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Eating healthy while traveling

This week finds me traveling to Tennessee for a work conference.  I used to travel a lot for my company in Los Angeles, and I really don’t mind it.  I like getting to visit new places, I like meeting new people, and I love sleeping in comfy hotel beds that do not include a snoring husband.  I know many people who cannot sleep when they travel, but I’m the opposite in that I sleep AMAZING in strange beds.

Hmmm, that probably sounded weird, no? 

I mean when I have a quiet room to myself, sleep is lovely.

Airport and conference food is not usually the best for you, and when you’re on a route with 30 minute layovers, you’re really just stuck eating food that is available for purchase on the plane, or you can pack your own.  With a little pre-planning and some space in your carry-on, you can hedge your bets against hunger and greasy burgers covered in a sweaty wrapper.  Side note: does anyone remember when McDonald’s burgers came in Styrofoam clamshells?  Holy crap, what in the world were they thinking?

When packing for travel, I focus on four categories:

  • Protein
  • Chocolate
  • Liquids
  • Fruit/veg

Protein
I am the kind of person who needs protein for a meal to fill me up.  When I had to give up dairy while breastfeeding because Jack had a dairy allergy, I was constantly hungry.  Without dairy in my life, I was severely deficient on protein.  At four months post-partum, I was the thinnest I had ever been and I looked like a bag of crap.

That period of time taught me the value of protein and finding sources for it and including it in every meal.  For my trip this week, I whipped up some trail mix with stuff I had on hand already.  A bag of similar stuff at Trader Joes would be at least $4.  I used peanuts, almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, pistachios, dried cherries, and dark and white chocolate chips.  Because if you can show me someone who claims they prefer trail mix without chocolate, I’ll show you a damned liar.

Another awesome source of protein that travels well is hummus.  I like to make my own hummus cups, but the thought of having to potentially surrender my beloved little canning jars to TSA makes me sick.  To be safe, for this trip, I purchased some Sabra cups at Costco.  I freeze the hummus the night before, and then carry a really slim cooler bag (like the size of a big Walkman.  Remember those?) with a tiny freezer pack.

Fruit and veg
Ordinarily, I love a big bag of Stacy’s pita chips just like the next person, but knowing that a lot of conference food is pretty carb heavy, I erred on the side of “veg”.  Carrots and celery travel great, and are good without constant refrigeration.

I also pack at least two whole apples to snack on.  They’re sweet, they are easily portable, and they come with their own wrapper.

Chocolate
I add chocolate to the trail mix, and also found this lovely bag of chocolate covered super foods from Trader Joes.  Chocolate covered super foods…basically that is like medicine.  Right?

Liquids
I drink a TON of water in the course of a normal day.  When I’m traveling, I tend to not drink as much, because I hate airplane bathrooms, and well, that’s about it.  I like to pack tea bags while traveling for two reasons.  1) saying tea bag makes me giggle and 2) I found a chocolate mint tea that is AMAZING, and hot water is free on airplanes and at most airport shots.

I also pack an empty stainless steel water bottle (these are made in Washington State.  Booyah!) in my carry on, and then fill it up after passing through airport security.

Another thing I pack is instant oatmeal.  Trader Joes makes a really hardy apples and cinnamon instant oatmeal that is flipping delicious.  At home, I use plain rolled oats and add stuff, but like packing my own tea, hot water is free for making instant oatmeal.  I paid $2.99 for 10 packets of oatmeal, and use two for a breakfast for a cost of $.60.  If you can find something healthy and delicious at the airport for $.60, please let me know.

Maintaining a healthy diet while traveling is entirely possible, as long you think ahead a bit and are willing to lug around some food in your carry on.

What are your favorite foods to pack while traveling?

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8 comments on “Eating healthy while traveling”

  1. No, no, no. Chocolate in trail mix is just all wrong. Sorry to disappoint but, yeah, I’m that person. Don’t think I don’t love chocolate – we’ve been having an intimate relationship for many, many years. But I can’t stand getting melty chocolate fingers when eating trail mix (you may be a tidier eater than me – I’m the kind of person who can end up dirty just from having a drink of water!). And I really don’t think it adds to the flavour at all so I’d never buy trail mix with chocolate in it. Once was enough.

  2. wouldn’t a BPA-free plastic bottle be easier to tote? and what do you do with the ice pack when you arrive if your hotel room doesn’t have a fridge? just asking. not arguing. what are the super foods in the Trader Joe’s mix (cuz there’s no link, not sure if there’s supposed to be)? It sounds good. and healthy. cuz you know, chocolate is a plant. I am with you regarding the hummus with carrots, it’s delicious. we do a lot of car trips and I pack a lot of popcorn — either homemade or purchased. ‘course, it trashes the car but that’s why God invented vacuums, right?? I also pack sippy cups of water and milk, even though my kids are way past that age — they are individual, grabable, and easy to wash once we get to our destination (typically gramma’s). i also throw yogurt cups and spoons directly into the cooler. have you encountered any problems eating nuts on the planes, what with so many kids being allergic to the various types of nuts? I hate warm water, so I typically freeze my thermos or adult sippy cup (LOL) about 1/2way with whatever liquid I’m going to drink, then fill it the rest of the way before I leave with the same liquid so that it has a giant ice cube of the liquid inside. I send my kids to soccer that way too, and to school on hot days. Works like a charm and they’ve said they still had ice cube almost five hours later!! I am pretty much the ice queen, I don’t pack ice packs on vacations where I’m staying in a hotel, instead I’m constantly making trips to the ice machine to keep my stash cold or put into a cup with my drink (I’m NOT filling my whole cooler though, that’s rude). love your blog.

  3. I think that your ideas are fabulous…well thought out and always with a nod to the frugal. I did not know that you could buy those small cups of hummus…brilliant! I also love hard boiled eggs ’cause protein is key. I don’t travel without chocolate, usually in bar form (I’m a chocolate snob)…but I’ve been known to break up a bar and add it to trail mix which makes, in my opinion, the perfect food. You’re the BEST! Happy trails dear one!

  4. When I used to travel a lot I had a grab and go bag with a variety of tea bags, coffee sachets, instant soup, granola bars and oatmeal sachets. Colleagues used to laugh, but I could walk into a facility, make something and hit my desk quickly after arriving.

  5. All great ideas! I also need chocolate in my trail mix. Or dried fruit. Something sweet to go with the salty. Before we went gluten free (and mostly crap food free), our go-to travel snack was pretzels and M&M’s. I also love jerky as a travel food.
    My daughter and I recently took the train from MT to IA and we brought along clementines, apples, trail mix, and some organic juice boxes (that I froze and used as ice packs). The juice is always a big hit because we NEVER buy juice boxes except for big trips.
    Oh, and I carry around my gigantic 64 oz insulated stainless steel water bottle everywhere we go. I get a workout and hydrated at the same time (the thing weighs 5.6lbs when full- the kiddo weighed it)!

    I also love hotel beds (most of the time). The thing I hate about hotels is how dry they are. I’ve started laying a damp hand towel over the a/c or heater to try to moisten up the air a bit.

    Happy travels!

    • Oh, and thanks for the link for the water bottles. I have a slight addiction to water bottles and am always wanted to buy more. I just bought 3, one for me, the hubby and the kiddo (cause it’s late, I’m tired, and my will power is about gone). Can’t wait to try them out.

  6. I usually try to pack a couple of string cheese at the last minute, and I like some cheese and crackers packs, too. And a couple of granola bars.

  7. Great tips!! Thought I’d share that our family recently took a road trip to Angels Camp, CA with the kids. Since we stayed at a place with a kitchen so we took every opportunity to eat in. In fact, we probably had no more than 5 meals in 7 days at a restaurant. Not only was it an overall healthier option for us, we saved a lot of money in the process.