(Easy travel-friendly snacks inspired by Ryan Clements’ relentless travel schedule, including banana mango fruit leather, almond butter coffee bites and roasted pumpkin seed trail mix)
As much as I fantasize about being out in the streets destroying spots, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that a more dormant fantasy of mine has always been to work behind the scenes in skateboarding. Maybe it’s my pragmatic subconscious reminding me that I don’t have the innate skill or fearless demeanor to tackle a 20-stair rail, but part of me yearns to manage a team, organize a contest or—in one way or another—take the skills that I do have (or at least, as a former attorney, think I have) and continue to help skateboarding and skateboarders grow.
Earlier this year, the Nine Club, in all its wise-cracking journalistic glory, interviewed Ryan Clements. Shamefully, I didn’t really know about Ryan prior to this episode, but was immediately inspired enough to look him up and reach out to him later that day just to pick his brain. If you haven’t watched his episode, I highly recommend it, as it gets into the nitty gritty of the business side of skateboarding: contest costs, taxes, agency law – Ryan has dealt with it all.
I won’t try to recap the whole episode (because it’s far more entertaining and informative to hear it in Ryan’s own words), but in addition to his rich history at Skatepark of Tampa and spearheading the world of skateboarding agency (seriously, it’s amazing to see skateboarders representing skateboarders), Ryan is also the mastermind behind The Boardr, which is responsible for the vast majority of the (non-Battle at the Berrics) contests you know and love: Adidas Skate Copa, Grind for Life, Vans Park Series and the Boardr Am Series are just a few of the many contests The Boardr is responsible for.
What you may not get from the episode, but is abundantly clear from Ryan’s Instagram (@rtclem), is that he may very well be the busiest, most-traveled man in the industry. Save for a few sesh photos, his feed is dominated by flights, airport restaurants and a different city, state, or country every few days. His episode alludes to him being known as the hardest working man in skateboarding, and you need look no further than his feed for corroboration.
In light of Ryan’s travel schedule—and indeed, any busy skater’s travel schedule, as skateboarding’s global reach expands—I wanted to introduce a few nutritious snacks that are easy to prepare and travel well. As we all know, airport snacks are notoriously expensive and usually sugar-coated beyond recognition. While you can bring healthy things from home, there’s always the awkward dilemma of where to throw the banana peel or how to cut fruit on a plane with a toothless plastic fork. The three recipes below are extremely simple and are good ways to mobilize healthy foods or modify ones that the airport offers to make them a little healthier. Even if you’re not stuck on a plane, these snacks are perfect to throw in your backpack and tote to the skatepark or wherever your sesh takes you.
While Ryan admits in his Nine Club segment that a 3:00 a.m. call will typically have to wait until the next day, he was nice enough to promptly answer my obliviously late emails asking what his favorite foods were so that I could turn them into travel snacks—coffee, bananas, peanut butter, almonds and granola all made the list. With that in mind, I present The Travel Pack: Easy Snacks for the Plane, the Skatepark and Beyond.
(1) MANGO BANANA FRUIT LEATHER:
Prep time: 5 minutes; bake/dehydration time: 4-6 hours.
I’ll start with a general policy: fresh fruit is always best. However, traveling presents a couple of problems. Fresh fruit is largely non-existent; I don’t know of any airports in the U.S. that sell anything other than overpriced bananas (either completely unripe or bruised to mush; there is no in between), wax-coated apples, or dry, days-old, melon-heavy fruit salads. Further, whatever fruit there is at the airport is sold at an unbelievably inflated price, making it all the more tempting to just buy a bag of chips for half the price and triple the sodium. If you want to take fresh fruit from home, you’re then left with the dilemma of wondering how to cut into it since you obviously can’t take a knife into the airport or how to keep it fresh since you can’t refrigerate it on the go.
Enter fruit leather. Think of this as a grown-up, healthy fruit roll-up. Instead of consisting largely of sugar and red food dye, homemade fruit leather is easy to make the day before traveling and doesn’t involve any artificial sweeteners or dyes. While I used mango, banana and chia seeds for mine, you can recreate this with three cups of just about any fruit—apples, blackberries, strawberries, you name it. While it takes some time to dry out, the actual prep work only takes about 5 minutes, so it’s incredibly easy to make plenty of it if you have some time around the house while packing. As an added bonus, the fruit leather will last for about a month in a sealed container, so you won’t have to worry about this going bad sans refrigeration, unlike other fruit.
- 2 cups fresh mango (about 1 large mango)
- 1 large, ripe banana
- 2 tbsp. chia seeds
- Preheat the oven to 170°F. Cut the mango and peel the banana and blend them up in a food processor until there are no chunks remaining (for a refresher on cutting mangos, see step 5 here). Once they are mixed, add in the chia seeds and mix for 10 more seconds, or until the chia seeds are evenly blended in.
- Pour the mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a spatula or spoon to spread it to the edges and make sure it is all an even thickness. If some of it is thinner than other parts, it will bake unevenly and you will be stuck with some parts that will be crusty and others that will be mushy. Bake in the oven for 4-6 hours, or until there are no more mushy areas.
- Remove from the oven, let cool, then cut into strips for easy, delicious transportation.
Makes six servings; per serving: 60 calories, 1g fat, 11g carbs, 1g protein
(2) ROASTED ALMOND, PUMPKIN SEED AND GOJI BERRY TRAIL MIX:
Prep time: 5 minutes; bake time: 20 minutes.
You’re probably already aware that trail mix is abundant in airports all over the world. Wherever you are, there’s a kiosk packed with colorful, chocolate-filled bags for consumers to consume mindlessly while watching in-flight re-runs of The Big Bang Theory. Despite what they pledge (“healthy,” “good source of protein,” or “omega-3s”), very few of these are anything more than a handful of peanuts with artificially sweetened dried fruit and chocolate. If a 20-mile hike were in the immediate future, these mixes might be more fitting (though I still wouldn’t really recommend them), but if you’re about to go sit on a plane for a few hours, then a bunch of sweeteners and quick carbs aren’t so wonderful.
While trail mix may not be the most inventive recipe I’ve offered, I’ve found this mix to be incredibly filling without overdoing it on sweetness. It has served as a suitable breakfast when I’m stuck at my desk, as well as a great mid-session snack when I’m skating for half a day. Unlike the colorful bags of high fructose corn syrup at the airport, the three components of this trail mix offer a solid ratio of healthy fats, complete protein and antioxidants, all without relying on an appalling amount of sugar. While I don’t need to add to the mania surrounding almonds and goji berries (though both are great), I do want to emphasize the benefits of adding pumpkin seeds to your diet, as they are a great source of iron, fiber, zinc, omega-3s and complete protein. Whether taking a breather at Thompkins Square Park or flipping through SkyMall (R.I.P.) while waiting for takeoff, this trail mix will keep you satiated without spiking your blood sugar.
- 100g pumpkin seeds (shelled, raw)
- 100g almonds (raw)
- 100g dried goji berries
- 1 tbsp. olive oil (optional)
- 1/8 tsp sea salt (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. If you want to use the olive oil and salt to add a little more flavor, mix the almonds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil and salt in a medium bowl until the seeds and almonds are evenly coated.
- Spread the mix of almonds and pumpkin seeds out on a foil-lined baking sheet and then bake for 20 minutes or until they give off a toasted, nutty aroma. Pull the baking sheet out and let them cool for 15 minutes. Mix the almonds, pumpkin seeds and goji berries in a bowl and then portion it out into travel-size containers.
NOTE: If you’re in a rush, this mix tastes great without any toasting whatsoever, so feel free to go raw!
Makes 5 servings; per serving (60g, with olive oil): 290 calories, 16g fat, 25g carbs, 12g protein
(3) ALMOND BUTTER COFFEE BITES:
Prep time: 15 minutes; bake time: 15 minutes.
Granola bars are another misleading airport kiosk staple. Sure, the packaging looks healthy enough and the word “granola” seems more appealing and health-conscious than “extreme nacho,” but the vast majority of these bars are just filler and sugar. If you’re looking to fill up on some grains, proteins and healthy fats without a deceptively-high sugar content, I recommend these Almond Butter Coffee Bites.
While these can be made in “no-bake” fashion (and indeed, if you search for no-bake energy bites, you’ll find dozens of recipes), baking these has the bonus effect of making them last much longer without refrigeration and making more TSA friendly (raw nut butter is treated as a liquid, per TSA guidelines).
- 1 ½ cups rolled oats*
- 1/3 cup almond butter
- 1/3 cup fresh, finely ground coffee beans**
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil (melted)
- 1 flax egg (1 tbsp. ground flax seed + 3 tbsp. water)
- 1 tbsp. agave or pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Mix the tbsp. of ground flax seed with 3 tbsp. of water and whisk with a fork. Place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
- Take 1 cup of oats and grind until the oats are almost a fine powder. Throw the ground oats and the remaining ½ cup of oats into a large mixing bowl with the ground coffee beans. In a separate bowl, mix the almond butter, coconut oil, agave and vanilla until even and then add to the oats and coffee, along with the flax egg. Mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Use a spoon to make 10 even bites. Place the bites on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 300°F for 15 minutes.***
*If you are using these as pre-skating fuel, feel free to use quick-cook oats; rolled oats are a slower-digesting carb and therefore a better choice when stuck on an airplane.
**Do not soak the beans first; these should be freshly ground for maximum flavor. If you’re not feeling the coffee grounds, you can make these without the coffee by following the same steps. They add a kick for sure, but they’re not for everyone.
**As noted above, if you want to use this as a no-bake recipe, you can simply refrigerate the bites for 1 hour instead of baking. The no-bake bites will last a week in a sealed container in the refrigerator, but only a couple of days without refrigeration.
Makes 10 bites; per serving (2 bites): 260 calories, 16g fat, 24g carbs, 7g protein
Happy shredding and safe travels,