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Food Choices

The notion that maximizing the calories to weight ratio when selecting backpacking food is not the best approach. The idea that the more fat the better is an excuse to eat even more of the bad foods that most of us regularly eat.

    In our culture it is expected that most will gain a pound a year. This seems small and is hard to measure against a background fluctuation of several pounds of water weight from time to time yet this weight gain from age 30 to 60 results in a 30 pound weight gain. This is usually first noticed when cloths no longer fit. This gradual weight gain increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, breast cancer and colon cancer.

    The major weight gain foods are French fries, potato chips, sugar sweetened drinks, red meats, sweets and desserts, refined grains, other fried foods, fruit juices, and butter. Hydrogenated fats, in many processed foods, are toxic to blood vessels and saturated fats are unhealthy. The best weight loss foods are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Dairy foods are not big contributors to weight gain. Low calorie yogurt and tree nuts in moderation are weight loss foods.


    Regular vigorous exercise is important for weight loss but cannot fully counter an unhealthy diet. Backpacking provides a great opportunity to exercise vigorously while avoiding all unhealthy foods. An additional bonus is that the weight of food can be limited to a pound per day. In the first few days of greatly increased vigorous exercise, appetite is suppressed in most people so that there is no need to try to match calories to work load. Instead take the opportunity eat healthy food and to burn off some excess accumulated body fat while caring a light load in your pack.

    My backpacking meal plan changes regularly like much of my gear as I try to minimize the total weight carried, the skin out weight, while not compromising comfort. For dinner, I currently have a substantial soup like Nile Spice that I make in a cup. Then I have a dehydrated grain and vegetable stew like Mary Jane Farm that I make in the pouch it comes in. This works well and there is no need to carry a bowl. I finish with a ginger snap cookie and maybe tea. I eat half of the stew at night and eat the remainder cold in the morning. Through the day I have salted mixed nuts and dark chocolate with Clif Crunch Honey Oat granola bars and a few Werther’s Original hard candies.