Protein bars are made for traveling: convenient and easy to carry
Sandwiches can get through airport security, even with peanut butter and jam
Traveling can wreak havoc on our diets, but packing a nutritious snack or meal before heading out the door can get us started on the right healthy eating track and perhaps give us a bit of wiggle room for indulgences before arriving at our destination.
But what travel foods are the most munch-worthy? To find out, I asked 10 nutritionists for their favorite snacks or meals when traveling by road or air. Below, their responses.
Nut butter and jam sandwich
“Individual containers having no more than 3 ounces of liquids or gels are allowed through security – and this restriction applies to yogurt, peanut butter, hummus, jam and apple sauce. However, sandwiches are acceptable. I travel with a sandwich made with toasted (prevents sogginess) sprouted whole-grain bread, natural nut butter and an all-fruit jam because it does not need refrigeration and provides a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Toss it in a Ziploc bag with baby carrots, and you’re good to go. If you are a grazer, deconstruct the sandwich and bring along unsalted dry-roasted nuts, unsulphured dried fruit (or a banana) and rice cakes.” – Layne Lieberman, registered dietitian nutritionist, author of “Beyond the Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets of the Super-Healthy”
Homemade trail mix
“I always make my own trail mix to take with my during my travels. I roast several varieties of nuts, bake granola in the oven with some honey and add dried fruit, whole-grain cereals and maybe a few pieces of chocolate. It is great because I can change it up every time and I know the ingredients, portion size and all of the calories associated with it. (A lot of store-bought trail mix can have tons of added sugar, oil and calories.) It’s also balanced with carbohydrates, protein and fat, so I know it will help me feel and stay full. You can pack some extra in your checked luggage if it is a long trip.” – Wesley Delbridge, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Kind nuts & spices bars
“While I’m not much for bars as a day-to-day staple, I think bars are made for traveling; they’re so convenient and easy to carry. The Kind nuts & spices bars have about 200 calories, so it’s a pretty substantial snack and is mostly made up of satisfying protein, fiber and healthy fats from nuts. They’ve got only 5 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of sugar, which easily fits into my daily budget. Because I have celiac disease, I also need snacks that are reliably gluten-free, and this can be hard to find on the road. The Kind bars are really easy to find; many coffee shops carry them, and every airport sells them, so I always know I can find something healthy and suitable to eat if travel finds me at the airport and starving in between meals.” – Tamara Duker Freuman, New York City-based registered dietitian
“My favorite travel meal is homemade spinach, red pepper and cheese frittata muffins. Simply make a frittata using a muffin tin so you have egg muffins to grab-‘n’-go. Eggs provide high-quality protein, which fills us up and improves our mood. Being in a good mood is important, as traveling can be stressful. Adding the veggies to the mix gives additional vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fiber for a well-balanced, colorful mini-meal. The frittatas should be eaten within two hours or packed in an insulated lunch bag with ice.” – Sarah Koszyk, registered dietitian, sports nutritionist, author of “365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year”
“One food that is always in my carry-on travel bag is oatmeal. I either toss in oatmeal packets or the new oatmeal kits that are all-in-one, perfectly balanced meals on the go. With an oatmeal packet, all you have to do is ask the flight attendant or coffee barista for hot water. Simply stir your oatmeal into the hot water and let it sit until thickened. You can grab cinnamon, honey and brown sugar that is available at all coffee shops, and eat. I often throw in a few almonds or walnuts that I have on hand to make a balanced meal. With the new oatmeal kits like Wild Friends, the cup and the peanut butter are provided. … All I need is hot water, and I’m ready to eat a healthy meal that will keep me from eating unhealthy fast food, and full for the next three hours!” – Amy Shapiro, registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition, a nutritional counseling and weight management practice in New York
Crispy roasted chickpeas
“After having one too many achy stomach grumbling experiences traveling without food, you’ll now always find a tasty snack in my carry-on that’s a good source of plant-based protein and fiber; it’s a particularly satisfying duo. That’s exactly what you’ll find in these Saffron Road crunchy chickpeas (vs. munchie chickpeas); it’s one of my favorite travel-worthy picks. With so many varieties to choose from, I can always find one that suits whatever flavor mood I’m in.
“A simple way to make your own roasted chickpeas is to toss canned, drained chickpeas with olive oil and seasonings of choice, then bake in a 425-degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes.” – Jackie Newgent, registered dietitian nutritionist, private cooking coach, author of “The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook”
Amrita’s high-protein bars
“These bars are plant-based, provide 15 grams of protein, and they’re made with simple superfood ingredients, including tahini, sunflower seeds and chia seeds. They’re also allergen-free, including peanuts, so they’re airplane-friendly. They fill me up and satisfy a sweet craving, but the balance of plant protein, nutrient-rich carbs and healthy fat leaves me with steady, level energy and keeps me full for about three hours. Chocolate maca is my fave.” – Cynthia Sass, registered dietitian, author of “Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches With Pulses - The New Superfood”
“I love miso soup because it’s hot and satisfying. The strong umami taste is perfect for blunted taste buds during travel. And soups provide a sense of fullness and satiety in a modest package. I look for all natural and organic brands that have tofu for a bit of protein, and seaweed, which is a rich source of minerals, including calcium, magnesium and iron. You can find miso soup ‘packets’ that are slim for travel; you just need to ask the flight attendant for a warm beverage cup and hot water.”– Kate Geagan, registered dietitian, author of “Go Green, Get Lean”
Homemade granola bars
“My favorite snacks for travel are my homemade granola bars because they are packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats, keeping me satisfied until I get off the plane. I use the same formula with oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit but change up the flavors based on the time of year. For instance, I love my gingerbread granola bars for the colder months but might swap the ginger for cocoa powder or cinnamon now that the weather is getting warmer.” – Kara Lydon, registered dietitian, intuitive eating counselor and blogger at The Foodie Dietitian
Join the conversation
“When I’m flying somewhere and I know that my food choices will be limited, I always pack a hearty and healthy salad to take with me. It’s easy, and I can make it the night before. I fill a reusable, salad-size container with a flavorful green like arugula and then dig around my fridge for additional ingredients. My usual go-tos are things I typically have on hand: bell pepper, eggs (which I hard-cook), canned chickpeas, English cucumber, toasted almonds, walnuts or pecans, feta cheese and a light vinaigrette. Salads keep me satisfied and energized, they’re portable, and they pack a big nutritional punch. I always pack a plastic fork that I can toss or recycle, and if I’m planning to eat the salad more than two hours after I leave my house, I’ll pack along a small ice pack or create a DIY ice pack by placing a few ice cubes in a small resealable freezer bag.” – Liz Weiss, registered dietitian nutritionist, host of Liz’s Healthy Table podcast and blog
Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, an author and a CNN health and nutrition contributor.