Ah, vacation at last! Your chance to relax (or live it up) and not have to think about a thing—good for you (and take me with you)! Does this sound familiar: your flight is delayed so you’re running through the airport with no time to get a meal, so the snack cart near the gate is your only lunch option? Or how about this: your “meal plan” at the resort only includes two meals…and the first one is long gone and the second one is hours away. Or this: to save some money and make your life convenient, you want to stock that mini-fridge in your hotel room with good options…but the only store you can reach on foot is attached to the gas station around the corner. Sometimes travel food should involve a little planning, and if not that, then at least a few ideas for how you can “make do” with limited choices or less-than-healthful options available.
Preempt hunger by bringing healthful travel snacks.
I’ve written about packing one’s own snacks before, but lots of us are super busy before traveling somewhere far away, so we don’t have time to plan a healthy mini-meal. These ideas are for those airplane flights, train rides, boat rides, elephant rides (keep an eye on your stash of nuts in that last case)—whenever you are about to hit the road and you may not have access to any decent (read nutritious and satisfying) food options, bring your own. Stash them in your carry on (no liquids before going through airport screening though of course), your purse, your backpack, etc and you’ll be ready for any delay or missed mealtime that comes your way. When I travel, I try to bring all of these things along for the ride:
- GORP (good ‘ol raisins and peanuts aka trail mix): whatever nuts and dried fruit you have on hand at home will be fine, and you can augment it with some unsalted seeds if you want to. Put it into a plastic zip-top sandwich bag and you’re good to go for a while with this combo that packs protein, fat and fiber into one tasty snack.
- A piece of fruit: Have you ever bought a single piece of fruit at the airport? It’s crazy expensive. They can keep their $2 banana; the one from home (or the apple or pear) will be just fine and it would go bad while I am gone anyhow.
- A protein bar: I vote for a protein bar over a granola bar simply because it will keep you more full for longer. In a pinch, a granola bar will do.
Stock your mini-fridge strategically.
The last thing you want is to be stuck with just beverages—they won’t keep you full very long. Keep some bottled water in your room if you like, but don’t store ALL of it in the fridge—you need that precious room for other things. What you need to find are things that can serve as mini-meals or as little snacks on their own. Grab some plastic cutlery at the hotel, then head to the nearest store to get some basics like yogurt, milk, cheese sticks or sliced cheese, carrot/celery sticks and hummus. On top of your mini fridge or on the counter keep shelf-stable foods like whole grain bread or hamburger buns, peanut butter, applesauce or fruit cups (in juice, not syrup), whole fruit, crackers, cereal and microwave popcorn (assuming there is a microwave in your room). Don’t forget to get some sandwich bags, too (or bring some from home), so you can bring your food along with you on your adventures. With these items you can put together a slew of mini-meals (often portable) to tide you over until the next real mealtime.
- Cheese and cracker snack
- Peanut butter and cracker “sandwiches”
- Hummus and crackers
- Cheese sandwich
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Yogurt alone or topped with cereal
- Cereal alone as a snack, or topped with milk
- Applesauce/fruit cup on its own as a snack, or mixed with cereal or yogurt
- Veggie sticks with hummus
- Fruit alone as a snack, or
- Microwave popcorn for evening snack or bring the bag for a snack on the run
Choose wisely from the vending machine, c-store and food carts.
These might be the toughest places to get what’s typically considered to be nutritious options. Given that when you’re looking for food at these types of places you are usually in a hurry, you’re obviously going for convenience. We’re not saying these are the most awesome foods in the world, but in a pinch, here are some things that we would choose:
Food cart at the airport
- Packaged salad, sandwich or wrap (check the package for the date it was prepared—you don’t want an old one!)
- Nut mix/sunflower seeds (in case you didn’t bring your own)
- Yogurt parfait
- Popcorn (no butter)
- Peanut butter/crackers
- Protein bar/granola bar
- Yogurt smoothie/fruit smoothie drink
- Piece of fruit or 100% juice
- Lowfat milk
- Cheese stick or individual serving of cheese
Convenience store or gas station
- Green juice
- Protein drink
- Veggie sticks
- Jerky (turkey, bison, etc)
- Bagel/cream cheese
- Hard boiled eggs (often comes in a package of 2—perfect to share!)