It’s not easy being sugar free AND gluten free as a three year old.
It isn’t just the usual temptations but the constant consumerist advertisements, packaging and social aspect of the kid’s snack pack that makes cutting out sugar and gluten a challenge and a half.
Now, throw in the hiking aspect and you’re challenged once again to find easy, healthy, high energy, exciting and snack-worthy foods to keep your kid happy on the trail.
It hasn’t been easy but after many attempts, and panicked mornings of scrounging for alternative snacking options before hitting the trail, I’ve finally got a list of go-to’s for Acacia that she actually LOVES.
Get ready to introduce your kids to these fantastic, sugar free/gluten free snacks on the trail!
1. POLENTA CHIPS
These are honestly a must have alternative for the otherwise potato chip. Easy to bake the night before they keep well and fill the belly with a crunch that satisfies their mouths for a good twenty minutes.
Polenta (cornmeal) is high in fibre and protein, a slow burning carb, contains vitamin A and other minerals. If you feel like being a super mum or dad, cook with some bone broth and add a bunch of herbs before baking in the oven. You won’t wonder how they survived the 10km roundtrip!
2. BLISS BALLS
Whether it’s home-made or store bought these delicious snack balls are a necessary and well-earned treat for any kid hiker. A little goes a long way, so you don’t have to make handfuls and they tend not to weigh all that much.
If you haven’t already jumped on this healthy optioned band-wagon, we’re talking about dry fruit (dates or apricots usually), nuts (walnuts, cashews), desiccated coconut, sometimes cocoa or other spices. I usually do a cheats version with dates, oat flour, tahini and cocoa (which I found to be cheaper than buying nuts).
Feed these to them while walking and watch how they turn from dragging limbs to jumping jacks.
3. KALE FRITTERS
Not a usual item on the list for kids but Acacia surprisingly loves it!
Stemming from a traditional Armenian/Persian dish called ‘Kuku’ (which I loved as a kid), this modern take leaves out majority of the preparation time and switches out herbs for kale.
The idea is to finely chop your greens of choice, dry off any water, mix enough eggs to bind, add salt, cumin, coriander and turmeric and fry in some coconut oil. Flip over once the first side is nice and crispy and let it cool down before wrapping up to go.
When they need some proper lunch, and they’re craving salty and crunchy, this super-snack will get them back to speed without weighing them down.
And it’s good for the grown-ups too!
4. FREEZE DRIED/DRIED FRUIT
When tackling thru-hikes with Acacia, and food weight becomes counting every gram, freeze dried/dried fruit is savior.
Research has shown that freeze dried fruit holds up to 90% of their nutritional content with a fraction of the weight. Sadly, it doesn’t lose any of its natural sugars so eating twenty freeze dried strawberries isn’t a great idea.
Keep them as a natural boost when you see them flailing; trick being one piece at a time whilst walking.
If you want to keep the sugar levels as low as possible, blueberries are your best bet.
5. CRUNCHY ROASTED CHICKPEAS
Believe it or not I came across this by pure accident while attempting to roast chickpeas in a curry spice for a dinner salad. Where I went wrong was simply that I left them in for about 40 minutes too long, but was gladly left with a huge jar of crunchy, spiced chickpeas that did brilliantly as a protein packed snack!
Zip lock a bag of these light-weight delights and take them with you everywhere and anywhere, try out different spices and see which one your kid likes more.
Acacia loves the curried paprika, and they keep in the pantry for months!
6. PESTO CORN WRAPS
Sounds odd. A marriage between Italian and Mexican staples and yet, it’s been a happy union with our family.
While this may not be a weight savior, it packs down easily and squeezes into side pockets excellently. I usually make the pesto myself using whatever greens I have in my fridge, olive oil, garlic, cheese, tahini, salt (cheaper than store bought) and if I have a carrot lying around I’ll grate a little onto the pesto wrap before rolling too.
I don’t yet know why kids all love wraps but they do. And if they can get their vegetables in there without making a colossal mess you’re onto a winner!
It’s not exotic and it’s not a superfood, but it’s not bad either.
Stored properly it won’t go bad or fall to pieces and, though you won’t want to dispense an entire block of cheddar to your kid, in small cubes they’ll thank you for their calcium dense mouthful.
If it helps them get from A to B without a sugar crash, or prevents an empty tummy syndrome, or puts a stop to nutrient deficiency that it stops their brains from functioning, then it belongs on this list.
Cheese, you made it.
So after you’ve managed to tackle the above you can start thinking about how you carry the lot. We use a combination of beeswax wraps (which we make ourselves) and recycled/sustainable bamboo fibre lunchboxes.
And last but not least, for your ease and pleasure I’ve created a FREE downloadable PDF of 5 Days of Hiking Snacks AND a How-To Plan. Click below to get yours!
Keep those bellies healthy, minds busy and hearts happy!
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