Burning Man Food Tips: Nutritious Snacks for the Playa

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Sardines are a playa powder food (Lila Volkas)

I curiously open the lid of my blender and peer inside as a plume of green dust suddenly floats into my face and fills my nostrils, leading to an uncontrollable coughing fit. Dang! The dehydrated kale, chard and nettle leaf I made into a powder is meant to enter my mouth, not my nose, so I hurriedly replace the lid to save these valuable nutrients for the desert.

I have been cooking up some new culinary creations as I prepare for my fourth year attending Burning Man, the annual weeklong art festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. I am taking my pre-playa preparation to a whole new level, inspired by what I am learning at Bauman College in Berkeley as I near the end of my studies to become a Holistic Nutritionist. In the last year I have also embarked on a journey to address some of my own chronic health issues and have found immense healing from eating in an intentional way and uncovering my triggering allergenic foods. There is no way I am going to let my new diet put a damper on my burn, so I have been spending extra time in the kitchen doing more holistic food preparation. (And I love a good food challenge, so bring it on.)

My sustenance in past years at Burning Man, like many people, has centered on peanut butter, trail mix and granola bars, which just won't fly anymore. I will be toting more greens, quality fat and protein and nutrient density in my 2010 Toyota Prius to this year’s burn.

I offer the following food tips and recipes, hoping others can benefit from my (slightly over the top) enthusiasm about healthy food and enjoy a more nutritious burn.

Nutritious snacks for Burning Man
Nutritious snacks for Burning Man (Lila Volkas)


Seaweed is cooling to the body, so it’s perfect for the hot desert climate. Eating seaweed is a great way to boost your nutrition at Burning Man since small servings can pack a nutritious punch.


It is likely you will find yourself dripping in sweat at a disco daytime dance party, so seaweed can help you replenish the minerals that were lost in perspiration. Sea vegetables happen to be high in minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, B vitamins and folate.

How to eat em’:
Bring sheets of nori seaweed and use them like tortillas for wraps. Sprinkle some salt and olive oil on cut up nori sheets as a “chip” alternative.

Get some dulse flakes and sprinkle them on all your meals. Try adding chlorella or spirulina powder and some lemon juice to your coconut water for a nutrient dense refreshing beverage.


Sardines are a playa power food. These fish are high in Omega-3 essential fatty acids which can help support the nervous system, brain function and mood. Sardines can also help reduce inflammation and nourish dry desert eyes and skin.

How to eat em’:
Take 1 can of sardines, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 tsp lemon juice and some salt and pepper and mash them all together. Enjoy with some greens in nori wrap, tortilla or on a cracker.

Chia Seeds

These small seeds expand in liquid and are another excellent source of plant-based Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Chia seeds are also chock full of fabulous fiber which helps keep your stools healthy and regular. Making sure you are supporting your elimination pathways at Burning Man is super important! (especially when you may be putting some not-so-super-substances in your body) Get that sh*t outta there with some fiber and hydration.

How to eat em’:
Add a teaspoon of chia seeds to your coconut water, wait 15 minutes for them to expand and enjoy a hydrating beverage.

Make an easy chia pudding in a jar by combining a 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1 cup nut milk, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp maple syrup and a splash of vanilla. Shake the jar vigorously and store in your cooler overnight for a delicious easy breakfast in the morning.

DIY Electrolyte Beverage

Your body has enough to worry about in the desert without dealing with the artificial dyes and fructose syrup in Gatorade. Make your own healthy electrolyte beverage to replenish those lost minerals.

How to make it:
1 quart of water, 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt, 1 tbsp maple syrup and juice from 1/2 a lemon. You can also try making it with herbal tea.

Other Foods that Take a Little Bit More Pre-Playa Effort

DIY Green Powder

Leafy greens are the holy grail of nutrition. We may be sick of hearing about the mega-hyped vegetable of the millennia, kale. But the rumors are true, this cruciferous queen is rich in vitamin K, A and C and will deeply nourish your cells to get you ready for more dancing. Making your own green powder is not only cheaper, but a great way to avoid ingredients that you may be sensitive to.

How to make it in a dehydrator:
Dehydrate your choice of leafy greens such as chard, kale, collards and beet greens, for 10 hours at 125F or until they are crispy. I also like to include a 1/4 cup of dried nettles for their mineral boost. Pack the dried greens in your high speed blender (in a Vitamix, if you have it) and blend on high for 3 minutes until it becomes powder. If the powder is still a bit chunky, transfer contents to a coffee grinder and blend until it reaches your desired texture.

How to eat it:
Sprinkle 1 tsp-2 tbsp on any dish you eat on the playa from cup of noodles, to lentils. Mix a teaspoon in with your can of coconut water and lemon. (Note: this does taste quite green.)

DIY Dehydrated Jerky

I always make my own jerky because I can’t eat black pepper (I know, right, how do I eat anything ever?!) which is found in most jerkies (and basically everything else). Jerky using organic and pasture-raised meat is a great on-the-go protein to fuel you biking into the dawn. This is a link to a more elaborate recipe.

Raw Balls

A blend of dried fruit and nuts or seeds of some kind is my alternative to a granola bar or dessert. I like this recipe using nuts and seeds or if you are nut/seed free (like me!) see recipe below:

Yield: 20, 1 inch balls

  • 1 cup tigernut flour
  • 6 pitted dates
  • 2 tsp lime zest
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until dough forms. Roll into small balls and store in a container.


I hope you have a fabulous Burn and practice some magical self-care and nourishment. The information above should not be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. All presented information is based on my opinion.