Monday, 2 May 2011

Mountain fuel

Alot of the time I'm focussed on recommending foods high in nutrients and low in calories to maximize nutrient intake. However sometimes calorie rich foods are in order, and that was the case this weekend on my hiking trip in Wales where I needed easy to digest calorie rich snacks to power myself and my friends up Mount Snowdon.

My cohorts packed bags of Haribo and Mars bars as their fuel of choice, however there are plenty of healthy ways to get the calories in when undertaking any kind of endurance sport or particularly physically activity periods.

No effort healthy snacks:
Bananas - easy to carry and conveniently come with their own wrapper! Also naturally rich in potassium which is lost through sweat.

Raisins and other dried fruit - most supermarkets do small snack packs of dried fruit and, whilst I don't usually recommend eating alot of dried fruit due to the concentrated fruit sugars, these are perfect top ups for blood sugar when you're being active. Dried figs and dates are also great energy boosters.

Nuts - nuts are calorie rich, but mainly due to the fat content, so whilst they don't provide an instant calorie boost, they're good to eat alongside dried fruit to give more long lasting energy supplies. Vegan ultra-athletes eat huge amounts of nuts to maintain their calorie intake through training and endurance events. It's best to eat them natural, but a small amount of salted nuts can also be good to replace sodium lost through sweat - just make sure you're also taking on plenty of water. Bounce and Pulsin protein snacks are also great nut-based protein snacks that are easy to and give slower release energy to keep you going like a Duracell bunny!

Ready made bars - alot of muesli and granola bars have lots of added refined sugar, however the following bars are all sweetened with fruit sugars or dried fruit, making them a much healthier alternative but still a great easy source of energy:
Nak'd bars, Food Doctor snack bars, Fruitus bars and fruit sticks

Sugary emergencies - anyone who did Duke of Edinburgh awards at school will know you never go on a hike without some Kendall Mint Cake for any low blood sugar emergencies!! However I've moved on from those days, and for my sugary backup take Oskri Coconut bars (from Holland & Barrett) which are pretty sweet, but sweetened with rice syrup rather than glucose, which provides a quick sugar supply but without the same addictive qualities as sugar.

The downside of stocking up on readymade snacks is that they can burn quite a hole in your wallet (as per last weeks blog on my expensive trip to the Health Food Store). So for this trip I also packed some homemade snack bars. It's pretty easy to make healthy granola or muesli bars by using Agave syrup instead of sugar, but if you're gluten free these aren't an option.

Fortunately Elana's Pantry came to the rescue again with this great recipe for Breakfast bars, which I baked on Thursday night, and kept me fuelled through the weekend. These tasty bars aren't just good for those who are gluten-free - they'd also be great as a mid-afternoon pick me up at work, or healthy lunchbox snacks for kids.

Gluten Free Breakfast Bars

1 ¼ cup ground almonds

1/8 teaspoon celtic sea salt (I used Solo low sodium salt)

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup grapeseed oil

¼ cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup shredded coconut

½ cup pumpkin seeds

½ cup sunflower seeds

¼ cup almond slivers

¼ cup raisins (I used Goji berries)

In a small bowl, combine almond flour, salt and baking soda

In a large bowl, combine grapeseed oil, agave and vanilla

Stir dry ingredients into wet

Mix in coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almond slivers and raisins

Grease an 8x8 baking dish with grapeseed oil (I used a 1lb loaf tin)

Press the dough into the baking dish, wetting your hands with water to help pat the dough down evenly

Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes (until firm and golden coloured)

Cut into bars and allow to cool before taking out the tin

Makes 6-8 bars

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