With Christmas and New Year's just around the corner, many of us will be packing our bags and heading off to celebrate. Unfortunately, most airports, train stations and roadside stops offer the standard American junk-food fare. The good news is you can bring your own food!
While there are specific rules about what you can take through security onto a plane (no creamy, saucy foods allowed, for example), there are foods that you can pack to eat well, which will keep you feeling better on your trip.
Foods for Planes or Trains
Check the TSA website for food and liquid restrictions on planes. You can also purchase food and water after clearing security.
- If you have an early morning flight or train, you can't beat packets of instant organic plain oatmeal along with a baggie filled with nuts and raisins! The attendants will have hot water and cups for mixing.
- Trail mix is perfect. Nuts, dried fruits, unsweetened coconut flakes and whole grain cereals make a filling, no-mess snack.
- 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.
- 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, but good for the train.) 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.
- Take or purchase a bottle of cold water and pack it in an insulated bag next to stuff you want to keep fresh and cold.
- Many airports have restaurants where you can order a sandwich on whole grain to take with you on your trip. Best bets: Turkey, grilled chicken, hummus (if they have it), and plenty of raw veggies even if only lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.
- Remember to stay well hydrated, especially while flying. Get water on the plane or carry some on.
- 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.
Car and Cooler Foods
Your chances of finding healthy food along a highway are pretty slim. But with a little pre-planning, you can make the trip a whole lot tastier. Essential for the car: A large cooler! Here are some ideas:
- Pack sandwiches, yogurt, assorted cheese, cold drinks, fresh cut veggies, sliced deli meats, fresh fruits, and even special treats such as oatmeal cookies.
- Make ahead snacks are perfect: Whole grain dishes such as pasta, brown rice or quinoa salads, prepared with veggies, nuts, tofu, or tempeh are delicious at room temperature.
- All natural cup-o-soups made from legumes, grains and dehydrated veggies are easy to pack. They're light-weight and don't need refrigeration. Just add hot water and stir. A large insulated thermos keeps water piping hot for hours. This works for the soups as well as for a cup of tea … just don't forget the teabags!
- Again, fruit bars, nut bars, protein bars and other shelf-stable goodies are perfect to have on hand.
- If you stop at a roadside restaurant, choose oatmeal or cream of wheat over pastry for breakfast. Another good option is a vegetable omelet. Choose a side of fresh fruit over hash browns and toast.
- At a convenience store, look for whole grain cereals, low fat milk, 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.
At Your Destination
I think we've all been there: staying with relatives or friends who aren't as conscious about good food choices. Here are a few suggestions that may help:
- Bring along healthy foods as gifts.
- Offer to help in the preparation of meals or cook a meal for your hosts.
- Do a bit of the grocery shopping to help out. Scope it out in advance to locate the closest natural food store. (You can search for our stores here.)
- At a conventional grocery store, shop the perimeter of the store as much as possible. Look for whole wheat bread, fresh veggies and fruits, and whole grains such as brown rice.
- If faced with a less-than-optimal meal prepared by others, load up on raw salad, veggies, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins as much as possible.
- Remember those fruit bars, nut bars and protein bars? Pack an assortment and keep them handy in your room for a healthy snack/replacement meal.
Everybody wants (and deserves) a break over the holidays. For many, that means not worrying so much about what to eat. I offer these suggestions not to steer you away from enjoying yourself, but rather as a way for you to maintain your energy and to feel well while traveling.
What good food do you like to eat while traveling? I'd love to hear!