Hiking boots. Check. Backpack. Check. Tent for two. Check. Emergency kit. Check, check, check (somehow I ended up with three – apparently you can never be safe enough).
With piles of clothes and gear gathering on my bedroom floor, it seems like I am almost completely prepped for my upcoming adventure abroad. In a few weeks, I’m going down under for a trip unlike any other: thirty days of outdoor fun from fishing, to kayaking, to hiking through fields, mountains, and even glaciers. New Zealand, here I come.
Now, a month-long vacation takes a lot of work for anyone, healthy or or not. But as someone who must consider both medical and dietary needs, the amount of thought that goes into packing tripled.
This is the longest trip I have taken since I got sick seven years ago and I have to admit, I was a bit overwhelmed by the idea. Away from my family, away from my doctors, away from my stove – it was like someone took my safety blankets and locked them in the closet. But as someone who loves to explore, I knew I had to face my fears and take on the challenge of traveling abroad (and basically living out of a backpack).
Now there are a lot of topics to cover about traveling on a low sodium diet: what to eat at an airport, what to bring for your hotel room, how to find restaurants, and how to order in a language other than english – just to name a few. Today, though, I want to specifically cover one type of food – the camping kind.
Most prepackaged camping food is full of protein, fuel, and a lot of sodium. Hundreds and thousands of milligrams. The options for people with special diets seem pretty slim and usually only cover dehydrated or freeze dried veggies. Which are wonderful ingredients to have, but not enough to sustain someone for more than a few days.
So what can you pack on your back that is full of the nutrients you need without the weight (or the salt)?
I decided to finally take the search for low sodium backpacking food seriously and I found that my assumptions were incorrect – there are a whole host of products that are low sodium friendly. I love it when I’m wrong.
I have scoured the grocery store shelves, the interweb, and the local REI for inspiration and here a handful of the low sodium foods I’ve found:
- Mountain House makes freeze dried corn and green beans with zero milligrams of sodium and they come in little packages that can be filled directly with water, making dinner time as easy as possible.
- Crunchies and Just Tomatoes have some great lightweight fruit and veggie options for snacking and for making pastas and grains more interesting.
- Lo and behold, Backpackers Pantry has freeze dried chicken (15mg per serving) – a protein miracle.
- AlpineAire also has freeze dried chicken (15mg per serving) and tomato puree (at a slightly higher 40mg per serving, but still relatively low).
- Provident Pantry has a whole host of interesting low sodium, freeze dried veggies like broccoli and carrots . They also have dehydrated egg powder (70mg per serving) and potato flakes (10mg per serving) to add diversity to your low sodium breakfasts and dinners.
I have yet to find freeze dried or powdered low sodium beans and decided to give Oregon Freeze Dry (the largest freeze drying company in the US) a little ring to see if custom Sodium Girl orders were possible. Worth the try, right?
The good news? More low sodium products are already on their way for Summer 2011! I’m not sure what they are or what the sodium content will be (does low mean a few 100mg or none at all?), but I’m excited to crack this case open and eat more delicious food while on the trail in the future.
As for the rest of the meals – I’m taking grains and carbs – I’ve found that the easiest things to pack (and cook) are oatmeal, couscous, and pasta. But my most exciting discovery was another grain-like addition that may prove to be the best culinary camping companion of them all: quinoa.
Lightweight, full of protein, and easy to cook (you don’t even need hot water – you can just soak it cold water until the grains sprout), quinoa is a must. It is full of nutrition and nutty flavor and pairs nicely with all the freeze dried veggies.
I’m thrilled to know that I am going to be fueled and full while on my feet and that “gourmet,” low sodium eating does not have to stop once I enter the great outdoors. And don’t worry, this exploration is far from over. I also have my team of low sodium crusaders working on our own dehydrated concoctions in order to really spice things up. So stay tuned for more moisture and sodium free deliciousness to come.
Even with dietary boundaries, your low sodium life can be boundless. So plan a date with mother nature and camp, hike, explore, and as always, chow on.