Food is one of my biggest passions in life. When I want to make someone happy: food. When I want to celebrate: food. When I want to create comfort: food.
Naturally my passion for food and my other passion, of the mountains (obviously), should go hand in hand.
I spend so many hours listening to Podcasts and Lectures on Nutrition, the Food Industry and biohacking through food. Nerdy, I know. But I genuinely find it so fascinating and I think that in order to make your body perform at its' best, you need to fuel it in the appropriate way. Step away from the chocolate bars, ham & cheese sandwiches and energy drinks. In this article I'm going to give you some healthy suggestions of ways that you can use food to maximise your potential on the mountain, whether that's ski touring up (very popular at the moment, as Sasha recently mentioned) or a day spent riding lifts and tearing down pistes. All of these recipes will be whole foods Plant Based but can be adapted to suit any diet.
Energy Balls These are such a quick, easy and versatile snack that you can make with just a few ingredients. The base of Energy Balls is Oats, Dates [soaked in water boiled in the kettle and then blended into a paste or chopped finely if you don't have a blender] and then whatever flavours you want. Using a source of fat like Peanut Butter or Coconut Oil works well to avoid them being too dry and helps them to hold together. Adding a tablespoon of Flax Seed also acts as a binding agent.
This evening I made some with Cacao Nibs, Coconut Flakes, Chia Seeds, Flax Seed, finely chopped Dried Apricots and half a mashed banana for extra sweetness. Simply mix all of the ingredients together and form into golf ball sized servings in your hands. I never weigh or measure the ingredients- I just go with what looks good and binds together, adding some of the water from soaking the dates if the mixture is too dry. Store them in the fridge to help them firm and then take a couple (wrapped or boxed) in your pocket for some raw energy that is high in carbs, fats and other fantastic nutrients. They won't melt either, like most sweet treats that are easily available from shops to take up the mountain. Below are some flavour combination ideas but you can really use whatever is in your cupboard!
Snacks are very often sweet, so I'm mixing it up with a savoury option! Chickpeas are high in protein so a great lightweight and tasty snack to take with you. They won't crush and make a mess like crisps do and they're MUCH healthier.
Simply drain a can of chickpeas and pour them out onto a tray. Sprinkle over some Cumin, Garlic Powder, a little Paprika and then the standard S&P. Mix them around until they're evenly coated in the spices. If you're in a rush, put them in the oven at 180c for around 15 minutes. If you have longer, then cook them at 150c for 35 mins. Cooking them lower and slower will result in crunchier chickpeas.
You can use any spice or flavouring combination that you like with these. I recently tried some sweet ones which were flavoured with Dark Chocolate and Raspberry- they weren't bad!
Many people only think of muffins as sweet products, but they can be savoury too! I made some really tasty Courgette, Red Pepper and Vegan Muffins recently and have made some Cheese & Onions ones using Violife Mature Cheddar in the past. Because they're small and light, they make great snacks to have in your pocket for when you need an energy top up. Choosing a recipe that more dense will give it a better chance of not breaking into crumbs in your pocket so this Carrot Muffin recipe if great. I substituted a mashed banana for the Applesauce and that worked really well! It's made with Oat Flour so there's no nasty, bleached white flour in them.
Pimped Up 'Trail Mix'
This American term describes Nuts and Dried Fruit mixed together. While it's a classic I like to make it a bit more interesting and if you're going to be burning tonnes of calories during the day, it's ok to get a little bit "extra".
I start with a base of popcorn, spread out in a layer in a large tray, with melted dark chocolate drizzled over the top. Before the chocolate hardens, I sprinkle the toppings on so that they all stick together in clusters. Here are some of the ingredients that I like to use (in various combinations- not all at the same time!):
• Dried Cranberries
• Toasted Coconut Flakes
• Pumpkin Seeds
• Broken piece of GF Pretzels
• Sunflower Seeds
• Chopped Walnuts
• Chopped dried Apricots
• Goji Berries
• Chopped Hazelnuts
• Banana Chips
Simply pop the tray in the fridge (or outside on the balcony if you're in a Ski Resort) and in 10 minutes you can break up the set mixture into pieces. I don't use much chocolate, but just enough the drizzle it over all of the popcorn.
The trick to healthy mountain fuel is to batch cook! Use Snow Days to make a big quantity of Muffins or Energy Balls and then freeze your snacks to just take out the night before a big adventure. If you're cooking facilities are limited, then maybe try the popcorn recipe as you can even melt chocolate in a cup over the kettle in your hotel room! The Popcorn & Chickpea recipes store in an airtight container or jar for a couple of days.
I'd love to hear your suggestions for healthy, homemade snacks on the mountain or if you try any of these!