12 healthy snacks for winter activities

Since eating well is key to being on top of your game this winter season, Julie Van Rosendaal offers a dozen ideas for portable snacks.

Julie Van Rosendaal offers recipes for portable snacks

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

The Olympics are inspiring Calgarians to get outdoors.

Even those of us who ski, snowboard and skate just for fun and fitness — who aren’t training as professional athletes — need a healthy source of fuel to keep us going.

Think of your snacks as mini meals.

Ideally they should contain some carbohydrates, healthy fat and protein.

Eating well is key to being on top of your game, so if you’re enjoying the great outdoors this winter, here are a dozen ideas for portable snacks that will keep you well fed, whether you’re at work or school or on the top of a mountain.

Homemade Lara Bars/Date-Nut Energy Bars

If you’re going grain-free, it’s easy to make some of the most popular packaged energy bars at home. Lara Bars are made with dates and nut.

The combo is easy to blitz together in the bowl of a food processor, creating a mixture that can be rolled into balls or pressed into a pan, then cut into squares or bars. Add your choice of flavourings to customize them however you like.

  • 1 1/2 cups pitted Medjool dates (about 15 dates)
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted whole almonds and pecan halves (any ratio – or try toasted hazelnuts or cashews)
  • pinch salt

Optional add-ins:

  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut, a bit of grated lime zest and the juice of half a lime
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa, 1 Tbsp. honey and 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or blueberries and a drop of vanilla

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the dates, nuts and salt until well blended and coarsely ground — you should be able to squeeze it together in a clump. If you like, add any add-ins, stirring or pulsing just until combined.

Press into a parchment-lined 8×8-inch baking pan and let sit at room temperature or refrigerate until easier to cut into bars. (Alternatively, roll the mixture into small bite-sized balls.) Leave in the pan or wrap individually to store. 

Makes about 12 bars.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

DIY Trail Mix

Nuts are a perfect portable snack: they travel well, are rich in protein, fibre and healthy fats, and don’t take up much space in your backpack.

Add a handful of dried fruit for a sugar boost, and you’re good to go. In fact, peruse the bulk section for other tasty nibbles like pretzel sticks, dry cereal, sesame sticks and even chunks of dark chocolate.

Make your own trail mix to pack in jars, small plastic containers or baggies to stash in the car, your backpack or even your back pocket.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Homemade Granola

Granola is easy to make from scratch. The combination of grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit makes the perfect portable fuel. Bind it all together with honey or maple syrup.

I start with old-fashioned oats and/or rolled barley flakes, nuts and seeds, then spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with honey, Roger’s Golden Syrup or pure maple syrup. Just enough so that when I stir it all together, it clumps. 

Bake at 325˚F for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden, then add any dried fruit you like as it cools.

For a more substantial snack, bring along small containers of plain yogourt. They’ll stay cold outside, and you can add a shake of granola when you’re ready to eat.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Thick Chewy Granola Bars

These thick chewy granola bars can be customized with any kind of nuts, seeds and dried fruit your kids like, in any proportion. 

  • 1 3/4 cups quick rolled oats, barley flakes, or a combination
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup oat or barley flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups chopped dried fruit, nuts and seeds
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter, golden pea butter, or almond butter
  • 1/3 cup liquid honey, maple syrup or Roger's Golden Syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray an 8x8-inch pan with nonstick spray. 

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar, oat flour, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the dried fruit, nuts and seeds. In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, nut butter, honey and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until well blended and crumbly.

Press into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden around the edges. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into bars. 

Makes 16 thick squares or 12 bars.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Pizza Pockets

For something more substantial than a snack, try rolling out a round of pizza dough and filling it with your favourite fillings: sautéed zucchini, mushrooms and peppers, chopped pepperoni, roasted chicken, sliced ham or cooked ground beef, tomato sauce or pesto and grated cheese or crumbled feta.

Fold over to enclose, crimp the edge and bake at 450˚F for 20 minutes, or until golden. These pockets travel well and are delicious cold, but many ski hills have microwaves available so you can have a warm lunch in a minute.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Spiced Nuts

Spiced nuts are a little more interesting than plain or salted. It’s easy to mix up a big batch to dip into whenever you need a portable snack fast.

  • 2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil or melted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 cups unsalted mixed nuts, such as pecans, walnuts, cashews and almonds
  • 2 tsp. flaky sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Pour the oil into a small ramekin and add the garlic. Swish it around and set aside for a few minutes, then remove the garlic clove. In a medium bowl, toss the nuts with the garlicky oil and spices until well coated. 

Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and golden.

Makes about two cups.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Cheese and Crackers

As kids, my dad packed big wedges of cheese, bagels and grainy crackers along with a Swiss Army knife to bring on ski trips. We’d find somewhere to sit and he’d cut off slices and dole them out.

It’s still a good idea — and if you’re looking for something a little more substantial, pack a variety of cheeses with dense breads, nuts, even apples and those little containers of preserves you get at hotels and restaurants.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Kidney Bean Biscotti

Crisp biscotti travel well, making them perfect for packing. These are sweet, but bolstered by pureed kidney beans, which deliver protein and fibre.

Use this recipe as a basic canvas for any type of biscotti you want to make. Grate orange or lemon zest into the wet ingredients to flavour the dough, or add cinnamon or other spices to the dry ingredients.

Beyond that add nuts, seeds, chopped chocolate, dried fruit — anything goes.

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or any combination of all-purpose and whole wheat)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup sugar (white or brown)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup canned red or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained (half a 19 oz/540 ml can) 
  • 1/4 cup orange juice or milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse until the oats are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse to blend. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Put the beans, juice, oil, egg and vanilla into the food processor and pulse until smooth. Add to the dry ingredients along with the almonds and apricots, or whatever additions you would like to add. Stir just until the dough comes together.

Shape the dough into a log on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray (the dough will be a bit sticky so dampening your hands helps), flattening it so that it’s about 15 inches long and 4 inches wide. (Divide the dough into two if it doesn’t fit on your cookie sheet, or make longer, thinner logs for smaller biscotti.) If you like, sprinkle the top with coarse sugar.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then cut on a slight diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices using a serrated knife. Stand the biscotti upright on the baking sheet, spacing them about 1/2-inch apart, and bake for another 30 minutes, until crisp and dry. 

Makes about 2 dozen biscotti.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Quinoa Salad with Kale and Feta

A grainy salad, like one based on quinoa, barley or brown rice, will travel well and provide a more nutrient-dense nosh than one based on greens. Wintry kale also travels well.

Slice it thinly and toss with cooked, cooled quinoa, crumbled feta, a handful of nuts and a drizzle of oil and lemon juice that will marinate the mixture until you’re ready to eat.

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 3-4 leaves of kale, thinly sliced (discard the tough ribs)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

In a medium pot of boiling salted water, cook the quinoa for 12-14 minutes, until just tender and the germ separates, making a little curly 'Q.' Drain well in a fine sieve, then return to the pot (off the heat, but still warm). Add the cranberries, cover with a tea towel and the lid, and set aside to cool.

Add the kale to the quinoa, along with the feta and almonds. Add the olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, toss again and pack to go. Serves 2-4.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Homemade Eatmore Bars

These dense, chewy bars taste a lot like Eatmore chocolate bars, with more nutritional benefits. The crisp cereal, oats, nuts and dried fruit are bound together with a dense, chewy chocolate goo that cools to form a soft mixture that makes for easy packing. Cut them into bars and wrap individually in plastic wrap to pack for a hike, ski or other outing.

  • 3 cups Rice Krispies or Special K
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit (such as raisins, apricots & cranberries)
  • ½ cup chopped peanuts
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup peanut butter

Spray the inside of a large bowl and toss together the cereal, oats, dried fruit and peanuts. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, honey, cocoa and peanut butter over medium heat and stir until completely melted and smooth (it will be thick). Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal mixture and stir until evenly coated. Press into a 9 x 13-inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Cool in the fridge or at room temperature before cutting into bars.

Makes 18 bars.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Oatmeal Muffins

A batch of good, grainy muffins is a great way to feed a family. Bring the whole pan in the back of the car and once you arrive at your destination, pass them around for a little pre-workout energy.

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt, thinned with milk
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup canola oil or butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries or blackberries

In a large bowl, stir together the oats and buttermilk and let sit about an hour. Preheat oven to 400°F and line 12 muffin tins with paper liners. Add the egg, brown sugar and oil or butter to the oat mixture and stir well. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir until almost combined. Add the berries and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch. Makes 1 dozen muffins.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

Everything Cookies

Cookies are perhaps the ultimate portable snack, both for kids and grown ups. Beyond chocolate chips, pack your batter with dried fruit, nuts and seeds, then wrap them up and they’re good to go.

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • a good shake of cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/4 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl beat the butter, oil, brown sugar and cinnamon until creamy. Beat in the egg ad vanilla. Add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt and stir until almost combined. Add the raisins or other dried fruit, nuts, seeds, chocolate or whatever else you’d like to add, and stir just until blended. 

Drop large spoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes, until set around the edges but still soft in the middle. Cool completely before wrapping to go.

Makes up to two dozen cookies.

(Julie Van Rosendaal )

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal shares recipes and cooking tips with the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. The cookbook author explores Calgary's culinary wonders in her column Food and the City.