Homemade is the way to go for on-the-go snacks

Local food experts share their tips for healthy, easy-to-pack bites that will fuel your physical activity

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      Whether you’re cycling to Whytecliff Park or White Rock Pier, long bike rides are an ideal way to spend a summer day. Or maybe hiking the Stawamus Chief or splashing in a pool is more your summertime speed. No matter what your outdoor activity of choice, bringing healthy on-the-go snacks with you is essential.

      You want to stay fuelled for your adventure. You also want energy-boosting bites that taste great and aren’t junk food in disguise.

      For registered holistic nutritionist Martina Marshall, hiking or biking to a lake and going for a dip is the ultimate in summer fun. She says foods that are easy to eat, that boost blood sugar quickly while providing sustained energy, and that aren’t messy are a necessity.

      “For me, this is usually a whole piece of fruit, like an apple or banana, with a handful of nuts, dates stuffed with nut or seed butter or whole almonds, home-made bars or store-bought versions with few ingredients, and fresh-cut veggies sticks with a little container of hummus,” says Marshall, who works with Fresh in Your Fridge, a local meal-prep and cooking service.

      You should steer clear of store-bought snacks that are loaded with refined sugars, she suggests. Marshall recommends bars or power cookies that balance carbs, fat, and protein “in a way that is, most importantly, delicious but also provides sustained energy to avoid a plummet in energy levels while you’re active”.

      She says that simple carbs, such as dried fruit or maple syrup, provide quick energy; complex carbs like rolled oats give you sustained energy; and fat and protein make you feel satiated while packing the calorie punch you need to fuel your sport.

      “I like mixing rolled oats with coconut or almond flour, a mess of seeds—including sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin—with raisins, dried cranberries, or dried tart cherries. Add in tahini, maple syrup, or puréed dates and banana; and coconut oil,” Marshall says. “An egg or flax egg is helpful to bind it all together, with a touch of baking soda for a little lift.

      “Make sure to pack a big bottle of water to stay hydrated, but also bring along fruits and veggies that are high in water, like sliced watermelon, cucumber, and celery,” she adds. “They’ll also provide some electrolytes to help replenish what you’re sweating out.”

      West Vancouver-based registered dietitian Jess Pirnak of Food Yourself loves the physical and mental boost that hiking offers. Her go-to snacks always consist of a combination of protein and fibre in the form of trail mix, whole-food nutrition bars, roasted chickpeas, protein balls, or fruit with a peanut-butter sandwich. “These two nutrients fill me up and keep me going,” Pirnak tells the Straight.

      Her favourite recipe for protein balls comes from the blog Texanerin Baking. With just six ingredients, they’re gluten-free and can be made in a vegan version. “I switch out the peanut butter for pumpkin-seed butter, as pumpkin seeds give us a nice dose of iron and zinc,” Pirnak says. “Also, to make your own trail mix, just keep the ratio at 1 ¼ cup of dried fruit to 2 ¼ cup nuts, seeds, or nonsweet additions.”

      Pirnak, who is also a clinical instructor at UBC, avoids bars with large amounts of sugar and excessively long ingredient lists. She also reads labels to watch out for soy-protein isolates or soy-protein concentrate. “Until more information is available, women are being advised to avoid soy supplements: soy products in concentrated or pill form,” she says.

      Elizabeth Emery, a plant-based-food blogger and recipe developer at Vancouver With Love, is an avid hiker. She’ll pack foods that are light to carry but that give her energy for the day ahead: energy balls, granola bars, dips like hummus, veggie sticks, crackers, and fruit.

      “I love making my own energy balls, as they’re so delicious and packed with whole-food ingredients like nuts, seeds, berries, and cacao,” Emery tells the Straight. “For me, a good granola bar or power cookie has to have protein in it. I learned the hard way that I need to have balanced snacks with a source of protein, otherwise I get a major energy crash. Adding plant-based protein powder or nuts and seeds to my bars and cookies works really well to make them extra-filling.”

      As for fruit, Emery packs bananas for energy, as well as berries and apples. For veggies, celery, bell pepper, cucumber, and carrot are her go-tos.

      She encourages people to try making their own snacks. Store-bought versions often contain a lot of filler ingredients and added sugars. “If you can make them at home, they’ll probably be cheaper and better for you,” she says. “When you make snacks like granola bars at home, you can control exactly what goes into them and pack in nutritious ingredients. They usually taste better and last longer, too.”