By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
“I’m too busy to eat healthy,” “I travel a lot and have to eat what I can.” Do either of those familiar? Skip the drive-thru with these meals and snacks that hold up to lunch bags, briefcases and backpacks.
Food on the go can be simple with a little planning. Choose foods that keep well and are also “low maintenance” as I like to call them—foods that require little upkeep to maintain freshness. In the realm of packaged foods it can be tough to find ones that are good for us, but they do exist.
Top travel-friendly picks
Snack and meal bars make for an easy on-the-go option, but the problem with many brands/flavors is that they have a ton sugar (real and artificial) and offer little nutrition. Choose a bar that’s lower in sugar and contains some protein and fiber to help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
What to look for:
Fruit is go-favorite of mine. You can get it past airport security and many holdup well even when jostled in a bag. Choose an apple, orange, banana or some cut up fruit ready to go in a Tupperware container. Totally stuck? Find a salad bar. Many have fruit available.
Choose whole fruits with skin like apples, orange, bananas, and firmer pears and peaches. Skin canned fruit and “snack pack” which often contain added sugar and preservatives. Pack your own berries, melon or mango at home.
Salads and fresh veggies
These days, you can find salad bars in almost any airport or grocery store, great for grabbing a quick and healthy snack. Of course, you can always bring your own from home. Pack your salad dressing separately to keep greens from getting soggy.
Sandwiches and wraps
Sandwiches and wraps are often forgotten when it comes to foods on the go. Although they don’t have a shelf life like fruit and bars, they keep for a fairly long time (about 4 hours) without needing refrigeration. To be extra certain of safety, keep it to mostly vegetables, use hummus or avocado (guacamole) instead of mayonnaise and keep it light on the animal protein.
My favorite? Peanut butter and banana on whole grain, or sprouted bread for extra protein.
Bottled HPP juice
Bottled High Pressure Processed (HPP) juices are absolutely fantastic for traveling. They are pasteurized using pressure, not heat, and have a longer shelf life. They’re becoming easier to find, and in many cases you can find them beyond security check points in the airport.
Check out our article, “Are Bottle Juices Okay?”
Trail mix and nuts
These easy-to-pack snacks are a healthy choice in moderation but watch portions, and choose carefully. Avoid varieties that include candy pieces and lots of dried fruit: Go for mainly nuts and seeds. Stick to salt-free varieties.
Healthy bagged veggie-based snacks
More companies coming out with healthier bagged items like snap pea crisps, plain popcorn, dried coconut chips, dehydrated fruit, kale chips and more. Plan ahead and bring a few healthier bagged items with you.
Look for low-sodium (250mg or less) options with no hydrogenated oils, and low sugar (less than 10g per serving).
Homemade energy balls
These are oh-so-good! They travel well and make for a great snack almost anytime- including post-workout, or in the middle of the afternoon. They require only a few ingredients, and are a source of protein and fat that can keep you feeling fuller for longer. They’re also usually gluten-free, which is a major plus for any fellow gluten-free eaters out there (like me!).
Try this recipe:
Low sugar oat and almond energy bites
Traveling (especially air travel) can be dehydrating. I like using unflavored coconut or maple water, which contain electroltyes to aid hydration. Coconut water is a rich source of the electrolyte potassium, and maple water is a source of magnesium—key for restful sleep and muscle relaxation. Both are low in calories, but be sure to buy unsweetened/unflavored varieties.