favourite meal. I never skip it. In fact, when I try to, I usually get so faint that I cannot keep operating as a human until I do. I’ve always been like that (yes, Mom and Dad, I can hear you laughing through the Internet).
The trail, of course, is no different. Actually, it’s usually my stomach that encourages me to get up, tear down camp, and get boiling water for breakfast.
In my off-trail life, I almost never start the day with oatmeal — I’m more of a toast person. Don’t even get me started on how much I miss my caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar tomatoes on a bed of hummus and arugula…I wish I was kidding. But, on-trail, I’m all about the oatmeal. I’ve had it every single day thus far, with no signs of stopping.
Organic MaraNatha Peanut Butter (1 packet): 200 calories, 17g fat, 5g carbohydrates, 8g protein
Kodiak Chocolate Chip Protein Oatmeal (1 packet): 200 calories, 4g fat, 30g carbohydrates, 12 g protein
As earlier alluded to, my morning metabolism moves fast. It always has. As such, even in my off-trail life, I’m a big morning snacker. I remember safe guarding the road trip snacks as a kid, mentally rationing how many cheese strings my sister and I could split per day. On-trail, I’m usually snacking once every 60-90 minutes.
My preferred snack in the morning are bars. They’re quick, I can eat them while walking, and they can have great macronutrients for hikers.
Larabar, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (1 bar): 220 calories, 12g fat, 25g carbohydrates, 4g protein
RX Bar, Chocolate Sea Salt (1 bar): 210 calories, 9g fat, 23g carbohydrates, 12g protein
Go Macro, Dark Chocolate and Almonds (1 bar): 280 calories, 11g fat, 37g carbohydrates, 10g protein
Lunch is usually some sandwich variation. I hiked many, many miles eating tuna frequently on a wrap for lunch, supplemented with cheese or stolen mustard packets.
I’ve recently adopted a self-inflicted tuna hiatus. The packets are okay, not great, and I was looking for something better.
As a pescatarian, eliminating fish packets (yes, salmon too) meant that I was left with a few great options: peanut butter, hummus, tofurkey or equivalent, or cheese — all decent sources of protein.
Whole Wheat Tortilla (1 tortilla): 160 calories, 4.5 g fat, 27g carbohydrates, 5g protein
Tofurkey Plant-Based Deli Slices, Hickory Smoked (5 slices): 110 calories, 3.5g fat, 5g carbohydrates, 14g protein
Sargento Natural Sharp Cheddar (3 slices): 240 calories, 21g fat, 0g carbohydrates, 15g protein
Satiated by lunch and after passing the morning metabolism, I’m usually much less snacky in the afternoon.
But, I’m not one to go without fuel, so of course there are a few things on the menu.
Generally, the afternoon consists of nuts and dried fruit. This means I can take little or large handfuls depending on how hungry I am in the moment, very versatile.
Dried Pineapple Rings (4 rings): 140 calories, 0g fat, 35g carbohydrates, 1g protein
Power Up Mega Omega Trail Mix (1/2 cup): 280 calories, 16g fat, 32g carbohydrates, 6g protein
I would be amiss not to mention a key source of energy throughout the day — electrolytes. Thanks to Hawk-Eye for reminding to incorporate these into my daily rotation way back in the 100-mile wilderness!
I usually aim for two packets or 8 squirts a day, bonus points if one is Liquid IV.
Supper is all about carbs, in my opinion. Maybe it’s the years of competitive running reminding me to carb-up before a big race, but either way, that’s usually what I do.
Supper varies, usually some form of noodle or rice. I’ve eaten lots of Knorr’s Rice Sides, the occasional ramen, Annie’s mac and cheese, etc. Couscous is a recent favourite.
I like to add things like seaweed, dried tomatoes, ginger, and miso to my supper!
And, then, dessert. Always chocolate. Usually as dark as I can find, sometimes just M&M’s because they’re my weakness.
Near East Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil Couscous (1/2 box): 405 calories, 13.5g fat, 60g carbohydrates, 10.5g protein
Bella Sun Luci Sun-Dried Tomatoes (2 servings, 28g): 70 calories, 0g fat, 12g carbohydrates, 4g protein
Ocean’s Halo Seaweed Snack (1/2 package, 2g): 10 calories, 0.5g fat, 0.5g carbohydrates, 0.5g protein
Olive Oil (1 tbsp): 120 calories, 13.5g fat, 0g carbohydrates, 0g protein
Lindt 85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate (4 squares, 40g): 230 calories, 18g fat, 15g carbohydrates, 5g protein
Now, for the first time, I’m calculating all of these numbers to see what my breakdown of fat, carbohydrates, and protein looks like. I’m aiming for a general breakdown of 35% fat, 50% carbohydrates, and 15% protein.
How’d I Do?
Total calories: 2875 calories
Total fat: 143.5g fat
Total carbohydrates: 306.5g carbohydrates
Total protein: 107g protein
Macro breakdown: 26% fat, 55% carbohydrates, 19% protein
Not bad! At a quick glance, it looks like some more healthy fats in place of some carbohydrates and protein would help balance this more. But, nutrition is certainly no perfect science, especially when resupply locations on trail might vary from a Wal-Mart in Delaware Water Gap to a convenience store in Duncannon!
Overall, having never calculated these values before, I think the focus on eating as much protein as possible during the day, loading on carbohydrates before bed, and choosing whole foods as often as possible have been serving me well. I always remember that food is fuel and it’s important to feed your body accordingly, especially when undertaking something as strenuous as a thru-hike.
Quick Trail Update
All this talk about food and no talk about hiking! I left Delaware Water Gap in the largest SOBO bubble I could have imagined, almost immediately hitting the 900-mile marker. Pennsylvania rocked my world for a few days as I hiked towards Duncannon. Seriously, the NOBO’s did warn me that the rocks would be rough, but damn, my feet hurt. Thankfully, I had new sneakers shipped to Duncannon, so am able to start fresh from here!
Along the way, I stopped in Palmerton for supper, after taking in the incredible views from the top of a rocky cliff. I did some beautiful ridge walking at sunrise. I didn’t see a single rattlesnake, which I take as a personal achievement of the highest regard. I stopped at my first Wa-Wa for mac and cheese and a iced mint mocha, at the recommendation of fellow hikers. Yum! I ordered pizza to the 501 shelter with a bunch of other SOBO buddies. Then, I crossed the 1000-mile marker, enjoyed some rainy day trail magic from a tramily member’s family, and took lots of pictures of turtles as I walked into Duncannon in the rain. Whoops, I guess most of my trail updates are also about food! Such is life!