As parts of the world reopen, many people are taking their postponed vacations and visiting family after being apart for over a year. Whether traveling by car or catching a flight, you’ll need to eat at some point during your trip! When traveling, it’s easy to stop at a drive-through or grab something from the gas station however unhealthy the food may be. Eating healthy while traveling isn't impossible, but it does take a little planning.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – it’s science. Eating a morning meal kick-starts your metabolism and helps you burn calories efficiently throughout the day. Additionally, eating breakfast replenishes your body’s supply of glucose, which boosts your energy levels to give you a head start to the day. When traveling, it’s important to stay alert – especially if driving. Studies show people who eat breakfast are also more likely to make better food choices throughout the day.
Packing healthy snacks
If you’re traveling through an airport, you’ll likely encounter snack shacks and fast-food kiosks. Although it might be tempting to grab a quick bite, most of these places only offer high-calorie, high-sugar, and high-salt snacks and premade meals. This goes for most snacks offered on the airplane, too. Packing your own snacks allows you to control exactly what you’re eating by letting you decide serving size and the kind of food you eat.
The good news is that the TSA allows you to bring your own snacks to airports and on airplanes! Although there are restrictions on liquids (think dipping sauces and hummus), powders, and gels, there are no restrictions on solid foods (though you may want to be mindful of extra-pungent cuisine!).
What to eat while traveling
So, what should you eat while traveling? Here are six foods that make great, healthy snacks for your trip. While some items are better suited for car travel where coolers are available, others are great for any mode of transportation when traveling.
1. Dried or fresh fruit
Fruit makes a great snack while traveling. It’s portable, convenient, and kid-friendly. Apples, for example, are easy to stow and can weather a little more handling than other softer fruits. Apples are a great source of vitamin C and fiber, which can keep you feeling full longer on lengthy trips. Dried fruit makes a great snack as well, but try to find varieties with no added sugar.
Nuts are sometimes offered on flights, so take advantage! Nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pecans are high in fiber, protein, and monounsaturated fat. Some studies show including nuts in your diet may reduce risk factors for high blood pressure and can help lower cholesterol. You can try combining several kinds of nuts with raisins or dried cranberries for a DIY trail mix.
3. Precut veggies
Before you leave, try precutting vegetables for a healthy way to snack while traveling. Vegetables are a great source of many nutrients that support your body. Carrots contain four times the daily recommended amount of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that can help both eyesight and slow cognitive decline. Tomatoes are rich in nutrients and contain potassium, which helps support heart health – cherry tomatoes are the perfect bite-size, on-the-go snack!
4. Hard-boiled eggs
Eggs are a superfood and make a great travel snack when they’re hard-boiled. They are a good source of lean protein and satiating fats, which can help you feel fuller for a longer time. They also contain anti-inflammatory nutrients that can maintain eye and brain health. Make sure to keep them in a cooler to prevent spoiling.
5. Yogurt and granola
Although some fast-food places offer yogurt or parfaits, don’t be fooled – these quick snacks often contain lots of hidden sugar. Instead, make your own and pack it on ice to keep this sweet snack from spoiling. You can use any yogurt you’d like, including dairy-free options. Top with fresh fruit or homemade granola to add some crunch. Yogurt contains probiotics and other healthy bacteria that help keep your digestive system regular (a must during travel), plus they contain protein and at least 25% of your recommended daily intake of calcium.
6. Instant oatmeal
Oatmeal is a filling snack and can be dressed up in countless ways, depending on your mood. If you bring the oats and toppings in a heat-resistant, sealed container, you can ask for hot water once aboard the plane or keep hot water in a thermos if traveling by car. Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber and contains beta-glucan, which has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
Foods to avoid
Some foods are better left alone when traveling. Fast food, while tempting and easy to grab in a hurry, often contains high levels of salt and sugar and includes less-than-stellar ingredients. Other foods to avoid while traveling include:
- Potato chips
- Fountain drinks
- Anything from a buffet (a breeding ground for bacteria)
- Chocolate and gummy candy (which melt easily and can get messy)
The bottom line
Traveling can be a time of excitement – and stress. When we’re under stress, we’re more likely to reach for the easiest, quickest options, even if we know they aren’t the healthiest ones available. By bringing your own food while traveling, you can help prevent the temptation altogether.