If you’re planning a road trip this summer, you’ve got a problem. For once, it’s not the price of gasoline, which the experts say will be lower this summer. The problem is what you put in your body, not your car.
The problem only gets worse when you leave the road and your car behind and head off into the wilderness, the shore, or any trail away from civilization. Any hike will give us the activity and experience of nature that we all need. But it makes eating right all the harder.
Staying with a very low-carb diet, as I do to control my diabetes, is a special challenge. Since I’m leaving tomorrow on a road and hiking trip in northwestern Colorado, I have this challenge very much on my mind.
A correspondent named Cindy is also concerned. “Since you do so much traveling and hiking in remote areas, I have been wondering what you take with you in the way of road food,” she wrote me a couple of days ago. “I would love to read an article about how you manage your low-carb diet while traveling and what kind of meals/snacks you recommend for taking along when there is no refrigeration.”
The lack of a fridge is just one of three obstacles, and isn’t much of a problem when you go car camping. Insulated ice chests can keep our food cold enough for several days. But on a long hike we have to plan more carefully.
The second obstacle is cooking. We have to do without our ovens and microwaves. I had a good camp stove until TSA took it away from me a couple of years ago. That forced me to investigate replacement stoves, and I found one that works so well that I use it not only for backpacking trips but also to heat a cup of coffee or tea at a roadside stop. My Jetboil stove is small, lightweight, and incredibly fast.
The third, and for me the most difficult obstacle, is cleaning up after preparing and eating a meal on the road or on the trail. To avoid dealing with the mess limits my food choices even more than my very low-carb diet does.
Freeze-dried foods that you cook in the bag pouch by adding a little water would seem to be the obvious solution to all three of these obstacles. Outdoor outfitters like REI carry a huge assortment of brands and preparations. But I have never been able to find any that come anywhere close to the maximum of 12 grams of carbohydrates that I allow myself for any meal. Before I started low-carbing in 2007, I relied on Kettle Chili from MaryJanesFarm, and it is one of the lowest carb freeze-dried foods out there, but at 39 grams per pack is far too much for me.
Nowadays on my hikes I use my stove only for making tea or coffee. Otherwise I enjoy my food at what I think of as room temperature.
While my favorite road and trail foods keep changing, certain nuts are a constant. I especially like raw organic almonds, but they aren’t especially low in carbs. Just one-half cup would provide 15 grams.