Vegetarians on the Trail: Eating Meat-Free on the Go

You don’t have to be a meat eater to get prop­er nutri­tion while out­doors. Whether you’re back­pack­ing, hik­ing or camp­ing, pick­ing the right com­bi­na­tion of veg­e­tar­i­an nutri­ents will ensure you have enough ener­gy to con­quer the trails ahead.

Vegetarian essentialsChoose Nutri­ent-Rich Foods
When you are on the trails, there are a few things to keep in mind when pack­ing your food: it needs to pro­vide enough ener­gy to keep you going, it can’t require refrig­er­a­tion and it needs to be some­thing that is easy to pre­pare or cook, accord­ing to health coach Ele­na McCown. “Some great, pro­tein-rich ingre­di­ents to car­ry with you include: dehy­drat­ed lentils or split red lentils, roast­ed chick­peas, freeze-dried peas, peanut but­ter, and nuts and seeds (espe­cial­ly almonds, pis­ta­chios, peanuts, sun­flower seeds, pump­kin seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds),” says McCown.

Tofu, nuts, beans, and seeds are also per­fect pro­tein-rich ingre­di­ents to add to meals, accord­ing to Jen­na Brad­dock, MSH, RDN, CSSD, Sports Dietit­ian and blog­ger at Make­HealthyEasy. “In addi­tion, the pre-cooked pack­ages of whole grains you find in the rice aisle of the gro­cery store can be a won­der­ful meal base on the trail,” says Brad­dock. “While you obvi­ous­ly don’t have a microwave to heat them up, they are fine to eat cold or heat over a fire.”

Dried BlueberriesDon’t For­get Essen­tial Nutrients
A bal­anced diet is essen­tial while out on the trails, as lack of cer­tain nutri­ents will leave you feel­ing tired, sore, and not in the best of moods. Iron, for exam­ple, is essen­tial to help sup­ply oxy­gen to the mus­cles and turn fuel into ener­gy, accord­ing to McCown.

Anoth­er essen­tial thing to con­sume is elec­trolytes. “Since water is vital for the trails, you need to make sure to avoid hypona­trem­ia (a life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion where your body does­n’t have enough salts to func­tion) by sup­ple­ment­ing with sodi­um, chlo­ride, potas­si­um, mag­ne­sium, man­ganese, and cal­ci­um on a con­sis­tent basis with elec­trolyte drinks/supplements and salty foods,” says McCown.

Since eat­ing fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles can be tricky on the trail, Brad­dock says anoth­er impor­tant thing to focus on is mak­ing sure you get enough vit­a­min C. “Vit­a­min C plays an impor­tant role in immune func­tion and is impor­tant for keep­ing you healthy while you chal­lenge your body on the trail,” says Braddock.

To help with this, Brad­dock rec­om­mends tak­ing dried blue­ber­ries along on your trip. “One serv­ing of blue­ber­ries is an excel­lent source of vit­a­min C, prov­ing almost 25% of the dai­ly rec­om­mend­ed amount,” Brad­dock points out.

Granola BarsMake Sure You Get Enough Calories
Calo­rie-dense meals are the way to go if the goal is to make sure you eat enough—and this starts with a fill­ing and ener­giz­ing break­fast. “Bring foods that are easy to eat as you are still mov­ing and a big­ger lunch if you are plan­ning to stop for a break,” says McCown. “Make sure to snack fre­quent­ly, con­sume three meals a day and drink high-calo­rie drinks—and don’t for­get to refu­el with­in 30–45 min­utes of fin­ish­ing for the day with a fill­ing meal of carbs, fat, and protein.”

Fat-rich foods are anoth­er great choice for get­ting in a lot of calo­ries in a small pack­age. For exam­ple, Brad­dock rec­om­mends sin­gle-serve nut but­ter pack­ets as a way to quick­ly and con­cise­ly get calo­ries. “Nutri­tion bars like CLIF Nut But­ter Filled Bars are anoth­er deli­cious, space-sav­ing option,” adds Braddock.

Energy BallsDehy­drat­ed Foods Are Your Friend
Dehy­drat­ed and make-ahead meals, snacks, and ingre­di­ents are key to pro­vid­ing healthy food on the trails, whether you make them your­self or buy prepacked mix­es, accord­ing to McCown. “Some of the best-dehy­drat­ed foods to bring include lentils, chick­peas, peas, quinoa, eggs, veg­eta­bles, and fruit,” McCown says. “For exam­ple, an easy meal could be dehy­drat­ed lentils, quinoa, your favorite dehy­drat­ed veg­gies, nutri­tion­al yeast, a can of toma­to paste and a lit­tle bit of oil with a pack­et of your favorite seasoning.”

Ener­gy balls are also a great snack to bring with you and can include dates, nuts, peanut but­ter, and chia seeds, mixed togeth­er in a blender and formed into small balls and rolled in coconut flakes, says McCown. “You could also make salt­ed peanut but­ter cook­ies or sticky rice balls: cooked sticky rice with oats, sug­ar, salt, and vanil­la cooked and baked in small balls, rolled in coconut flakes,” she adds.

Homemade granolaDon’t For­get Muesli/Granola
When in doubt, pack gra­nola should be a mantra for every veg­e­tar­i­an on the go. “They are high­er in calo­ries and con­tain essen­tial vit­a­mins and min­er­als from the vari­ety of oats, nuts, fruits and seeds they are made from,” says McCown. They are also high­ly ver­sa­tile, as McCown points out they can be eat­en straight out of a bag, cooked on a cold morn­ing or made as overnight oats for a quick grab and go break­fast. “Plus, they require min­i­mal prep and can be cus­tomized with your favorite ingre­di­ents and your per­son­al nutri­tion­al requirements.”