Best snack options for hiking and picnics

Dietitian, Estée van Lingen, offer ideas for snacks when hiking or going on a picnic.

Most newly diagnosed diabetes patients think they won’t be able to do any activities like hiking or enjoying a picnic. Luckily that’s not the case. As long as you manage and plan your outings and snacks, you can still continue as normal as possible. Exercise can also be great to help manage blood glucose levels but being mindful is key in all cases.


In the case of a hike/exercise, the most important thing to remember is to start off slowly and train your body to get used to the exercise and not just jump into a 10km hike after no exercise for the last few years. You have to slowly increase the intensity and duration. By doing this you will also learn how your body works and what works best for you.

First thing to remember, is to test your glucose levels before you leave for your hike to determine if and what you should be eating beforehand.

You should also take your blood glucose monitoring kit with you to ensure blood glucose levels remain steady. If your blood glucose levels are low, it’s definitely good to consume a breakfast before you leave that includes a protein, healthy fat and fibre. For example, oats with low-fat milk and sugar-free peanut butter; a boiled egg and avocado; scrambled eggs with chickpeas; or a slice of low-GI bread and sugar-free peanut butter. The starch or fibre will help to increase blood glucose levels slightly and the protein and fats will help to stabilise it, so it does not drop too quickly.

Hydration is essential

Water is vital to pack and depending on how long you will be away, how far you will be walking and the weather, you need to bring extra water. This will keep you hydrated and also prevent you from being hungry all the time that you snack the whole way through (that’s also not ideal).

Food should only be used to nourish us to have enough energy and keep blood glucose levels stable. Hiking (or exercise) in general is not an excuse to eat more or bigger portions of food.

Snack options to pack for a hike

  • Trail mix of cranberries, nuts and seeds but be aware of portion size.
  • Lean biltong
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Sugar-free protein bar
  • Fruits (preferably fresh, and only eat 1 to 2 (max) during the whole hike)
  • Brown rice cakes
  • Take a few jelly sweeties with in case your blood glucose drops too low and you need a quick pick-up, then ONLY HAVE ONE and then follow that with balanced snack and or protein.

Snack options to pack for a picnic

  • Lean biltong
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Sugar-free protein bar
  • Boiled eggs
  • Low-GI sandwiches with protein filling/sugar-free peanut butter
  • Low-GI, sugar-free muffins
  • Vegetable sticks with hummus or low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low-fat plain/unsweetened yoghurt
  • Fresh fruits
  • Brown rice cakes with avocado, hummus or low-fat cottage cheese

Things to remember

Please take note of the following when planning and packing snacks:

  1. Drink lots of water throughout the hike, picnic or exercise.
  2. Make sure the snack is low in sugar and carbohydrates (15g carbs = 1 starch portion). Only consume 1 starch or fruit portion at a time (in 2 hours space).
  3. Do not continuously eat throughout. Try to eat a good breakfast before (especially before a picnic so you don’t overeat). Have a snack about 2 hours later and then another 2-3 hours later, or as you feel blood glucose levels might be dropping. Only eat when hungry or low blood glucose and not just because the food is there.
  4. Make sure the snack contains protein (biltong, chicken, low-fat cottage cheese, eggs, nuts), fibre (low-GI starches, fruit and vegetables) and/or healthy fats (sugar-free nut butter, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds) to help regulate blood glucose.
  5. Monitor portion sizes. Even if you eat healthy snacks but the portions are too big, it can still affect your blood glucose levels, and an increased calorie consumption can lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss.
  6. Avoid foods too high in fats especially saturated fats and trans fats (mainly found in processed foods).
  7. Avoid salty snacks as this can dehydrate you and increase your blood pressure.

Now you can use these guidelines to plan your next hike or picnic and adjust it to meet your individual requirements as each person is different and reacts differently to foods. Do try to play around with ideas when you are at home or taking shorter walks to see which snacks works best for you.

If you are still not certain or need more assistance with your individual dietary needs, book an appointment with your nearest dietitian.


Estée van Lingen is a registered dietitian and has been in private practice since 2014. She is registered with the HPCSA as well as ADSA and served on the ADSA Gauteng South Committee for 2020 – 2022.

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