I just returned from an overseas trip, spending 17 hours in the air and several more hours in airports. Since I’m always a coach-class traveler, I was reminded of how difficult it can be to find healthy food at a reasonable price when you’re flying.
Ditto for road trips: our family drove from Denver to Seattle last summer, and the wasteland of fast-food chains and truck-stop convenience stores clustered around interstate exits is downright depressing if you want a quick bite that’s not burgers, fries or rotisserie hot dogs.
The key, I’ve learned, is to prepare your own portable meals ahead of time. Travel, especially flying, can be draining, not to mention dehydrating. It’s important to choose foods that are high in protein and complex carbs, to maintain blood sugar levels – and to drink lots and lots of water. Those tiny plastic cups the airlines provide won’t suffice — bring your own water bottle and fill it from a concourse drinking fountain once you clear security.
With just a bit of preparation time, you can enjoy easy, energy-sustaining snacks that taste better and cost a lot less than most ‘food on the fly.’ If you’re traveling this holiday season, mix and match a selection of these easy snacks — no need to bother with a cooler or utensils; most items will last outside the fridge for a while, and most can be eaten right from your hand.
1. Packable fruit: Apples and easy-peel clementines are top choices, but consider grapes, blueberries and blackberries, too – they’re full of antioxidants and fiber. They also hold up well. Just pop them into a small, firm-sided plastic container. Fruit leather is also easy, especially for kids.
2. Nuts & seeds: Take a zip-loc bag of raw or roasted almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Nuts and seeds provide heart-healthy fats, Vitamin E and a sustainable energy boost.
3. Dried jerky: Look for natural kinds that aren’t full of sodium and chemicals. My husband makes his own teriyaki chicken jerky in our home food dryer (it works for fruit leather, too), and it’s one of our family’s favorite travel snacks.
4. Granola or granola bars: We’ve become avid makers of homemade granola. It’s delicious, and so much cheaper than buying high-quality granola at your natural foods store. Ditto for granola bars – too many processed bars are full of excess sugar and fillers. Find a recipe full of oats, flaxseeds, dried fruit and more. Make in bulk, freeze and grab a few for your next trip.
5. Cracker sandwiches: Fill whole-wheat or brown rice crackers with peanut butter or almond butter, like an Oreo. Kids enjoy these!
6. Veggies with dip: Pack carrot and celery sticks, bell pepper strips, sugar snap peas and cherry or grape tomatoes in a hard-sided plastic container. Add a cup of ranch dressing or hummus (3 oz. or less, to comply with security rules) or small packets of cream cheese.
7. Freeze-ahead sandwiches: Make a whole-wheat tortilla wrap or sandwich on rustic, crusty whole-grain bread – both hold up better than ‘regular’ soft bread. Freezing it in foil beforehand will keep it fresher, and it will be ready to eat when you are. I like nutty Gruyere cheese, or pesto, arugula and tomato slices. Almond butter and honey is a favorite with kids.
8. Mini muffins: Use a tin that makes tiny-sized muffins – about an inch across – and pack a baggie full. Choose recipes that are higher in whole grains, for fiber and sustained energy. Add nuts for a power boost. Blueberry-bran or whole-wheat, honey and carrot are great options.
9. Yogurt tubes: 2.2-oz. tubes of yogurt are quick and easy. Freeze them ahead, and they’ll be thawed by the time you’re on board.
10. Whole grain salads: Quinoa, couscous and tabbouleh salads hold up well in a small plastic container – just add a little olive oil and sea salt, plus some white beans or garbanzos, chopped bits of carrot or bell pepper, cherry tomatoes and some minced parsley and you’ve got a simple, healthy Mediterranean meal that would set you back at least $10 if you bought it on the concourse.
Here’s to happy, healthy eating… and happy travels!
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