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  1. #1
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    Default Eating healthy(er) on the trail?

    Just wondering what some of you have done to try to eat a little healthier while on the trail? I know I'm going to be at the whim of the stores as I go but I'm going to take Spirulina and Chlorella tablets with me to make sure I get all the vitamins and plant energy that I need. Does anyone take any supplements or have any suggestions on what to buy at stores that isn't as bad?

  2. #2

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    I take a multivitamin. Females should consider additional calcium.

    As far as eating healthier, I've added tuna in the foil packs and protein powder to what I used to eat back in the day.

  3. #3

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    From what I've read, it was Snickers and Pizza all the way...

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    Exactly what I'm trying to avoid haha I know you can burn all of the calories off but having that much unnatural sugar in my diet isn't something I want to do. I try not to eat any at all which is difficult even with the selection of food at a few different stores and markets around where I live, so I know it's going to be very difficult to try to avoid it.

  5. #5
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    But sugar IS natural.

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    Natural sugar only comes from fruit. Sugar cane sugar is processed and anything else is man made.

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    It seems like it's just going to have to be something I make decisions about as I go from store to store and restaurants. I will most likely have to sacrifice a certain level of food critique in this situation unless I want to do all mail drops (which I don't!).

  8. #8
    Registered User turtle fast's Avatar
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    Your caloric requirements will skyrocket apart from your daily home life (unless you are a professional bodybuilder or marathon runner). Eating calorie dense foods will be the norm...your pastas with cheese, or a greasy burger is the calories your body needs as fuel to hike...yes its fats and oils here. Thats why you hear of people dunking cookies in butter, or eating 3 BigMacs at a sitting, or the constant chatter of AYCE dining places is due to caloric deficits you will begin to run and your body telling you...HEY more fuel please! I do suggest as others have to take a multivitamin to supplement needed vitamins and probably no a bad thing too to get a good one with 100 percent of calcium, and glucosimine and condroiten for joints.

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    I mail drop all of my trail food. Most of it is a powdered drink that I came up with. It doesn't have any simple sugars. It doesn't even have maltodextrin, which is a complex sugar, but acts like a simple sugar. That means it has a very low glycemic index that still results in a low glycemic load even with the huge quantities that I consume on long hikes. That's important if you have type II diabetes or hope to avoid getting it. It also keeps my energy levels balanced instead of spiking and dipping like it would with simple sugars.

    The rest of my food is trail mix, which admittedly have a higher glycemic index, but is still as good or better than most of the food hikers eat. I'd like to do better, but I find that I can eat this, and bringing food that I'm willing to eat is a very important factor. The healthiest food is worthless or worse if I can't force myself to eat enough of it.

    I'd like to analyze my food further to check the quantities of amino acids, minerals and vitamins. For those that I'm deficient in, I'd then research how often those need to be consumed and if the body stores excess. That would tell me if I need to supplement my daily diet, or if and how I should eat in trail towns to make up for the deficit. That's a LOT of work, and is only worth doing with an extremely strict and restricted diet as it would take far too long to compile and use all that data for a diverse diet. I used to have a web page that I made that did half of this, but I lost it many years ago. I'll recreate it someday, maybe sooner if others are interested and can settle for a smaller database of foods or do the research to add new foods to the database.

    I take the same vitamins I take at home, except D...the sun provides enough of that.

  10. #10
    Garlic
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    Good question. The staples in my trail diet are rolled oats (good) and tortillas (not so good). I try to eat as much unprocessed whole food as I can find in stores on the way. I didn't do any food drops on the AT. Muesli, made with oats, tree nuts, and raisins is all real food. Cheese and peanut butter are somewhat processed, but still real food. Most snacks are cashews and more dried fruit, real food. Fig Newtons are partly processed, partly good stuff. I carry one fresh piece of fruit or veg for every day, if just a stick of celery or carrot. I like to kid myself that's providing some nutrition, but I guess it's better than going negative. The junk food items I buy are Wheat Thins, the occasional Little Debbie brownies or Poptarts, and usually the first thing I buy in town is a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Well, OK, sometimes two. I often spend more money in restaurants on salads than on greasy entrees, but also indulge in fat-laden AYCE buffets when possible. On my AT hike, I started in good shape, lost a few pounds in the southern mountains, gained it back again in the mid-Atlantic (the "deli-a-day tour"), and lost it again in New England for a net loss of just a couple of pounds, so I got enough calories. I never take supplements, and spend that money on good food.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshAuerbach View Post
    Natural sugar only comes from fruit. Sugar cane sugar is processed and anything else is man made.
    Some artificial sweeteners are man made, but they are not sugars (except sucralose/Splenda which is a chlorinated sucrose -yuk!). Sugar is naturally found in lots of foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, etc...). By processed do you mean chemically altered or just purified. Sucrose is purified from a variety of sources (sugar beets, sugar cane, maple tree sap), but is not chemically altered. Other sugars (malt, corn sugar, high fructose corn syrup) may be processed in that they are chemical modified from natural substances , but the resulting products chemically identical to the sugars that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. Beer is made by chemically altering one of these "processed" sugars. I don't know of any foods containing sugars that are completely synthetic.

    BTW, I think eating less sugar is a great idea. I just don't think it is accurate to call sugar "unnatural" or "man made".

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out:1289977
    Quote Originally Posted by JoshAuerbach View Post
    Natural sugar only comes from fruit. Sugar cane sugar is processed and anything else is man made.
    Some artificial sweeteners are man made, but they are not sugars (except sucralose/Splenda which is a chlorinated sucrose -yuk!). Sugar is naturally found in lots of foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, etc...). By processed do you mean chemically altered or just purified. Sucrose is purified from a variety of sources (sugar beets, sugar cane, maple tree sap), but is not chemically altered. Other sugars (malt, corn sugar, high fructose corn syrup) may be processed in that they are chemical modified from natural substances , but the resulting products chemically identical to the sugars that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. Beer is made by chemically altering one of these "processed" sugars. I don't know of any foods containing sugars that are completely synthetic.

    BTW, I think eating less sugar is a great idea. I just don't think it is accurate to call sugar "unnatural" or "man made".
    The granulated sugar is as natural as any fruit in a store. Both have had a scientist alter the product. Sucrose dextrose lactose fructose are just sugar from a different source.

  13. #13
    Garlic
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    My own take on processed sugar is not that it's bad for you, just that there's nothing in there that's good for you. Much of the good stuff, as in processed white flour or white rice, has been removed. Sugar tastes good but in my opinion, it's not a good trail food choice. Fats, as in nuts and cheese, have twice the calorie density of sugar, have some nutritional goodness, and taste pretty good too.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    My own take on processed sugar is not that it's bad for you, just that there's nothing in there that's good for you. Much of the good stuff, as in processed white flour or white rice, has been removed. Sugar tastes good but in my opinion, it's not a good trail food choice. Fats, as in nuts and cheese, have twice the calorie density of sugar, have some nutritional goodness, and taste pretty good too.
    I agree completely. Fat also gets a bad rap, but when hiking you need energy and fat is the best way to get it. But you can't live on fat alone. You must have sugar too (in one form or another), or something can can be made into sugar (protein), as fat can not be made into sugar (much). I just don't like it when one food gets all the attention (as being either the source or the solution to all nutrition problems). There is not magic bullet. Just eat a little of everything and not too much of anything. Like my favorite trail breakfast: Quick oats with a spoonful each of powdered milk, butter, and maple syrup (or brown sugar), along with a dash of salt and cinnamon. Add boiling water to your favorite consistency and eat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out:1290065
    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    My own take on processed sugar is not that it's bad for you, just that there's nothing in there that's good for you. Much of the good stuff, as in processed white flour or white rice, has been removed. Sugar tastes good but in my opinion, it's not a good trail food choice. Fats, as in nuts and cheese, have twice the calorie density of sugar, have some nutritional goodness, and taste pretty good too.
    I agree completely. Fat also gets a bad rap, but when hiking you need energy and fat is the best way to get it. But you can't live on fat alone. You must have sugar too (in one form or another), or something can can be made into sugar (protein), as fat can not be made into sugar (much). I just don't like it when one food gets all the attention (as being either the source or the solution to all nutrition problems). There is not magic bullet. Just eat a little of everything and not too much of anything. Like my favorite trail breakfast: Quick oats with a spoonful each of powdered milk, butter, and maple syrup (or brown sugar), along with a dash of salt and cinnamon. Add boiling water to your favorite consistency and eat.
    Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't your body only burn carbohydrates by converting fat into carbs or burning carbs?

  16. #16
    Wanna-be hiker trash Sarcasm the elf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshAuerbach View Post
    Just wondering what some of you have done to try to eat a little healthier while on the trail? I know I'm going to be at the whim of the stores as I go but I'm going to take Spirulina and Chlorella tablets with me to make sure I get all the vitamins and plant energy that I need. Does anyone take any supplements or have any suggestions on what to buy at stores that isn't as bad?
    Josh, I also eat a fairly healthy diet in real life and have had some issue adapting to trail food on my section hikes. Part of the answer if that you have to let it go and admit that your caloric needs while hiking require you to eat some calorically dense foods that you wouldn't want to touch in real life, I have also found some things that may be helpful:

    - Tree nuts are very calorically dense but fit most peoples standard of natural or minimally processed. My usual trail mix includes Cashews, Raw almonds, mixed salted nuts, dried fruit, and M&M's (because I like them) you can play around and find a combination that provides lots of calories from relatively good fats.

    - Avoid the store bought dehydrated meals. I am just starting to get into freezer bag cooking and can't give much advise on the subject, but lots of people on this site have lots of healthy recipies. Some require owning a dehydrator, and some just require carefully looking around supermarkets for food that is healthier, lightweight and doesn't require much cook time.

    - For breakfast try making zip lock bags of a decent breakfast cereal plus the appropriate amount of powdered milk beforehand. In the morning just add the right amount of water, seal the bag and shake. Much better than pop-tarts or snickers bars.

    - (This one will depend on your tolerance to extra pack weight) On my sections, I have found that I am near a town every 4-5 days on average. I personally am happy to add 3-4lbs of fresh fruits or vegetables to my pack and eat them in the first day or two out of town. There's lots of talk on this site about lowering pack weight, but I've hiked out of towns carrying apples, oranges, bananas, cucumbers, etc. and personally I think they're well worth the extra weight. As an added bonus, doing this keeps your fiber intake up and keeps you regular, which I find is a frequent problem when adapting to less healthy trail foods.

    - Similar to the above, a jar of real peanut butter (not that hydrogenated crap) can provide a lot of calories and an amazing amount of options. There are a lot of us who are known to go through a whole jar of peanut butter in a week while hiking.

    Finally, I thought I'd mention a personal preference, I love oatmeal in real life, but I hate it on the trail. I'm not sure why, but I just don't find it appetizing after a 15 mile day. I still eat plenty of oats while hiking, but in granola or granola bar form.

    Hope this helps and have fun!
    "This sucks and I love it."

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by leaftye View Post
    I mail drop all of my trail food. Most of it is a powdered drink that I came up with. It doesn't have any simple sugars. It doesn't even have maltodextrin, which is a complex sugar, but acts like a simple sugar. That means it has a very low glycemic index that still results in a low glycemic load even with the huge quantities that I consume on long hikes.
    Would you like to share what it is? It sounds good.

  18. #18
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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

    All this talk about sugar not being bad for you makes me lol even too much sugar from fruit can be bad for you. That being said. High fructose corn sugar is absolutely not identical. It has zero nutritional value. It's technically a poison as it will kill you quicker if you ate only that if you were starving.

  19. #19
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    I really recommend taking the time to watch that video presentation above. It changed the way I look at nutrition.

  20. #20
    Registered User oldbear's Avatar
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    Unfortunately this thread has devolved into a good sugar v bad sugar rant and everything that I read about the thru-hikers long march to malnutrition points to the absence of fruits and vegetables and other wholesome foods in their diets as the main culprit for that .

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