It is no secret that keeping your energy up on the trail is key, and having the proper sustenance can make or break your trip no matter the length of the outing. Each time I am preparing for a trek I usually head to the local Sprouts or Trader Joe’s to pick up some snacks since they both offer a plentiful range of healthier options that are ideal for a day on the trail. And yet, I am still left with the bare minimum because of my soy allergy. Unfortunately this is a much too common ingredient, particularly when it comes to the types of foods that I am looking for to keep my energy up. Protein and granola bars often contain soy or soy protein, jerkies tend to be marinated with soy sauce, and even premade trail mixes can be a dead end since chocolate tends to contain soy lecithin (and I generally like my trail mix to contain just a little chocolate).
I have learned the hard way to never assume, and I have to read every ingredient on the label before I buy something. You would be surprised how many companies use soybean oil in their products, and unfortunately other soy based ingredients aren’t always labeled as such. I know that I don’t always get 100% soy-free items because it can be hidden in generic terms such as “vegetable protein”. Even items containing glycerin can be sketchy because it is often made from soy, or a mixture of soy and other plants, and is simply labeled as “vegetable glycerin”. There are many ways that it conceals itself in our food (and other products), and if you have an allergy like me it can be a painfully tedious task to recall every name that it disguises itself as and search for each one, any time you’re at the store.
This isn’t limited to snacks though, even the dehydrated meals commonly used for backpacking often contain soy, and unfortunately yeast which is another allergy of mine. A lot of people use regular prepackaged foods as well, I’ve seen many backpackers showcasing their meals and snacks for the trail which include things like gummy bears, Oreos, Doritos, or Top Ramen. And while I understand the reasoning and convenience, my own body would not accept such foods whether they are “allergy friendly” or not. I’m not what you might consider a health nut, I am not in super amazing shape, but my body reacts immediately and poorly to “junk” food and I wouldn’t last on the trail with only those foods for fuel. Of course, if you’re like me and are not the least bit interested in eating such unhealthy foods, the easiest and most obvious answer is just to make everything ourselves. We can dehydrate your own fruits, make our own jerky, and put together our own trail mixes. W’e can prepare our own backpacking meals with carefully selected ingredients and not have to worry about hidden allergens. And honestly, this is not a bad idea! Making everything myself looks better and better every day, except that I don’t always have the time needed to prepare everything!
Finding items that are healthy, or at least healthier, and still fit my allergy friendly needs can be tough enough as it is. Finding those that also provide me with the energy I need on the trail can sometimes seem like an enormous task, not to mention finding products that fit the bill and actually taste good as well! But these days finding the time to make it all myself is seemingly even harder, and the cycle continues.
All is not lost though, I can honestly tell you that there are some options for us that taste great and provide energy without a junk food crash! Here are some of my favorite soy-free (and a few very low soy) foods that I have picked up for my days on the trail:
I love these bars for their simple ingredients, and their no-frills take on labeling. They put it out there on the front in big bold letters, and even on the back there aren’t any hidden ingredients. No B.S. indeed!
You can pick these up at Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, and a number of other stores. They actually seem to be pretty popular, so they should be fairly easy to find. If I had to provide any cons for this bars I would go with the texture, since the limited ingredients make them very dense and quite chewy. This isn’t really a deterrent though, as even people I know who were put off by this at first are now fans. They are one of my most commonly grabbed, soy-free snacks even when not on the trail. They are packed with protein, and every flavor that I have tried has been great! It also helps that they are fairly inexpensive individually, however buying a box is more efficient if you go through them like I do.
Sprouts Goji Berry Omega-3 Trail Mix
Sprouts has some great options for trail mix in their bulk bins, and I think this is my favorite of the soy-free recipes. The Goji Berry Omega-3 Trail Mix contains roasted salted almonds, roasted salted macadamia nuts, roasted salted peanuts, dried cranberries, raisins, roasted salted sunflower seeds, and goji berries. It is salty, sweet,and slightly tart, and crunchiness and density of the nuts is broken up with the soft and chewy fruit pieces. Definitely a fan of this one!
Trader Joe’s Trail Mix
There are actually a few mixes of theirs that I enjoy, some are super simple while others get a bit more complex. They all provide a substantial amount of energy, and they taste great! You can purchase a full bag like the one pictured above, or they also offer bags with the contents divided into mini snack bags. For a lighter weight you could grab a handful of the minis rather than the bulky 1lb bag.
Take a Hike Trek Mix: Perhaps my new favorite (and possibly a newer product of TJ’s), this mix contains walnuts, cranberries, chocolate, and toasted sacha inchi seeds. I am a huge fan of sacha inchi seeds, they have a delicious roasted, nutty flavor and are high in protein and iron. They add a welcome earthiness to the mix and I love the combination of the four ingredients.
Happy Trekking: My go-to for a while, it contains almonds, cashews, pistachios, cranberries, cherries, and chocolate chips. This mix is nutty, salty, sweet, and tart all at once and is definitely still in my top.
Simply Almonds, Cashews, & Cranberries: As the name implies, this three ingredient mix goes for simplicity. It is tasty and a handful or two gives you a nice energy boost while the salty and tart flavor combos are enough to satisfy cravings.
Simply Almonds, Cashews, & Chocolate: In case you want something a little sweeter than cranberries, this mix takes the recipe above and replaces them with chocolate chunks! This was the first trail mix from TJ’s that I tried, and it got me hooked.
Go Raw: Another simpler option, this mix contains raw almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, and some dried cranberries to break up the intensity of the nuts. If you’re looking for less sugar and more protein, this is the way to go.
Note: as previously stated, chocolate often contains soy lecithin. The mixes not containing chocolate are soy free, while those that do contain it will likely contain small amounts. Sometimes we get lucky so I recommend still checking the ingredients list in items containing chocolate of any kind.
Trader Joe’s Salmon Jerky
One of the only jerkies that I can find in store that is not marinated in soy sauce, it is brined in brown sugar, molasses, sea salt and maple syrup. I absolutely love salmon, so I am pleased that I can eat this! I will say that the cons of this item are that you get a smaller amount since salmon is more expensive, and it is slightly too salty for my preference. They could stand to tone down the sea salt a little, but it is still tasty enough for me to toss it in my bag.
Trader Joe’s Roasted Plantain Chips
I swear I am not Trader Joe’s obsessed, however I do find them to be an excellent source for snack foods. They also happen to be the maker of my favorite plantain chips, which I love to take on the trail (or to work). I am not a fan of sweet plantain chips so having these more on the roasted and salted side, with just a hint of natural sweetness from the plantain, is perfect. They are delightfully crunchy and just make an overall great trail snack, and I recommend throwing some in a small ziploc so you’re not stuck carrying the whole bag.
For those who eat meat, these are a great savory addition to the pack. They make both bars and “bites” that come in various flavors, and they offer chicken, turkey, beef, pork, bison, venison, and salmon. I don’t currently eat all of these meats, so I have only tried a few flavors, but I have read the ingredients on the others and I cannot find soy in any of them. I love these because they offer a sufficient amount of protein and taste delicious, but also help to break up the monotony of the fruit and nut heavy snacks.
The Wild Zora meat and veggie bars aren’t so much bars as they are almost a soft jerky. They are perfect for a light snack and the flavor combos are scrumptious. Since I currently only eat poultry and fish I have only tried the Curry Turkey, but it is amazing. I know people who swear by the others though, particularly the Mediterranean Lamb. My previous boss introduced these to me, and I have been grateful since. Plus it is always a perk when a brand puts a clear “NO SOY” statement on the front of their package! Though I provided a link to read more about or purchase these items, I do believe they are sold individually at REI as well.
These are a surprising addition for me, simply because I very strongly dislike bananas. And I mean very strongly. However, somehow these little chewy banana snacks have become a favorite of mine. I personally prefer the flavored options to help mask the taste of banana, of which the Apple Cinnamon is my favorite. They also offer Coconut, Dark Chocolate, and Peanut Butter which are all quite yummy! I am not too fond of coconut either, and yet somehow I am even able to enjoy the coconut flavor which seriously consists solely of banana and coconut. I don’t know how they work their magic, but I am thankful because these potassium rich snacks are a great addition to my pack. They contain simple ingredients, with no sinister additives hiding in there. Since they are made with “upcycled” bananas, meaning bananas that are browning and would normally be thrown away by the distributor, it also helps to reduce food waste. They are also USDA and QAI certified Organic, Non-GMO, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, and kosher! I will also add that the Dark Chocolate, while also Fair Trade, is made with sunflower lecithin rather than soy. So these really are a great, allergy friendly option.
Most health food stores have an abundance of these, in any flavor combination you can imagine. They are lightweight and take up barely any room in your bag, so you can bring an assortment of options. These are easy to make at home with a food processor and dehydrator or oven, but if you don’t have the tools or the time then the store bought ones will do just nicely. Though it is uncommon for me to find soy in items like these, they can still have added sugars and other undesirable ingredients so it is always a good idea to read the labels before purchasing.
These are something that I actually do enjoy making myself, it can be done on the stove in a matter of minutes and then simply needs to be refrigerated to solidify. All you really need is juice, a sweetener like honey (if necessary) and a gelatin powder like this one from Vital Proteins. Some people like to puree their own fruit, which allows for fresher ingredients and a thicker mixture, which means a chewier texture. Plus it also lets you customize your flavors. To save time I generally go with a store bought juice, I just make sure to get something organic and with a rich flavor. One of my favorites is the Trader Joe’s To the Power of Seven juice, which contains pomegranate, cherry, black mulberry, red grape, carrot, cranberry, and blueberry. It is sweet enough that it doesn’t require honey or sugar, and it is so popular in this house that it has a habit of disappearing on me.
Without the added sweeteners the snacks end up with a lighter, Jell-O type texture that melts in your mouth. While I do not mind this, others may prefer them to be chewier. I have noticed that gummy bears are a popular trail snack, and you can make these the same way. For these I would definitely add a sweetener, the sugar will melt and give you the gummy texture. It may be more ideal for packing since the denser gummies will hold their shape better if crushed.
Another perk of the fruit snacks or gummies is that the gelatin and collagen help to promote bone and joint health, and build up the immune, digestive, and central nervous systems. When you’re out on the trail, especially for days or weeks at a time, maintaining your health is important and something like this can provide that something extra to keep you going.
I didn’t have much luck finding good molds in any local stores, I tried several and only came away with my robot mold which doesn’t make very many and was somewhat expensive. Who could pass up the cute robots though? I would recommend buying online, and Amazon has some great options including traditional gummy bears.
And if you’re in need of a gummy bear recipe, this one that I came across on Wellness Mama is my favorite so far:
So there you have it, an assortment of soy-free snacks that I have found to be delicious and fueling when on the trail. I hope that this list is helpful, I know that as someone suffering from multiple food allergies it can be extremely disheartening trying to find foods that I can not only eat, but actually enjoy!
What are your thoughts on these snacks?
Do you have recommendations for those with soy, or other allergies?
Do you have any go-to favorites for your hiking days?
Sound off in the comments below!
Disclaimer: Though this post does contain some affiliate links, I have received no compensation for my review of any of these products. These have all been purchased on my own, and any statements and opinions that I express are strictly from my own experience.