Health & Wellness

10 Fridge-Free, Portable Snacks for Rowers

Even the most organized rower can make the mistake of putting nutrition on the backburner, jeopardizing his or her access to essential fuel when he needs it most. Thankfully, some food items can stay in the gym bag, offering nutrition when optimal food sources may be scant, forgotten, or just not ideal for the athlete.

I’ve highlighted some snacks that don’t require refrigeration and provide a great source of fuel for exercise or competition. Remember, clean out the gym bag periodically, or when the weather involves extremely hot temperatures. And, make sure to review the package label for expiration information and storage considerations before consuming.

Nuts and Nut Butters: Nuts provide a calorie kick and a boost of healthy fat and fiber in just a small handful of about 1 ounce (150-200 calories, depending on the type of nut). Store individual packets of nuts or a small canister in your gym bag.
Prepackaged squeeze packets or small cups of nut butters also offer a quick source of energy and pair nicely with crackers or pretzels. They can be squeezed directly into the mouth, too! Flavors include peanut, almond, chocolate hazelnut, honey peanut, and more.
*Be careful of rowers with potential nut allergies.

Dried Fruit, Fruit Leather, and Fruit Puree: Better than a “fruit snack,” dried fruit is a concentrated source of carbohydrate usually without added sugar. Try sealed bags or individual boxes of raisins, dried cherries, apricot, or mango. If you go the fruit leather route, be sure it’s all fruit (no added sugar). Squeezable fruit puree packs are another option, and offer interesting combinations such as strawberry and banana, or kiwi, strawberry and beet for a quick carbohydrate pick-me-up.

Dry Cereal: Go for small boxes of cereal or make your own baggie of dry cereal. The lower sugar types are best eaten alone or combined with dried fruit and nuts to make a homemade trail mix.  Some low-sugar cereal winners are: original Cheerios, Kix, Post Spoon-Size Shredded Wheat, Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs, Barbara’s Puffins (regular and cinnamon), Cascadian Farms or Quaker multi-grain squares, Total, Wheaties, and Grape-Nuts.

Jerky: Beef or turkey jerky are low fat, lean meats cured into a chewy, protein-packed snack. Stow in a re-sealable package in the gym bag or backpack. Are you looking for a jerky with no additives or preservatives? Try Trader Joe’s, Costco or Whole Foods brands.

Pretzels: Variety and portability are the appeal here: you can find all shapes and sizes, with salt or without, whole grain types, and exotically flavored or not. Choose small packages so they stay fresh, or bag your own in a Ziploc style baggie.

Fig Newton: These cookies have been around forever (more than 100 years!) and are loaded with carbohydrate and the natural fiber from figs, offering the athlete a sweet boost of carbohydrate. For the backpack, Fig Newtons come in small packages of two or four cookies. You can also find different flavors such as strawberry and raspberry if fig isn’t your thing.

Sandwich Crackers: Great in a pinch before or after exercise, sandwich crackers with peanut butter or cheese tout carbs and some fat and/or protein. Individual packages of four to six sandwiches starring whole grain crackers are the healthiest bet and convenient for the gym bag.

Seeds: Sunflower, pumpkin, chia and sesame are just a handful of seed types that offer healthy fats, vitamin E, fiber, protein and zinc. They are nutritious and delicious on their own or mixed into trail mix, homemade granola bars, or atop cereal or salad. Opt for seeds that are already hulled and come in a re-sealable bag (or bag your own).

Granola: Typically made with oats, honey, spices, dried fruit and nuts, granola is a nutritious and delicious snack to have on hand. There is a wide variety of different brands and versions to choose from—look for types with natural ingredients and minimal preservatives and additives.

Meal Replacement Bars or Granola-type Bars: Granola bars and meal replacement bars are a popular option for many young athletes. They’re portable, simple to store, and with so many different flavors, easy to find one that is acceptable to the young rower. Remember, though, a meal replacement bar is just that—meant to replace a meal, and therefor will be higher in calories and protein, as well as other nutrients. A granola-type bar tends to be less than 200 calories and meant to be eaten as a snack before or after exercise.

The best thing about portable snacks is that they are a built in insurance policy should you forget to pack a snack or can’t find an acceptable one in a pinch. Toss a few different ones in your gym bag or backpack and you’ll never be at a loss for fuel!

Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian and youth sports nutrition expert. She is the author of Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete. Learn more about Jill

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