The Best Healthy Snacks on the Go

Eating right when you’re on the road can be a challenge. But whether you’re traveling by plane, train or car, you can still maintain healthy eating habits while traveling. (And, bonus, those healthy choices will give you more energy to enjoy your time off.)

With a little advanced planning, you can avoid diet obstacles, says registered dietitian Sereen Zawahri Krasuna, RD, LD.

“Bringing your own snacks and small meals makes a big difference,” Zawahri Krasuna said. “Having healthy snacks around when you’re traveling will make you feel your best so you can enjoy your trip more. And planning ahead can be easier on your budget, too.

So, what snacks, meals and drinks are the best options for busy people on the go? Zawahri Krasuna offers advice.

Healthy road trip snacks

If you’re traveling by car, fast food options, rest stop vending machines and gas station snacks are easy to come by. After all, they are oh-so-convenient. But quick food choices come at a price: They’re often full of sugar and saturated fats. And they have a literal price, too — one with a high score.

Instead of relying on pit-stop snacks, a pre-packed cooler and icepacks in the backseat can satisfy your road trip cravings without breaking the bank or fueling your tank with empty calories.

Grab a cooler and picnic basket (or canvas tote or other bag) and pack these healthy road trip snacks:

In the bag

  • Applesauce.
  • Single-serving bags of veggie chips.
  • Single-serving containers of tuna.
  • Single-serving packages of unsalted nuts, such as almonds or cashews.
  • Homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit (add some dark chocolate chips for a hint of sweetness).
  • Popped or bagged popcorn (stick to the low-salt, butter-free varieties).
  • Low-sugar protein bars and powders.
  • Peanut butter sandwiches on whole grain bread.

In the cooler

  • Fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots, celery sticks, bell peppers, snap peas or mini cucumbers.
  • Fresh fruits that do not spoil, such as bananas, apples, plums, apricots or grapes.
  • Low-fat string cheese or cheese slices.
  • Single-serving containers of hummus or guacamole.
  • Whole-grain wraps with deli turkey or chicken, avocado, shredded carrots and hummus.
  • Water.

Remember that stocking up for the drive home is just as important as when you’re out.

“Many times, we are well prepared and packed when we leave, but we can neglect to prepare for the return trip as well,” said Zawahri Krasuna. “But stopping at a store to pick up some healthy options for the trip home is just as important.”

Shopping at convenience stores and gas stations

Sometimes, grabbing a bite from a gas station or convenience store may be your only option. And that’s okay. You can often find healthy road trip snacks even at corner stores, if you know what to look for.

Sure, chips, candy and giant sodas may abound on the trails, but they’re not your healthiest options for the road trip.

Instead look for options like:

  • Applesauce.
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Hummus with vegetables.
  • Fresh fruits.
  • Pre-cut vegetables.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Single-serving bags of veggie chips.
  • Single-serving containers of tuna.
  • Single-serving packages of unsalted nuts, such as almonds or cashews.
  • Popped or bagged popcorn (stick to the low-salt, butter-free varieties).
  • Trail mix without candy.
  • Low-sugar protein bars.
  • Bottled water or canned sparkling water.

Healthy options for airports and train stations

You can find healthy food even in airport and train terminals — it’s among the hot pretzel stands, cinnamon roll counters and fast food joints. If you’re looking to buy food at the terminal or train station, look for options like:

  • Low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Hummus with vegetables.
  • Fruit cups made with fresh fruit.
  • Pre-cut vegetables.
  • Oatmeal.

Airport prices can be sky-high, however, and you may be scrambling to make a connection. So, having some ready-to-go-roll snacks will help fuel you for the trip.

It’s true, you can’t cool down through airport security. But with some planning, you can still bring healthy food options for the trip.

For airplane rides, especially, it helps to keep your snacks low in sodium to help guard against water retention on long flights.

Zawahri Krasuna suggests packing nutritious snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated. Divide them into clear bags to get through security. Healthy options that travel well in your backpack and carry-on include:

  • Applesauce.
  • Single-serving bags of veggie chips.
  • Single-serving containers of tuna.
  • Single-serving packages of unsalted nuts, such as almonds or cashews.
  • Popped or bagged popcorn (stick to the low-salt, butter-free varieties).
  • Homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit (add some dark chocolate chips for a hint of sweetness).
  • Peanut butter sandwiches on whole grain bread.

Particularly important for air travel is to bring a cup that can be filled with water, said Zawahri Krasuna. You’ll need to empty it before going through security, but filling your own water cup at a bottle filling station before your flight will help ensure you stay hydrated along the way.

Eating out on vacation

Sure, it can be tempting to “treat yourself” on vacation and abandon your healthy habits. But Zawahri Krasuna advises to stick to healthy eating patterns as much as you can.

“Keeping your body healthy and nurturing it is huge,” she continued. “Eating healthy foods will help you feel your best to enjoy your trip. And maintaining healthy habits even away from home means there’s no need to try to undo any changes in your habits that you get used to during the vacation.

Going all-out on sugar for a few days, for example, means your body will crave more sugar even after you get home from your trip. Sticking to healthier choices, on the other hand, will help you stay on track long after you return.

Continue your healthy eating habits at restaurants and even fast food locations by choosing options such as:

  • Vegetable appetizers.
  • Salads (go with the dressing on the side so you can control how much you use).
  • Cooked vegetables.
  • Lean, grilled protein, such as chicken or salmon.

When it comes to food on the go, planning will get you far. Good sailing!

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