How to Snack Like a Nutritionist When You Travel
Last Updated: Jan 19, 2017
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From delayed flights to lost luggage, traveling can be stressful in countless ways. And when you’re rushed, tired or hungry, it’s all the harder to say no to chips, candy bars and other unhealthy snacks. But to keep your body in tip-top shape — and to avoid that dreaded vacation pudge — it’s important to eat mindfully when you’re on the road. Need some snacking ideas? Twelve nutritionists share their go-to snacks that keep them properly nourished, satisfied and a bit less stressed when they travel.
A little food prep can save a lot of time and money, especially when you’re traveling. “If I don’t plan ahead and pack snacks in a small cooler or picnic basket for my family’s road trips, we usually succumb to picking up less-than-stellar snacks at the gas station. I pack a balance of homemade snacks that often include roasted chickpeas,” says Holley Grainger, M.S., RD, culinary nutrition expert and blogger at Holley Grainger Nutrition. A great source of protein and fiber, roasted chickpeas offer a portable and healthy snacking option. “Roasted chickpeas are so easy to make. All you need is a little salt and olive oil and you’re set,” explains Grainger.
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Sometimes called hemp hearts, hemp seeds can be pressed for oil, ground into a protein powder or made into milk. Or, in the case of a convenient travel option, hemp seeds can be sprinkled on food. “Hemp seeds upgrade any meal by providing plant protein, fiber and omega fatty acids,” says Ashley Koff, RD, creator of Better Nutrition Simplified. “If I’m stuck without a carb option, I add them to a packet of organic oats and then get a shot of espresso or tea and instantly have a delicious nutrition pit stop.” If you’re concerned about the psychotropic effects of flying high on your air travel, don’t fret. While hemp seeds are the edible part of the hemp plant, they do not contain the active drug (THC) found in the hemp leaf.
RAW VEGGIES AND ALMOND BUTTER
Whether you’re physically hungry or simply bored, having something to crunch on can help satisfy those persistent snack cravings. “On short trips, my go-to snack is raw crunchy vegetables like carrots and celery as substitutions for chips. And I bring along natural almond butter to dip them in,” says Jim White, RDN, ACSM exercise physiologist, owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. “Fiber, protein and healthy fats are key for satisfying hunger and preventing any relapses while on the road.” Another portable option includes dried fruits or vegetables, such as dried peas, mangoes or carrots. For some extra protein, couple them with a handful of seeds or nuts.
MATCHA GREEN TEA
Staying hydrated is just as important as eating healthy when you travel. In addition to water, some dietitians look for beverages with added medicinal benefits. “I just discovered matcha green tea, and now I never travel without it. Traveling (especially driving) requires lots of focus,” says Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, host of Cooking With Sarah-Jane. If you’re driving, make iced or hot tea in advance to bring along with you. Flying? Because liquids will be confiscated for air travel, pack some tea bags to use on the plane or when you get to your destination.
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Nutrient-rich and portable, nuts are a staple snack for many nutritionists who travel. “I always bring small bags of nuts, such as almonds, peanuts or pistachios. They provide a boost of protein, healthy fats and fiber and can help me feel satisfied if I miss a meal or need an in-between pick-me-up,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, author of “Plant-Powered for Life.” If portion size is a concern when it comes to nuts (meaning you tend to finish the five-serving size bag on one flight), look for single-serving snack packs.
Snacks that provide protein and fiber are popular combos for dietitians because these nutrients help you stay fuller longer. “When traveling, I always bring along healthy chicken or turkey jerky and an apple. These foods do not need refrigeration; are lightweight and portable; and offer protein and fiber, which work to stabilize blood sugar and mood,” says Misti Gueron, M.S., RDN, medical nutrition therapist at the Khalili Center. But since many jerky brands can be high in sodium, look for low-sodium varieties, or make sure to consume lower-sodium foods, such as fresh fruits and veggies, throughout the day to balance out your sodium intake.
This is probably a snacking suggestion that won’t need a lot of arm-twisting: dark chocolate. “In addition to being delicious and decadent, studies have shown that natural compounds in dark chocolate enhance mood, including easing anxiety and inducing calm — helpful for wary travelers. I also typically work while on a flight or train, and dark chocolate helps enhance cognitive function,” says Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., RD, author of “Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches With Pulses — The New Superfood.” One caveat: When it comes to chocolate of any kind, portion size is key. A serving size of dark chocolate is one ounce, which has about 170 calories.
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SUNFLOWER SEED BUTTER SANDWICH
Here’s a smart and economical snack choice for long travel days: a sandwich that doesn’t need refrigeration. “My go-to travel snack is a sandwich with sunflower seed butter (or sometimes peanut butter) on whole-grain bread. Depending on how long the flight is, I may or may not add banana slices to it. I love this choice because it’s shelf stable, easy to assemble, tasty and healthy,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Be sure to look at the nutrition facts label as sunflower seed butter brands vary in terms of how much added sugar they contain. Aim for no more than two grams of sugar per serving.
While more and more companies are coming out with energy bars that contain a few natural ingredients and no added sugar, there are still loads of bars on the market that are no better for you than a candy bar. One dietitian explains her top pick: “I carry KIND bars for a few reasons. I can literally see what’s in them, right through the transparent wrapper. I also have peace of mind knowing that I’m getting an array of nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats, that help to keep me feeling full, satisfied and balanced,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of “Read It Before You Eat It.”
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FRUIT AND CHEESE
Whether you like apples, bananas, mandarins or grapes, fruit is a hydrating and nutrient-packed travel choice. For a more substantial snack, couple it with some protein for extra staying power. “Whenever I travel, I pack a piece of fruit and a Mini Babybel cheese. Both are portable and easy to enjoy on the go," says Keri Gans, RDN, author of “The Small Change Diet.” "The combination of fiber from the fruit and protein from the cheese helps to satisfy my hunger until I reach my destination.”
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