Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Processed foods... Bleh... Ideas?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Chris Jones
(NightMarcher) - F
Processed foods... Bleh... Ideas? on 11/30/2009 22:47:06 MST Print View

Is it possible to have a diet comprised of non-processed foods in the backcountry? Failing that, how about high ratio of non-processed foods to processed foods?

Is it possible to achieve this without significantly increasing weight or fuel consumption (i.e., longer cooking time), or is it a case of being unable to have the best of both worlds?

For those of you that say, "Yes, you can!" What kind of foods are we talking about?


Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Processed foods... Bleh... Ideas? on 12/01/2009 00:32:26 MST Print View

I don't eat anything fancy so I don't have a lot of ideas but, I dehydrate broccoli and such for a little fiber and variety. For protein its easy to make or buy jerky. Don't forget about smoked bacon and salmon which doesn't need refrigeration and blows away any cliff bar imaginable ( and sugar free!). You can make premixed soups made from real food at home. For energy I use fats like fatty nuts and my favorite for hard hikes and workouts: pure coconut oil! The stuff tastes so good when you feel tired and feels even better. I put it in a GG screw top lid. I also get chicken and salmon in the foil packets -but these are not real whole foods of caorse! They are a bit of a compromise. I choose the ones that are plain or have the least added to them.
Also I use canned foods sometimes because you can find better quality foods in them because there is a much bigger selection. Canned foods include sardines, small shrimp, chicken ect. This is not the lightest food you will find but the trade off is more lasting energy, faster recovery, and way better tasting meals.
Its nice to throw a banana or orange in the pack as they can last a few days easy.
I can't even force myself to eat all the junk food thats standard fare for backpackers - sugars, refined flours and soy- makes me sick like after eating a bunch of candy, because thats what they are candy for grown ups ( OK I indulge in a snickers and peanut M&MS sometimes!).
The other thing I need to mention is that I use a TI-Tri wood stove with a 3 cup AGG pot to cook on long hikes. This setup lets you cook real foods that would be hard in a mug. On short over nights I use a SP600 w/ Caldera cone and eat mostly no cook foods.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Processed foods... Bleh... Ideas? on 12/01/2009 00:54:16 MST Print View

Of course.

Eat whatever cold cereal/oatmeal/granola that you like for breakfast.

For lunch, eat as you might at home. How lightly processed do you like to eat? Totally non-processed? Are you into raw food? Are whole grain torillas ok? Fresh ground peanut butter is tasty. Fish in foil packets is lightly processed. Nuts, dried fruit, crackers made from raw ingredients then dehydrated,...

Dinner. Again, are you raw? I'm pretty ok with dehydrated parboiled rice and dehydrated beans. I think that some brands of the beans are pretty minimally processed.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: Processed foods... Bleh... Ideas? on 12/01/2009 00:57:10 MST Print View

I missed that you refer to cooking times. Obviously you're not raw. What do you mean by "non-processed", to me cooking is processing it.

In general, if you shop at natural food stores, you're less likely to have strange ingredients added to your food. Also, if you cook and dehydrate your own meals, you'll be eating much as you would at home.

I shy away from highly processed foods like Knorr Sides, Rice-a-roni, and Idahoan Mashed Potatoes.

Chris Jones
(NightMarcher) - F
Re: Processed foods... Bleh... Ideas on 12/01/2009 05:28:55 MST Print View

By "non-processed", I meant foods that are not chemically processed (bleached, "enriched", etc.) or mechanically processed (polished, etc.) to the point where they lose their natural nutritative value or introduce "foreign" substances (preservatives, additives, etc.)--basically food that resembles its original state.

I don't consider cooking to fall under this definition of processed, as some foods probably won't digest well if they aren't cooked.

Raw is nice. But I never thought it could be easily achieved in the backcountry--apart from a handful of nuts and dried fruit.

I'm pescovegetarian, by the way...

Chris Collins
(hobbitling) - F
re:processed foods on 12/01/2009 07:58:40 MST Print View

Get a dehydrator. One with a fan and adjustable heat. get the "fruit roll up" trays for it. Then get Emily Yoffe's book "Backpacking Gourmet" for some good dehydrating recipes. She's a die hard foodie, so it's got lots of fresh veggies and such, and lots of vegetarian recipes. Once you've done a few of hers, you'll start to realize that almost any recipe can be dehydrated, as long as it's got small pieces and not too much fat (You can carry little bottles of oil or clarified butter). You can do the "processing" yourself, and have total control over what is in your meals. Basically you just cook the whole recipe, then dry it, rather than drying individual ingredients.

For things like rice, you can precook brown rice and dehydrate it. This makes it into "instant" rice, which can be quickly rehydrated with much less fuel than would be required for cooking from scratch. If you are careful to cook the rice with minumum water (so it doesn't have to be drained or rinsed) you will experience relatively little nutrient loss.

Pretty much any grain or pasta can be "instant-ized" this way. Elbow macaroni works well. Quinoa dehydrates amazingly well this way, and rehydrates almost as fast as couscous.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: re:processed foods on 12/01/2009 08:44:29 MST Print View

What is the trip length? Being out for days is one thing, but I suspect most people here go for 3 nights or less on average.

It's always strange to me when I see folks heading for all the dehydrated stuff when going on a short trip. Just about everything "fresh" will keep just fine for that long.
That's the beauty of going UL...On short trips I can carry salads, fresh fruit, bread, vegan sausages, onions, nuts/seeds, olives, hummus, don't forget that sweet ol' baba ghannouj, and BEER...and the pack is still light enough.

Last overnight with my son we ate veggie pizza and salad, blueberry muffins for breakfast.

Going somewhere with water? Stick your veggies/salad (in a ziplock) in the stream.

Dehydrated/packaged stuff is really easy to resort to (convenient to keep it on hand), but there's no reason you have to eat all the processed/dried stuff, especially on a short trip.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Vegan Sausage on 12/01/2009 08:52:11 MST Print View

This is super processed!

Yeah for vegan though! Tofurky Jerky is another nice ultra processed faux meat.

Best to place to buy vegan backpacking food is Carry Mary Jane's Backcountry, Dr McDougall's, 100% powder soy milk and tons more. Also, ALL the bars. If you sign up for amazon Prime, 2 day shipping is free.

Trader Joe has some pretty good vegan backpacker fare.

Probar is vegan and very wholefood-ish and very good.

Edited by backpackerchick on 12/01/2009 08:58:41 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Vegan Sausage on 12/01/2009 08:54:56 MST Print View


But not as disgusting as the real thing :)
And it keeps.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Agree on 12/01/2009 09:00:46 MST Print View

Hard to get more disgusting than the real thing. Added some vegan shopping tips above :)

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Processed foods... Bleh... Ideas? on 12/01/2009 09:06:35 MST Print View

Yes. It is called a "dehydrator". Most of the meals I eat while hiking have little overly processed food. I cook and dry various rices, pastas, beans and more. Many things I do buy commercially to save time (vegetables and fruits without preservatives).

A person only ends up eating mac n' cheese boxes and Knorr sides if they let them selves.

The point about cooking and dehydrating is simple: you do the cooking at home, on trail you just need to boil water and wait. Low fuel consumption.

And of can get into drying whole meals if they wish.

PS: Uh ya all who like fake meat products? That stuff IS highly processed! Vegan jerky is JUST as bad for you as normal meat jerky is. I avoid both due to the scandalous sodium content (and also the preservatives needed in meat jerky). Vegan jerky is no health food by any means.

If ya want natural, go get a squirrel and skin it. Not hard at all either....and rather tasty.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Bars on 12/01/2009 09:11:40 MST Print View

While many sport bars are considered natural they are also highly processed to get to the point they are.

If one wants to stay as close to natural as they can, don't buy bars. Just eat nuts, berries and fruit instead. The concept of gorp is timeless and you pay a LOT less for that honor.

There is a lot of sweeteners and binders added to the bars. We don't "need" those by any means.

And also, a lot of vegan food is processed just as much as standard grocery store fare. Just because it is stamped "vegan" doesn't mean it is good for your body. If one is a practicing vegan they would do better building the meals themselves.

Consider this....a lot of food sold in natural food stores is now owned by major corporations, well hidden. Some of the biggest players have ties to Kraft and others. The shinier and prettier the packaging be more wary.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Dehydrating is processing on 12/01/2009 09:41:43 MST Print View

Dehydrating is certainly processing. Would rather leave the dehydrating/freeze drying to someone else -- Mary Jane to be exact. Hear it stinks up the house indefinitely. Good on those who bother though!

No binders or sweetener in Probars. Also, lots of good raw bars out there -- shelf life somewhat limited. No extra stuff in Mary Jane's Backcountry Cuisine.

Yes, there is lots of ultra processed vegan junk food. However it does not contain animal protein or fats and all that they entail. I'll defer that discussion to "The China Study", the most exhaustive nutritional research ever conducted.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Dehydrating is processing on 12/01/2009 11:57:53 MST Print View

Probars DO have sweeteners. Take a look at Art's Original in the first 3 ingredients are 2 sugars:
Ingredients: Natural unsalted peanut butter (peanuts), brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, fruit and nut mix (raisins, sunflower seeds, juice sweetened papaya, juice sweetened pineapple, dates, cashews, unsweetened coconut, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts), granola (rolled oats, raisins) corn flakes (corn, flour, mixed fruit juice concentrate), organic rye, crisp brown rice (brown rice and malted barley flour), organic evaporated cane juice, grape concentrate, expeller pressed canola oil, brown rice syrup, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, almonds, apples, oat bran, organic oat syrup solids, sea salt, organic molasses, rice bran extract, epasote, prune powder, cardamom, fennel, fenugreek, nutmeg, natural orange oil, carob chips (whole grain malted barley and corn, palm oil, carob powder, soy lecithin), almonds, raisins, dates, oranic sunflower seeds, organic unsweetened coconut, organic flax seeds, organic brown sesame seeds.

Some flavors contain ariabic gum, while natural, is a binder.

I am not picking on the bars, my husband likes them, but rather that yes, they are full of not-so-hidden sugar!

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Dehydrators allow you the most control over ingredients on 12/02/2009 16:05:31 MST Print View

Buying and learning to use a dehydrator is your best bet and it means you can have wonderful meals where you can control the ingredients. I even go as far to make my own energy bars, crackers and snacks. Some of our food encompasses the raw diet and vegan principles and other times we have meatatarian options.

This Quinoa and Spinach Soup from my cookbook is a great example of a lightweight and highly nutritious meal for the trail.

Quinoa and Spinach Soup

At camp, all you do is add boiling water and wait 20 minutes and it contains both carbs and complete protein, not to mention that it tastes really good.

As for stinking up the house... most things don't cause any more aroma than everyday cooking. That said, things like garlic and curry can linger.

Edited by Laurie_Ann on 12/02/2009 16:17:15 MST.

Chris Jones
(NightMarcher) - F
Quinoa and Spinach Soup - Looks good... on 12/02/2009 18:24:00 MST Print View


That looks quite tasty. Was the photo taken after re-hydration? The reason I ask is that the spinach looks so green.

A little off-topic, but do either of your books contain recipes for vegetarian black bean chili?

homemade backpacking food on 12/03/2009 00:10:16 MST Print View

This is a topic I'm very interested in, Myself, trips tend to be longer than 5 days so food is a big (heavy) concern.

I'll pick up the book mentioned,,,,I'm getting tired of mountain house or similar 2 meals on 1 meal off....Maybe not the lighest or unprocessed but my hands down winner for a moral boosting lunch,,,,,,,,,bagel with 2 packets of mayo and 6 slices of pre-cooked bacon......Oh, need to mention you have to use the store packaged bagels, they vaccum seal to almost nothing,,,2 bagels looks like a piece of toast

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Re: Quinoa and Spinach Soup - Looks good... on 12/03/2009 03:27:05 MST Print View

Chris... thanks... we have the philosophy that trail food doesn't have to be mere sustenance that tastes boring or that is full of preservatives, sodium and such. And it can be light.

The picture of this particular recipe is before dehydration. Here is a great thread from another forum that shows the whole process and what it looks like dehydrated and after rehydration...

A Fork in the Trail - Page 170

For those who don't want to see the whole thread here is a photo post rehydration. As you can see it greens up a lot. It still tastes the same though...

After Rehydration

I use the pre-drying photo to show the ingredients more clearly.

This recipe does take a little work prior to the trip but we often double it and have dinner at home too. I'm lazy that way.

The new book has a Black Bean Chili recipe and there is also a vegetarian chili in the first book. Book two won't be out until next year but when I am done the edits I can post the recipe for you.

Edited by Laurie_Ann on 12/03/2009 03:32:29 MST.