It’s happened to all of us. You’ve braved the cold weather, put on all your warm clothes with extras in a Camelback and you’ve tossed your favorite energy bar into the outside pocket for easy access. Or maybe the bar got left in a freezing car overnight as you finished one day of skiing and decided it wasn’t worth the effort to lug your bag into the house only to take it back out the next day. But you’re riding along, or skiing, pull the calorie-dense piece of nutrition out of your bag, pull the wrapper off, and bite.
Worst-case scenario, if you bite hard enough, you might be headed to the dentist with a chipped tooth. Best-case scenario, you stay hungry as the frozen mass is returned to a pack, useless and inedible.
Eating in the cold requires some ingenuity, as most bars will freeze fairly quickly. Fruits and bread products will also turn into bricks as the temperatures plunge, as will cookies, scones and muffins, eliminating many common ride foods.
While not the only factor, water density is one of the key factors in determining the edibility of a food when frozen. A banana, with seemingly low relative water content, will freeze into a solid block, and putting a frozen banana in a jersey pocket to attempt to thaw it will end with a mess of a banana peel and a frozen center.
So what are some of the better options for those who continue to recreate outdoors throughout the winter?
Short Ride Snacks
For shorter rides where calorie content is the most important and a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats isn’t a major concern, nuts are king. An almond is only about 5% water, compared to a banana with is 75%.
Almonds, pecans, peanuts, walnuts and macadamias all change very little when frozen solid and there are dozens, if not hundreds of ways to dress up a bag of nuts — but keep in mind that most nut butters are impossible to work with when frozen.
If looking for a salty snack, roast some almonds with spices of your choice: salt, pepper, cayenne, etc. Simply add the nuts to a fry pan, add a little oil along with spices, and toast over low heat for 10 minutes. If you have a sweet tooth, now is the perfect time to indulge in candied pecans (see recipe below). Or, turn to another primary calorie source for short rides: Chocolate.
Dark chocolate has a low water content of less than 3% and coats many things well, including nuts. Chocolate covered almonds are a staple for many snow-riders.
If you’re adventurous in the kitchen, these are also easy to make, if a bit messier than the candied pecans. Basically, melt a bar of dark chocolate in a double boiler, or over low heat in a pan, add a bunch of almonds (or nuts of your choice) and mix until all the nuts are covered in chocolate. Spread the result out on a sheet of waxed paper and refrigerate.
Straight up chocolate is also eaten easily, with the thinner wafers being easier to break off and chew.
For bacon lovers, winter rides are a perfect excuse to indulge in a favorite snack: chocolate covered bacon.
A chocolate bar, especially with nuts, will go far in freezing temperatures, a Snickers bar will not. There are some candies that do well in the cold: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Pieces, Mini M&M’s.
Then there are some candies which freeze into a solid block: Milky Way, Starburst, Snickers. Other candies border on edible and can be thawed in the mouth while riding, such as Sour Patch Kids or Swedish Fish.