Whether you’re taking a road trip, flying for work, or cruising to the Caribbean, you can easily cut back on unnecessary costs, bloat-inducing fast-food stops, and regret-filled empty calories with a little advance planning. This concept came to life for me while driving across the country with my husband and dog. In less than three weeks, we drove from New York, down the East coast, across the South and into New Mexico. We had the chance to visit several farmers markets and local restaurants, but overall, we agree that having our own stock of snacks and mini meals was our best source of healthy, sustainable energy throughout the journey.
Check out my best tips, ideas, and recipes for on-the-go healthy eating.
1. Nut Butter
Nut butters, like peanut and almond, provide a quick source of plant-based protein that can keep you satiated even if you don’t have time for a proper meal. Pack a jar along with fiber-rich crackers, brown rice crackers, or apple slices (and a spoon). Alternatively, try Vermont Peanut Butter’s BeeNut Butter Pack. Small enough to fit into your purse or pocket, and easy to eat straight from the package, this nut butter is a great road companion.
2. Hard Boiled Eggs
There’s nothing worse than starting your day on an empty stomach—or an airplane meal. Before you embark on your adventure, boil up eggs for an all-ready breakfast. Try my quick and easy recipe: Place eggs in a pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the stove and cover the pot for 5-10 minutes, depending on how soft/firm you like your yolks.
3. Roasted Trail Mix
A single serving of trail mix is always in my bag, even when I’m just running errands. Like nut butters, trail mix is a great go-to for sustainable energy. It’s also a great way to use up the leftover odds and ends in your cupboard, like slivered almonds, dried fruit, and dairy-free chocolate chips. My favorite recipe is easy enough for anyone to create—even the cooking novice. Spread nuts and seeds onto a baking sheet and roast in a 300-degree oven for about 25 minutes. Let cool, and toss with mix-ins like cut-up dried fruit, chocolate bits, etc.
4. Fresh Fruits & Veggies
Dehydration is a frequent side effect of long travel days. In addition to drinking plenty of water, adding water-dense foods helps keep you hydrated. Natural, whole foods have the highest water content, with fruits and vegetables containing between 80 and 98 percent water. I like to munch on fruits and vegetables with the highest water content, like carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, and watermelon. Another perk: crispy vegetables can freshen your breath and clean your teeth after a meal, which is a uniquely welcome feeling on a long travel day.
Savor something crunchy and salty? Stay true to your health goals (forget those packaged chips), and prepare your own popcorn. Popcorn is a great crunchy snack with a good amount of fiber to satisfy your craving and keep you satiated. It’s easy to make your own microwave popcorn with organic kernels in a brown paper bag, or even better, invest in an air popper (my favorite is the Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper for less than $20). Replace salt with a sprinkle of shredded parmesan.
6. Dark Chocolate
Sometimes you just need a little sweet treat! For me, a bar of high-quality dark chocolate does the trick. Just a square or two is enough to stave off sugar cravings and keep me from indulging in a 1,000+ calorie cinnamon bun (because let’s face it, they’re pretty tempting). Bonus tip: If you have some peanut butter, spread a bit over your dark chocolate for a homemade peanut butter cup.
- Be prepared. Creating an advance food plan for your travels will help keep your blood sugar stable and your hunger in check, by reducing temptation to indulge in sugary and fatty airport and rest stop food options. Whether you are flying, driving, or taking a train, calculate the number of hours of the entire trip—from door to door. Using the general rule to eat every three to five hours, determine the number of snacks and meals you need to keep you satiated throughout the day.
- Grocery shop and cook ahead of time. Between finishing work obligations, packing, and organizing your trip, vacation planning can be stressful. If you leave travel food preparation to the last minute, it risks being cut from your list. Instead of waiting until the night before your trip, plan your menu in advance, and head to the grocery store for your supplies two to three days ahead of time, so you have time to prepare your snacks and package them for travel.
- Read food labels. If all else fails and your best intentions are not realized, leave time at rest stops or airport lounges to read the food labels of packaged foods. Read the labels of everything—even when you assume the food is healthy. You’d be surprised at the additives included in typically healthy foods like nuts and hummus. Stick to products with fewer than five ingredients, and be sure you recognize every ingredient on the list. In addition, pay close attention to the trans fat content, listed under the fat content on the nutrition label. Only eat food with zero trans fat.