How to Eat Healthy No Matter How You're Traveling

Hitting the road? Whether traveling by car or plane to a hotel or rental, you can still make healthy choices.

August 05, 2022

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Photo by: fstop123/Getty

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When traveling, you want to consider several things before deciding what food to take. First, plan ahead. Before you start packing meals and snacks, determine if you will have the capability of keeping refrigerated foods cold (like a cooler in the car) or if you will need to pack foods that are safe at room temperature. If you are flying, think about which foods can make it through security — yogurt and peanut butter in the jar aren’t allowed. If you do want to eat refrigerated foods on your flight, make sure to eat them early on in your travel, either at the airport or at the start of your flight.

If you are packing cold foods for a car ride, pack foods directly from the fridge into a cooler, and keep meat and poultry separate from foods that will be eaten raw like fresh fruit. The temperature of the cooler should be 40 degrees F or colder and filling your cooler with several inches of ice or using frozen gel packs can help. You can also freeze juice boxes, water bottles, and other beverages to keep your cooler cold. When you do put the cooler in the car, it should be inside the car where it is air-conditioned and not in the trunk.

Best Foods for Traveling by Car

By the time you turn the corner, everyone in the car is begging for food. While chips and cookies can be fun snacks, you may want something more nutritious. Pack a few good-for-you mess-free meals and snacks. To keep things fresh, bring a cooler.

Meals:

  • Whole-grain pasta salad or quinoa salad
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • Hard-boiled egg and cheese in a whole-wheat pita

Snacks:

  • Sliced fresh fruit like melon and berries
  • Snack bar
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cheese and whole-grain crackers

If you end up having to hit the grocery store or gas station mart anyway, look for healthier choices.

  • Whole-grain pretzels
  • Hummus cups
  • Coffee or tea (nothing fancy)
  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Small bowl of oatmeal

Best Foods for Traveling By Plane

Not all flights provide food and some only give you cookies or pretzels as an option, so if you want to stay on track with your healthy eating goals, advanced planning is a must. If you're counting on purchasing food at the airport or on board, you'll pay a pretty penny, plus not all airports carry healthy fare. Instead, pack a few sandwiches and snacks.

Sandwiches:

  • Cucumber and whipped cream cheese on whole-wheat bread
  • Peanut butter and jelly on rye
  • Grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and mustard in a whole-grain wrap
  • Hummus with sliced tomato, pepper and cucumber in a whole-wheat pita

Snacks:

  • String cheese
  • Hummus cups
  • Homemade trail mix
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt
  • Snack bars
  • Whole fruit (plums, peaches, banana)
  • Cut vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, celery)
  • Seaweed snacks

Foods to Pack for the Hotel

Traveling always makes me hungry, and the last thing I want to do is check into my hotel and run to the vending machine. Instead, I ask ahead if there is a supermarket nearby and if the room has a refrigerator and microwave oven.

At the supermarket, I pick up easy finger foods that require little or no prep, such as fruits, pre-cut veggies or baby carrots, dry roasted nuts, Greek yogurt, and whole-grain cereal and milk. If there's a microwave, I bring snacks like popcorn.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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