The trick for getting — and staying — in shape has as much to do with what you’re eating as it does with the exercise you’re getting. Before you head out on the trail or to the gym, you need to be prepared. Snacks are a necessary item in any outdoorsman’s pack, especially if you’re engaging in any strenuous activity. Serious hikers, snowboarders, and the occasional gym rat look for snacks that are lightweight, calorie-dense, and packed with a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat. No matter your activity, here are seven healthy snacks that will sate your hunger and curb your snack cravings.
1. Beef Jerky
For carnivores, nothing hits the spot like a good piece of protein-rich beef jerky. And there’s no reason to settle for the gas station variety when you can easily make your own. Even better, you don’t need any special equipment to turn steak into a tasty trail snack — just a lot of patience. This recipe from Alton Brown via Food Network involves MacGyver-ing a food dehydrator out of a box fan, bungee cords, and air-conditioning filters.
- 1½ to 2 pounds flank steak
- ⅔ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ⅔ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 box fan
- 4 paper air-conditioning filters
- 2 bungee cords
Directions: Trim the flank steak of any excess fat, place in a zip-top bag, and place it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours in order to firm up.
Remove the steak from the freezer and thinly slice the meat with the grain, into long strips. Place the strips of meat along with all of the remaining ingredients into a large, 1-gallon plastic zip-top bag and move around to evenly distribute all of the ingredients. Place the bag into the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours.
Remove the meat from the brine and pat dry. Evenly distribute the strips of meat onto 3 of the air filters, laying them in the grooves and then stacking the filters on top of one another. Top these with 1 empty filter. Next, lay the box fan on its side and lay the filters on top of it. Strap the filters to the fan with 2 bungee cords. Stand the fan upright, plug in and set to medium. Allow the meat dry for 8 to 12 hours. If using a commercial dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Once dry, store in a cool dry place, in an airtight container for 2 to 3 months.
2. Healthy 5-Ingredient Granola Bars
Granola bars have been a trail snack staple for years, and it’s easy to see why. They’re easy to carry, don’t spoil, and contain a good mix of carbs and protein. These granola bars from the Minimalist Baker contain just five ingredients, don’t actually require any baking, and will keep in the freezer for months.
- 1 cup packed dates, pitted
- ¼ cup honey, maple syrup or agave nectar
- ¼ cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
- 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, loosely chopped
- 1½ cups rolled oats
- Optional add-ins: chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, banana chips, vanilla.
Note: The dates need to be sticky and moist in order for the bars to hold together. If yours are dry, soak them in water for 10 minutes before processing.
Directions: Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain, about 1 minute. Fruit should form a dough-like consistency. Optional: Toast your oats in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 15 minutes.
Place oats, almonds and dates in a bowl and set aside. Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8-by-8-inch dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Press down until uniformly flattened. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let set in fridge or freezer for 15 to 20 minutes to harden.
Remove from pan and chop into 10 even bars. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days, or freeze.
3. No-Bake Peanut Butter Protein Bars
A long day of hiking or an hour at the gym can take a lot out of a person. When you feel the need for sustenance, reach for Blonde Ponytail’s peanut butter protein bars. The sweet flavor and fudge-like texture makes them feel like an indulgence, but the protein powder and “superfood” chia seeds mean they’re a good-for-you treat.
- 2 cups creamy peanut butter
- 1¼ cups of honey
- 2 cups of vanilla or chocolate protein powder
- 1 cup of oats
- ¼ cup of chia seeds
Directions: Combine 2 cups of creamy peanut butter and 1¼ cups of honey. Heat for 90 seconds in a microwave-safe bowl, then stir. Add 2 cups of protein powder. Mix completely, then add ½ to 1 cup of rolled oats. Add ¼ cup of chia seeds. Spread the mixture in a pan and refrigerate until firm.
4. Campfire Popcorn Satchels
On your next camping trip (or night in by the fire), skip the s’mores in favor of popcorn, an easy-to-make, healthier alternative (bonus: no sticky fingers afterward). While you can use an old-fashioned campfire popcorn popper, who really wants another single-use tool that will spend most of its time in storage? The only equipment you need for this recipe from Real Simple is heavy-duty aluminum foil and string.
- 2 tablespoons of popcorn kernels
- 2 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil
Directions: Place the popcorn and oil on an 18-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Seal the edges to form a loose pouch, leaving room for the kernels to pop. Tie a corner of the pouch to a stick with a piece of string. Shake over a fire until popped.
5. Strawberry Leather
Fresh fruit is delicious, but it’s bulky and doesn’t always travel well, making it less-than-ideal for an on-the-go snack. This recipe from Epicurious for strawberry fruit leather transforms fresh berries into a delicious, easy-to-pack food. While the sugar content is high, you’ll be thankful for the quick burst of energy when you’re feeling fatigued.
- 1½ pounds of strawberries, halved (4½ cups)
- ¾ cup sugar
Directions: Purée strawberries with sugar in a blender until smooth, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heavy saucepan.
Bring purée to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to mound slightly and reduced to 1 to 1¼ cups, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit with rack in middle. Line a large baking sheet with nonstick liner. Pour hot purée onto liner and spread thinly into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle using spatula. Dry purée in oven until it feels dry but is still slightly tacky, 2 to 3 hours.
Cool on liner on a rack until completely dry, at least 3 hours and up to 24. Place a sheet of parchment paper over leather, then peel leather off liner and roll up in parchment. Fruit leather will keep for one month in a sealed bag at room temperature.
6. Super Seedy Trail Mix with Almonds, Chia, and Cranberries
Trail mix – that sweet and salty mix of fruit, nuts, and sometimes seeds and chocolate — is the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of outdoor snacks. There are literally hundreds of recipes out there for trail mix, but we like this one, from Feed Me Phoebe, which involves roasting the nuts and seeds rather than just throwing all the raw ingredients together in a bag.
- 2 cups raw unsalted almonds
- ½ cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon unrefined extra virgin coconut oil, melted
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
Directions: Preheat the broiler. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the almonds, pumpkin and chia seeds, coconut oil, honey, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until the nuts are coated in the honey and oil.
Arrange the nut mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast under the broiler until the nuts are toasted and fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Redistribute and return to the broiler for another minute. Cool on the sheet until the honey has begun to set, 5 minutes. Stir once to make sure all the honey stick to the nuts and not the parchment. Allow to cool completely.
Toss the cooled nuts with the cranberries and chocolate chips. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.
7. Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas
Chickpeas are high in fiber, protein, potassium, and iron, making them an ideal healthy snack. While there’s nothing wrong with plain roasted chickpeas, this recipe from Natural Chow gives these beans a little extra kick by adding chili powder and cayenne pepper to the mix.
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce) can
- 1½ teaspoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Dash of cayenne pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Pat the chickpeas dry between two paper towels and remove any loose skins.
Pour the chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat and mist with olive oil. Toss the chickpeas in the oil with your hands or a spoon.
Place the seasonings in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the mixture onto the chickpeas and toss to coat. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring the chickpeas at the 15-minute mark.