Welcome to yet another in what may be an infinite series of postings on the topic of Road Trip Snacks.
In Previous Episodes, I actually attempt to drink an Ensure (so you don’t have to), and then I introduce you to Clif Builders Bars as the best of a pretty inedible collection of “high protein” hunks of sawdust. Actually, the builder bars aren’t bad, just dry. Don’t try to eat one without a water bottle handy.
Here’s the challenge: I’m diabetic, so I’m trying to limit my carbs and sugars. I have allergies that prevent me from eating either tree nuts or peanuts, which nuke out a lot of the protein sources used in normal people’s snack foods. I’m not a big fan of indelicate digestive imbalances (ahem), so I don’t cheat on the allergies except by accident.
What I’m really looking for are edible (or drinkable) things that are low to moderate in carbohydrates, doesn’t require refrigeration and can be stuck in my car so it’s there when I need something out in the field when I really don’t want to head into civilization to grab food and can’t wait because my blood sugar is doing the lambada. Oh, and I’d like an ingredient list that looks like, well, food, and not like I’m chewing on a chemistry set.
This morning Laurie pointed me to an add for what seems to be a new entry into this growing class of products known as “breakfast shake”.
Quaker Oats now has their own breakfast shake, with the special added super power of extra fiber. Because, you know, we all need to drink more fiber. Think about it and it makes sense: Quaker Oats does — oats. Oats deliver fiber, lots of it. So we’re going to liquefy oats and hide it in your breakfast shake. TADA: liquid oats.
But when I look at the ingredient list for this, I go “meh”. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it looks just like the 20 other breakfast shakes I’ve looked at. It also has added sugar, a fair amount of it. at least it’s sugar and not high yield corn fructose. I still believe all of the “strawberry” flavors across the product line were invented by some food scientist sadist, but typically, the chocolate is drinkable.
But still, meh. And so I said to Laurie “I don’t see anything in any of these products that should make me drink this instead of chocolate milk….”
And then I went “huh”.
Back when I was athletic and trained a lot on bikes and did the occasional road race, bike riders had this problem. It needed to go in the pocket of your jersey, it couldn’t require chilling, and it had to put up with some abuse along the way. Bananas were a given (and still are), as were Fig Newtons. When we got to the end of the ride, we’d hit up a store and grab a bottle of chocolate milk because it has that nice combination of sugars/carbs with a solid hunk of protein from the milk. And damn, after half a century it tasted wonderful.
Folks like Gatorade have spent a couple of generations trying to convince all of us that you need to eat or drink these specially formulated magic drinks if you want to be a serious athlete. Lots of people believe them — but if you look into modern training discussions, you’ll find a lot of people are figuring out that few of these drinks perform better for you than chocolate milk does, and many serious athletes have switched back. Ditto high-tech sawdust bars and things like, oh, Fig Newtons.
Sometimes the old ways are best. Although sometimes the old ways with a modern twist can make your day.
These days, you can get chocolate milk from a number of sources in no-chill aseptic containers. Some of them are organic. Most of them have that added sugar, of course, so that their nutrition label looks a lot like the breakfast shakes. Still, if you want something you can haul around without worrying about it going bad that tastes decent and has a rational nutritional basis, you can do a lot worse than these “kiddie” boxes and bottles of chocolate milk.
And you can even go one better. if you look, you can find this:
Nestle, bless them, has a no-sugar-added version. it uses a bit of sucralose to sweeting, but the carb load drops significantly: the sweetened version of this is 150 calories with 25 grams of carb and 8 grams of protein. The no-sugar added version is 100 calories with that 8 grams of protein, but only 13 grams of carbs.
I now have a supply of this ordered, and when it gets in, I’ll do a taste test and report back. But this looks like a nice thing to have handy in the car, and it’s — chocolate milk. How bad can it taste? the ingredient list is surprisingly short of things that scare me, although it does have Cellulose Gel (good that gives it a good mouth feel), Potassium Citrate (manages PH and adds some tartness), Carrageenan (another goo that gives it a good mouth feel, made from kelp) and Cellulose Gum (it’s Cellulose Gel, but different). The sodium hit is a bit high but not terrible.
By the way, when I’m out on the road, one of the things I’ve started doing is hitting up a coffee shop for a mocha — hot or cold, depending on weather, think about what a mocha is: it’s effectively chocolate milk with a coffee chaser. And given how easy it is to find a Starbucks most places, it’s an easy way to get a drink with a balanced nutrional load (but hold the whipping cream; we can argue full-fat, low-fat or skim milk some other time. I’ve been moving away from skim milk to 2% personally because the fat slows how fast the carbs get digested, and I really don’t want a higher % of carbs in my diet — low fat is not a good thing for me. And perhaps most of us. But… later).
By the way, you might be amused at my Valentines Day gift from Laurie, a Coleman iceless cooler. So now I have a lot more flexibility to carry reasonable food with me, and less dependence on hotel refrigerators that actually work or can refreeze blue ice blocks. I am looking forward to trying it out on my next trip (Yellowstone, baby!) when I can set up my lunches and haul them with and be less dependent on trying to wade through fast food or poor deli counters… oh, and cold drinks that are really cold…
(as laurie notes, you have to be careful with these coolers; many only guaranteed 10-15 degrees below ambient, which can be a problem. This seems to be the best of the bunch in the consumer price ranges…)
And onward… There are options, it seems… It can just be a challenge to figure them out…