On short trips, I've really moved away from eating typical "hiking foods" and pretty much avoid bringing anything I wouldn't eat at home. For overnights and weekends, the menu often includes things like apples and plums, berries, carrots, avocado, hummus, fresh bread, nuts and chocolate, cheese and boiled eggs, leftovers from last night's home-cooked meal. Essentially, picnic food. Aside from Clifbars and Probars, I don't keep a lot of premade or processed food in my pantry, and I rarely go out of my way to buy specialty foods just for hiking, when I know that once I'm on the trail I'll miss things like fresh fruit and salad.
On long trips, I put weight first, not to mention convenience, and find myself eating things like fig newtons and instant mashed that I never eat in "real life". And I often wonder how deficient I'm becoming in certain micro-nutrients. It's not like I see a decrease in immune function or anything, but I do crave fresh fruit and salad more than anything else (which I think is a good indicator that I'm not calorie-deprived when I hike, or I'd be scrounging for pizza and ice cream instead!).
What I want to know is if there's any hard science on the nutritional difference between fresh veggies/fruits and freeze-dried? I've heard it said that fruits can lose up to 50% of their vitamin C when they're dried, that sun-drying removes more nutrients than a low-heat dehydrator, etc. But does someone have any good research to prove or disprove these numbers?
There's so much talk about fine-tuning macronutrients (proteins, carbs, fats), but I wonder if we're not skimping on other, less-obvious dietary needs when our only vegetables are the freeze-dried bits in a Mountain House meal. OTOH, maybe my perceived need for apples and carrots is purely psychological, and I "need" them the same way some folks "need" a hot cup of coffee in the morning. Maybe food is just my luxury item. ;p