We’ve all been there. You find yourself overreacting to something that normally wouldn’t bother you. Your hiking buddies suddenly become annoying. The day’s walk seems like it will never end. Your stomach is growling, and so are you.
You’ve reached the state of being both hungry and angry, or hangry.
This unfortunate state can happen anytime, but having low blood sugar can make or break your Camino experience. Take control of the situation by always having snacks with you. Below are are my top favorites that I have found are both easy to eat and easy to procure along the Camino de Santiago routes in Spain.
Apples, bananas, cherries, peaches, and tangerines are my top favorites for a few reasons. Not only is fruit packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but the natural sugar gives you an instant boost of energy. The high water content of fruit helps to quench your thirst while making you feel full. In addition, fresh fruit has its own packaging so there is less trash to carry out and dispose of. What’s not to love?
I recommend buying whatever fruit is in season or a specialty in the region from farmers market stands or fruiterias, which are tiny shops that only sell fruit and vegetables. You’ll be supporting the local farmers and getting a real taste of the land. Fresh fruit can be heavy, so only buy enough that you can consume for the day, or share the bounty with your Camino family.
Dried fruit is also a good option for hikers because of its portability. I have found that fresh fruit is the best antidote for all the bread and potatoes that are offered in the hearty pilgrim meals along the Camino.
Pilgrim tip: If you’re feeling constipated, just eat more fruit! Because sh#% happens on the Camino or it doesn’t, and you don’t want to experience either extreme. One of the keys to a comfortable Camino is staying regular.
Nuts & Seeds
A handful of peanuts, cashews, pistachios, or almonds can stave off hunger until your next café stop.
My favorite in Spain are the shelled sunflower seeds which you can buy for cheap at any of Spain’s wonderful little supermercados such as Froiz or Dia.
Pilgrim tip: I like to pour some seeds into a flip-top container so that I can “sip seeds” as I walk, keeping my hands from getting oily.
Other options: Nut butter, or nut and seed bars. You can bring a few of your favorites from home and replenish at markets in Spain. Just make sure you dispose of the wrappers so you don’t add litter to the Camino.
Gazpacho – Drink your veggies!
I am a huge fan of the chilled soup that is popular throughout the southern region of Spain. Gazpacho is a savory blend of tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, bread, olive oil, and vinegar. It is especially refreshing when it’s hot and you’re exhausted. You might not see gazpacho in restaurants in northern Spain, or if you are there during winter. But look for this healthy drinkable meal in the refrigerated produce section of markets. Small cartons are perfect for sipping during your hike, but if you only find the large carton as pictured below, share a glass with other pilgrims because gazpacho is best served chilled. Then say ¡Salud! as you toast to your health!
Pilgrim tip: If your accommodations have a refrigerator, downsize the remainder of a large carton to a smaller bottle and chill it for the next day’s hike.
Cheese is a great source of protein that can instantly banish the hangries. I could write an entire book about the delicious cheeses of Spain! I recommend that you try what is local and fresh from farmers markets.
Pilgrim tip: Consider purchasing cheese that is easy to snack on, such as pre-sliced cheese that you can roll up with a piece of lettuce, or eat with a hunk of bread.
Somehow the yogurt in Spain tastes much better to me. They don’t mess with it by removing the fat and loading it with artificial flavors and colors. The active cultures in yogurt help with digestion, so I make a point to have a yogurt every day while walking the Camino. Yogurt can be found in drinkable bottles, which is easiest while hiking, and single-serving containers that require a spoon.
Pilgrim tip: Top yogurt with fresh fruit, seeds or granola.
I have acquired a taste for plain yogurt and now I prefer it over flavored yogurt. I save my sweet tooth for my next favorite snack…
Last but certainly not least, chocolate! Spain is known for its delicious chocolate in all forms—from thick hot chocolate to chocolate-filled pastry. For hikers, the snack of choice is dark chocolate bars with almonds. Dark chocolate doesn’t melt as fast as milk chocolate, and it contains more flavonoids* than milk chocolate. Pilgrim tip: Look for chocolate bars in easy to break segments, so you can share with your hiking buddies in case they get hangry too!
All of the snacks listed above can be consumed while you’re walking! I’ve tried them on my four different Caminos and they saved me when I needed to keep moving toward my destination.
The more you can take care of your own hunger, the more comfortable your days on the Camino will be.
You can find many of the snacks featured in this post at the Froiz, Dia, Mercadona, Gadiz, and other supermercados throughout Spain. And everything is reasonably priced! Below is a receipt from a Dia market on my last Camino.
The total for this haul was around $11 USD. I purchased an apple, banana, gazpacho, yogurt, almond chocolate bar, tortilla española (omelette), Ibérico pâté, and my guilty pleasure, potato chips, because I simply cannot resist them! Plus, a few bags of my favorite luxury spa item that I will share in a future post.
If you’d like more practical tips about surviving and thriving on the Camino, I’ll be giving a presentation about “Wellness on the Way” in Berkeley on February 6th, and at the 2020 Gathering of Pilgrims in Lake Tahoe on March 14th. Look for details in my February events post.
Questions? I am here to serve pilgrims, so don’t be shy! Email me with your questions or write a comment below. Be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow @caminoprovides on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
*Flavonoids are one group of phytochemicals that have antioxidant abilities. Cocoa beans are good sources of flavonoids, but not all chocolate retains much of the cocoa bean. If your favorite chocolate bar is not dark chocolate, it may be a better source of calories and sugar than of beneficial flavonoids.