Dates, Quinoa & Chia: Backpacking Sweet?

Last night Mr. Jack & I ran 8 miles, a record for both of us, but not quite the 13 miles we’ll be running in December for our share of the California International Marathon relay. Our first real chance, however, to try out a running snack. The fresh dates I’d gotten from the Davis international store were an obvious choice:

“Muslims around the world … usually break their Ramadan fast with dates. The reason that they are so beneficial is that their natural sugar travels quickly to the liver, and is converted more quickly than any other nutrient into energy that the fasting body soaks up like a sponge. This is the healthiest way of breaking the fast as it eases the body into digesting. Dates contain protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, vitamin A, and natural sodium. They also contain a high amount of dietary fiber, which makes them a good digestive aid.”

I decided that chia seeds would be a good addition to balance the sugar (so as not to shock the body). I just discovered chia seeds* as a food last year. After some personal experimentation, I reworked our supper standard, Pease Porridge, to incorporate these tiny fat-stable seeds & we ate them every night on the John Muir Trail. So I knew our bodies would respond well. Story is that chia seeds were used by ancient cultures such as the Mayan as mega-energy food, especially for their running messengers. Hard to argue with that kind of tradition!

But the date-chia mash was too sticky & we haven’t yet bought the little gel refill squirt bottles I crave (for just this reason!).

Rummaging through the refrigerator, I found some quinoa flakes left over from a backpack recipe & stirred in enough to stiffen up the mixture , made some little balls (about the size of a malted milk ball) & rolled ’em more quinoa flakes.


Perfect! I tucked 2 into a snack-sized baggy for me & 2 for Mr. Jack’s baggie. Into our pockets & out the door, into the lovely cool evening with a half moon rising to light the darkening route.

An hour in, we popped the sticky, gooey, sweet & slightly crunchy treats. Our bodies were happy. Looks like this is going to be our nourishment for long runs.

Trail sweets? Now I am wondering if these little energy balls would be a good backpack food. Probably still too mushy & I don’t know how they would keep on the trail, but if a workable mixture could be developed, it would certainly be a saner choice than the marshmallows, m&ms, or snickers bars I saw folks consuming on the John Muir this summer. I’m going to experiment. It was certainly easy to eat! (Nancy, this could be the snack for you!)

*MORE ON THAT: I buy chia by the 5-lb bag from Nuts on Line & happily recommend them.

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