It’s that time of year again—fall foliage time—at least here in New England. Many people will be trying to squeeze in a hike before it gets too cold. But if you’re not careful, you can easily consume more calories than you burn on such fun adventures. Granola, protein bars, trail mix, and even PBJ sandwiches can all pack a serious caloric punch. Here are some solid options to throw in your pack so as not to sabotage your health/weight loss progress.
Start your day right. You’ll probably want a filling protein packed breakfast before your hike—and always for that matter! Fat free Greek yogurt and a banana (or even two) is a great option. While I usually sweeten my plain yogurt with strawberries and Splenda for the lowest points value, when I have an on-the-go morning where I don’t want to lug Tupperware around or leave it to get smelly in the car, I splurge on two flavored Greek yogurt cups for a PointsPlus® value of 4. Dannon Light and Fit Greek yogurt fits the bill (and has the best flavors in my opinion), as does Yoplait Greek 100 Calories.
Throw together your own trail mix, aka GORP, or lower the points value of your store-bought brand by “thinning it out” with bran flakes and Cheerios. My GORP recipe is below. I usually measure a cup of the GORP into the empty Craisins bag and give the rest to my husband in the gallon Ziploc bag I used to mix it. I like to eat my bran flakes separately first, then the Cheerios, and then I eat the rest together as traditional trail mix. Such a treat!
A “lighter” lunch. I use two tablespoons of Smart Balance peanut butter and two tablespoons of jelly on light bread to make a lower-points PBJ since PBJ is a hiking tradition of mine. The Smart Balance PB is the same PointsPlus value (5) as regular low fat PB but without all the extra unpronounceable ingredients. I make my own strawberry jam each summer so I use that, but any jelly will do. If you don’t mind it, the less sugar jelly is healthier of course, although it doesn’t reduce the points value. The sandwich is 9 PointsPlus® and like most items on this list, has both fiber and protein for staying power.
Oats and honey Nature Valley granola bars. Now I know these aren’t super low cal or protein-packed, but they’re just a tradition so I splurge and have the two bars in the package for 5 PointsPlus®. I also like Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s NoGii™ Nuts about Berries paleo bars, which I won’t eat frequently because the points value isn’t great for the lack of protein, but they are tasty and made with whole ingredients. They’re 5 PointsPlus® and have 4 grams of protein. If you really want to get the most protein for your points value, the best I’ve found is Atkins meal bars, which are 5 PointsPlus for a number of flavors. A few flavors are 6 points though, so just double-check. My favorite is the chocolate chip granola flavor, which is 5 PointsPlus®.
More fruit. If you can be gentle with your pack, I love nectarines. If you know that’s just not gonna happen, apples and oranges are a bit sturdier. Any fruit will do though—I just try to avoid ones I have to prep or that require Tupperware. My schedule and pack are full enough already! I like to bring about 4 servings—two for the morning and two for the afternoon.
Total points used for the hike: 26.
I typically earn about 10 PointsPlus for a 5-hour hike, so I end up with a few extra Activity Points by the time the day is done.
We typically finish our hike a tad before dinnertime. We usually take some low fat meat sauce out of the freezer ahead of time and after our hike we have spaghetti and salad with it.
Now, before I sign off, I should note that if you’ve never been hiking, it’s not nearly as intimidating as it sounds. Many hikes are no more than a walk with some hills and you’d be surprised how easy these are to find. Just Google “easy hike + [your zip code.]”
If you’re ever in Maine, I love the hike to Chimney Pond on Katahdin. At a very leisurely pace it’s about a 5-hour roundtrip hike. Or you can camp at Chimney Pond and hike all the way to the peak. If you don’t camp, you should make a parking reservation. In the Boston area, I love The Fells. I park in Melrose and typically go for a little 1-hour hike when the weather’s nice.
GORP Recipe (8 PointsPlus® per cup)
2 cups Cheerios cereal
1 cup wheat or bran flakes cereal
1 cup peanuts
¾ cup Craisins
¾ cup raisins
½ cup mini M&M’s