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Traveling with Healthy Foods

Are you traveling this holiday season? It’s a darn shame, but most airports, train stations and roadside stops offer little more than standard American junk food fare. The good news is you can bring your own food and it doesn’t have to be complicated! Try some of our favorite tips and share your own in the comments below. With a little forethought, you can pack foods to help you and your family eat well, which will keep you feeling better on your trip. If flying, make sure to check the TSA website for food and liquid restrictions. Remember, too, that you can purchase food and water at the airport, after clearing security. Train travel is less restrictive and car travel adds the option of packing a cooler. Some possibilities:
  • Packets of instant organic plain oatmeal along with a baggie filled with nuts and raisins! Get hot water from flight attendants or gas station coffee bars.
  • All natural cup-o-soups made from legumes, grains and dehydrated veggies are easy to pack. Just add hot water and stir.
  • Trail mix is perfect. Nuts, dried fruits, unsweetened coconut flakes and whole grain cereals make a filling, no-mess snack. Try this Popcorn Trail Mix or this crunchy Granola Trail Mix.
  • Mini cracker sandwiches made from cream cheese or hummus and sliced tomatoes and bell peppers make a refreshing, crunchy snack.
  • Fruit bars, nut bars, protein bars and other shelf-stable goodies are a must. If you want to make your own, try these Cherry Orange Oatmeal Outdoor Bars or these Chocolate Earth Balls.
  • Individual packages of yogurt, applesauce, fruit cups, organic corn chips and vegetarian bean dip are great. (Some of these aren’t allowed through airport security.) Add some sliced carrots, celery, cucumber, radish and bell peppers.
  • For a meal, pack some sandwiches. Peanut or almond butter with fruit-sweetened jam or bananas; hummus or guacamole with veggies, cheese and tomato; or a turkey, tuna or egg salad sandwich that you know you can keep cold and eat within a couple of hours. These Apple Tahini Sandwiches are easy to make and travel well.
  • If flying, take or purchase a bottle of cold water after you get through security and pack it in an insulated bag next to food you want to keep cold.
  • If ordering from an airport or roadside restaurant, go for a sandwich on whole grain. Best bets: Turkey, grilled chicken, hummus (if they have it), and plenty of raw veggies even if all they have is lettuce, onions and tomatoes.
  • Remember to stay well hydrated, especially while flying.
  • If eating a meal provided by the airline, call ahead and see what special diet options they have (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.). These meals may have more vegetables, fruits and whole grains than their standard fare.
  • Don’t forget some healthy additions of special treats such as natural oatmeal cookies or whole wheat graham crackers. Try these amazing Oatmeal, Coconut and Sunflower Seed Cookies.
  • If you are stuck picking something up at a convenience store, look for whole grain cereals, packaged nuts or any fresh fruit – they may even have a bran muffin or a protein bar. This is much better than pastry, donuts, sweet rolls or chips.
  • Pack an assortment of fruit bars, nut bars and protein bars in your luggage so you have them handy in your room for a healthy snack/replacement meal. You never know what your hosts will be serving!
  • Don’t forget that travel delays are common during the holidays. Pack some extra shelf stable food to help see you through just in case.
Got a healthy travel snack you always pack or special travel food tip to share? We’d love to hear it in the comments below.

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Elizabeth says …

One tip to add: Bring your empty reusable water bottles then once through security fill up at a water fountain or ask one of the food establishments to fill it up for you. Saves money and reduces waste from disposable water bottles. Thanks for all of the suggestions; I'm flying this week with my kids and the cookies will definitely be a little treat in their bags!

Ananda says …

I guess Elizabeth and I think alike! :)

Ananda says …

We always bring an empty refillable water bottle thru air security, then fill it up at the drinking fountain for the flight. Saves $5 and plastic!

Deborah Pierce says …

Boiled egg, peeled, in baggie. Napkin & salt (substitute) separate. Teabags. Quartered apple, with "fruit fresh" or lemon juice. If flying, get packets of mayo, S&P, napkins & cutlery in terminal. Fill nalgene bottle with filtered fountain H20 in terminal, & clip to carry-on. Hand sanitizer; packet of sanitizing wipes.

Mary says …

You are now allowed to bring a frozen water bottle through airport security. If your airport TSA is not consistent, bring 2 empty Ziplock bags and fill them with ice at a self serve drink place. Always bring some healthy food or snacks when flying in case your flight is stuck on the tarmac and cannot unload for hours.

Tiffany-Denise says …

I think these ideas are great not just for traveling but also for those nights when we are out holiday shopping or spending time with friends. I just recently started keeping snacks in my bag so that I am not running to convenience stores for chips, cookies, and candy. Thanks for posting this!!!!

Melissa says …

I'd like to chime in with Elizabeth and Ananda. Could you edit it to say "bring a reusable water bottle and fill it once you pass security"? Also, byo utensils wherever you travel. Whole Foods carries a few options (Bambu spork & to-go ware).

Laura says …

Taking along nutritious food is not only good for us, it's more economical. But let's not perpetuate this mania that everything has to be refrigerated or eaten within 2 hours. How do you think we survived as a species through all those centuries of no refrigeration? (I've actually talked to parents who were afraid to send lunches with their kids to school!) However, here's a tip. When I travel I always take an insulated bag with meal(s) and snacks. The bag continues to come in handy on my vacations too. If food is cold when you begin your trip, it can usually last several hours. Some items are fine for a couple of days. If you're really concerned something needs to be kept cold, put ice in a ziplock bag and ditch the ice before going through airport security. Then refill the bag with ice on the plane when the drinks are served.

Nicole says …

I appreciate all the wonderful tips above and in the Comment section. I spend a lot of time on the road going from place to place alone or with the kids and these suggestions will help me make better choices for all of us AND save us money. A little planning and some fun kitchen time together = worth it.

Nicole says …

I suggest a Printing option so these tips can travel along with us. If you've got an immersion blender, there are many smoothies that can be made using options above. It is relatively small and lightweight to pack.

SacVoyage says …

Very 'tasty" post, photos are amazing