Fuel up for those outdoor adventures! Whether you’re hitting the trails, sending little guys off to soccer camp, or just hanging out in the park or by the pool, you’re definitely going to need a stash of awesome snacks. Here are nine healthy ideas that will hold up in the heat this summer and keep you from eating fast food on the run.
Food safety comes first, so if your snacks are going to be sitting in the sunshine for a few hours, skip the yogurt and cold cuts. Plus, you don’t want anything that’s going to melt or ooze into your tote. Think like a backpacker: light and dry. Nuts, dried fruit, and jerky are all classic trail snacks and easy to eat out of hand. Cut fresh fruit and veggies into convenient sticks and slices. And carry along some protein, with nut butters, bean dips, and a few other tricks.
- TRAIL MIX
Grab a handful of your favorite mix of nuts and seeds, rich in healthy fats. If you make your own, start with unsalted nuts, and for dried fruit, consider cranberries and tart cherries with no added sugar. No judgment if you add a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips—but it’s on you if they melt in the bag.
- HUMMUS WITH CARROTS & SUGAR SNAPS
The baby carrot was an amazing invention in the history of packed lunches and snacks. Throw in a single-serve tub of hummus, and you’ve got plant protein with snap in your back pocket.
- CELERY STICKS & PEANUT BUTTER
Call it ants on a log, left free to roam. If you have a clean jar or container, just drop a plop of peanut butter in the bottom, and jam some celery sticks in upright. They’re practically pre-dipped.
- APPLE & ALMOND BUTTER
No baggies required! Whole fruit comes in its own wrapper. Reach for an apple, pear, or banana, along with a squeeze pouch of your favorite nut butter (look for 100 percent nuts—you don’t need sugar, salt, or palm oil). Pull them out of your bag when you reach the top of the trail, and grab a rock to enjoy the view. Bite. Squeeze. Repeat.
- CRACKERS & TUNA
Tuna to go? It’s totally possible, if you pick up a can with a pull tab or an easy-to-open pouch. Fish packed in olive oil offers the most flavor, or go for one with a little added seasoning, from lemon pepper to sweet and spicy. Bring a fork for digging out flakes and loading them on whole-wheat crackers.
- CHEESE STICKS
The exception to the no-dairy rule: cheese sticks and mini cheese wheels (remember the ones wrapped in red wax?). These lunchbox classics offer a perfectly portioned hit of protein. Part-skim mozzarella is lower in fat, and holds up pretty well in the heat, although admittedly, any cheese will soften on super hot days.
You know what’s actually not terrible anymore? Turkey jerky. Along with its friends, chicken, bison, and salmon. Look for varieties that are grass-fed, free of preservatives, lower in sugar and salt, and focused on pure protein. (There are some cool new producers. And their meat is smoky and delicious.)
- GRANOLA BARS
Granola bars are one of those go-to “healthy” foods that aren’t always so healthy. Syrup (read: sugar) is what binds the ingredients together—typically corn syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, maple, or agave. Ideally, you want no more than 5 g of total sugar, with more focus on those oats, nuts, and seeds. If you DIY it, you can also sub in some dates, banana, or applesauce for part of the sticky stuff!
- PROTEIN BITES
Yes, you could just buy a protein bar, but there’s a newer, cuter, perfectly packaged snack. “Energy,” “protein,” or “paleo” bites mash up tacky dates and nut butters, alternative flours, and superfood favorites like crunchy chia seeds and snowy coconut, all rolled up like a ball of cookie dough. They’re high in calories but dense in nutrients, so you’ll only need to pack one or two before hitting the trails.