So last fall, when such a thing was feasible, I went mountain biking in New Jersey with a bunch of friends. We were quite the motley crew, given our diverse lineup of rides, which very much resembled an evolutionary chart. I was lucky enough to be testing the year’s best outdoor product at the time, so I was at the optimal end, equipment-wise anyway.
And I felt even more undeservedly superior when we took a fuel break and my Sicilian buddy, Giuseppe, pulled out a fruity little squeeze pack that looked for all the world like a freakin’ kid’s snack.
Because it was.
“Dude, did you steal that from Giada?” I joked, referring to his pint-sized daughter. He just smiled. “She has a bunch of them, and they’re pretty much the same as your fancy energy snacks,” he explained, cracking it open and taking a squirt. “Plus they’re delicious.”
I had all kinds of doubts. But hell, he was kicking my ass all over the single-track on a suspension-less mountain bike straight out of the ’90s. Maybe he was onto something.
To find out, I checked in with Maryann Walsh, MFN, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian who runs a booming nutrition consulting agency in Palm Beach, Florida. “I’m all for kid’s snacks — it’s all in the marketing and packaging anyway,” she said with a laugh. “For someone going for a long ride or hike, you want a quick carbohydrate source, which is what these provide — plus vitamins and minerals from the fruit.”
Walsh then pointed out what now seems obvious: when evaluating any snack, it’s more important what’s on the back of the package (i.e. the nutritional info) than that visage of Elmo on the front.
And some kid’s snacks rise to the top on the strength of their simplicity — a small number of ingredients, most if not all of them natural — and quick absorption: many are pureed, so they’re easy for even very young kids to consume. Editor’s note: focus on quantities, rather than percentages, as this nutritional info is often based on a younger person’s 1,000-calorie-per-day diet.
I asked Walsh for some recommendations and have since taken both Earth’s Best Organic Fruit Yogurt Smoothies and Peter Rabbit Organics Squeezable Pouches out for long, solo mountain bike days on Canyon’s ultralight new ride. They’ve proven to not only be just the speedy fuel I need to send it on the trails for hours, but, just like a wise Sicilian once said, they really are delicious.
Now, does this mean you need to toss all your GU and Clif products and raid the toddler food aisle at your local grocery? Not at all. But if you are in a rush and the place doesn’t carry those high-performance goods — or you’re a parent scrounging for a healthy energy kick around the house — the following nutritionist-approved, cost-effective options will absolutely do the trick.
Bamba Peanut Butter Puffs
A peanut butter fiend’s dream, these puffs are also available at Trader Joe’s.
Peter Rabbit Organics Squeezable Pouches
This fuel comes in on the pricier side, but it features just four certified organic, non-GMO ingredients (all of them fruits or vegetables) and a sweet natural flavor.
ReadyPac Foods ReadySnax Apple Caramel Bites
If you prefer to fuel up with real, actual food, these packs are your pick.
Earth’s Best Organic Fruit Yogurt Smoothie
Fruit lovers will dig these smoothies, which come in six flavors (each with a different Sesame Street mascot, of course).
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