Diet & Nutrition
 Menu Planning

Menu Planning for the Outdoor Season

By Dr. L. Lee Coyne

Following a long winter (for some all winters are long), many families are looking forward to the warmer “outdoor” season. You know – the season when we say “Let’s spend an entire day outdoors performing demanding physical tasks” like hiking, climbing, bicycling, roller-blading, or gardening.

To get the most enjoyment from these high energy burning tasks, it is wise to make plans about the fuel to be consumed throughout the day to help provide a steady supply of this energy. Proper food selection for an all-day hike or aggressive day in the garden can mean the difference between total enjoyment and “bonking” at 11:00 AM or 2:30 PM. “Bonking” is a term for really low blood sugar, very low energy and feeling like your world is in painful slow motion.

Unwise but common advice given to those wishing to maintain high energy expenditure levels would include the consumption of sugar loaded snack bars, energy bars, soda pop, popular sport drinks (which are really just non-carbonated pop with some table salt added), rice cakes, bananas, raisins and dried fruits. These choices are unwise because they all raise blood sugar very quickly (which does give you a temporary energy boost) resulting in an insulin surge from the pancreas. A small, slow rise in insulin is both desirable and necessary because that is how the sugars go from the blood to the working cells to provide the basis for energy production. However, a “surge”, which is how the pancreas responds to a sharp rise in blood sugar, causes blood sugar to drop quickly (often to levels below the pre-eating stage) creating the desire to sleep or not think too clearly or to be depressed. We call this “Hypoglycemia”. Hunger is also prevalent with chronically elevated insulin. (There are many other affects of high insulin that will be discussed in other columns.)

Food choices for optimum energy and feelings of “well-being” involve the control of insulin. To avoid the peaks and valleys in energy and to maintain a happy level of vigor throughout a long day it is wise to:

  • eat a varied diet with adequate protein and fat in addition to the carbohydrates,
  • eat small meals and snacks to sustain the flow of energy, and
  • maintain good levels of hydration by drinking liquids frequently.

Understand that at mild to moderate levels of exercise intensity you receive 50 to 75 per cent of your energy from stored fat. A mixed diet – and I prefer 40% complex carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% good fat – will prevent insulin surging and prevent hypoglycemia. Eating protein and fat in every meal and every snack is the key to insulin control. So avoid the unwise list previously mentioned and create some menus from the following:

Breakfasts: eggs, omelet’s with cheese and or meat, large flake oatmeal, protein supplement drinks (not in juice), rye bread, sprouted wheat bread, fish, ham, back bacon.

Lunches: egg salad, cottage cheese, yogurt (unflavored), smoked salmon, pickled herring, peanut butter (no sugar), hard boiled eggs, beef or turkey jerky (home-made is best), cheese, apples, berries, coleslaw, sliced cold roast beef, chicken, turkey and rye bread or sprouted wheat bread.

Dinners: Choices of meat, poultry, fish (BBQ is great), salads, colorful vegetables – raw or stir fried, cottage cheese, tofu stir fries, yogurt (plain).

Snacks: cheese, nuts, seeds, beef or turkey jerky, apples with cheese, yogurt, high protein sport bars, peanut butter bars.

Drinks: Avoid caffeine beverages, because they are dehydrating. Drink a cup of liquid (preferably not coffee, tea, pop, or booze), approximately every hour (more often if the activity is high intensity and the outdoor temperature is high). Successful Marathoners and tri-athletes drink a cup every 15 minutes to avoid dehydration. Do not wait until you are thirsty, that is too late.

Try iced herbal tea, unsweetened, quality sport drinks that are primarily malto-dextrin sugars and contain 4 or more electrolytes (not just table salt), dilute fruit juices with meals and snacks are OK and of course water.

Some simple and wise planning of your food choices for the day will make your outdoor experiences memorable for all the right reasons.

About the Author:

Lee Coyne, Ph.D. is a nutritional consultant, lecturer and author of several weight loss books, including Fat Won't Make You Fat. Dr. Coyne is also the creator of the "Lean Seekers Nutritional Coaching Program" that trains individuals on a "Better Balanced Diet" as a way of eating for better health and weight management. He may be reached at 1-800-668-4042 or by e-mail

Copyright Lee Coyne, Ph.D., reprinted with permission.