Sara Dow is a ACE Certified Weight Management and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is also a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Small Group Trainer at the Y. Twice a month, her blog posts will feature nutrition education, a healthy recipe she has tried and loves, and tips to help you achieve your health goals, as well as answers centered around a nutrition question from a Y member.
Summer travel season is upon us! If we fail to plan for good nutrition, we will likely reach for highly processed convenience fare that leaves us feeling bloated and sluggish. These healthy travel snacks are rich in essential vitamins and minerals to boost energy and support a healthy summer of fun.
Grab and go options (zero or minimal prep):
Whole fruits: Apples, pears, and cuties hold up well in a carry-on, backpack, or cooler. Whole, uncut fruits and vegetables can be safely held at room temperature for several days without refrigeration.
Dried fruits and unsalted nuts: Purchase single-serve packets for convenience and portion control. Alternatively, buy in bulk and portion into snack bags. 1.5 oz or ¼ cup is a standard serving for dried fruits and nuts. Raisins, dried apples, apricots, and mango are high in antioxidants, but watch out for added sugar. Check the ingredient list – ideally, fruit is the only listed ingredient.
Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers: These colorful sweet peppers are 92% water, making them an excellent hydrating snack. This is my go-to snack on airplanes as it helps offset the dehydrating effect of air travel. Enjoy mini-snacking bell peppers right out of the bag (be sure to wash them first!). These uncut peppers can be safely held at room temperature for several days.
Baby carrots: These can often be found pre-portioned for convenience, or you can portion yourself into ½ cup servings. Baby carrots typically come pre-washed and ready to eat.
Dry roasted edamame: This mighty legume packs 13 grams of protein into a 1/3 cup serving making it one of the best sources of plant-based protein. A great option to fend off hunger pangs on the go, purchase in bulk from Farm and Fleet or Pick n Save or buy individually packaged servings through nuts.com. Dry roasted edamame is shelf stable and will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.
Air-popped popcorn: Try seasoning with dried herbs or chili powder. Store in quart or gallon-size Ziploc bags for a filling, whole-grain snack.
Energy bite: In a food processor, combine 1 ½ cups of honey-roasted nuts with 1 ½ cups of pitted Medjool dates. Blend until a soft dough forms. Roll into 1” balls. The natural sugar of the Medjool date paired with protein in the nuts helps keep blood sugar levels steady and provides sustained energy. Freeze up to 2 months in advance and pack in an airtight container (or Ziploc bag) for travel. These can be safely kept at room temperature for several days.
Roasted Chickpeas: Rinse and drain 2 – 15 oz cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Toss with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and 1-2 Tbsp Penzy’s Northwoods Fire seasoning. Spread chickpeas in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Feel free to substitute your favorite spice blend for the Northwood seasoning. Roasted chickpeas can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Homemade Trail mix: Make your own trail mix using two parts of dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, banana chips, dried apples, or apricot pieces) to one part nuts (almond, peanut, pecan, walnut, cashews). Add seeds (pumpkin or sunflower) and a whole grain (popcorn, whole wheat cereal) if desired. This mix is shelf stable and can be kept in an airtight container for several weeks.
No time to prep?
Here are some excellent options commonly found in gas stations and airport kiosks:
KIND bars: Made with natural food ingredients, KIND bars have less added sugar than most granola or protein bars.
String cheese: Typically low in saturated fat, string cheese is a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D.
Whole wheat crackers: The original Triscuit has only three ingredients (whole wheat, canola oil, and sea salt) and provides fiber and whole grains, which support satiety and digestive health. Pair Triscuits (6 crackers = 1 serving) with string cheese for a protein and carbohydrate-balanced snack.
Whole fruit, nuts, and trail mix: Choose unsalted nuts if advised by your physician to limit your sodium intake. Look for a trail mix containing fruit and nuts with minimal added sugar. Check the ingredient label for this information.
Boiled egg: The humble egg is the most bioavailable of all protein sources — a whopping 99% of the protein is absorbed! Boiled eggs are often found in refrigerated kiosks at airports, gas stations, or coffee shops. Enjoy for a quick and filling snack.
Non-fat Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is a fantastic source of protein but watch out for flavored varieties high in added sugar. Opt for plain yogurt and sweeten yourself with dried fruit or trail mix.
Single-Serve Hummus: Made with chickpeas and olive oil, hummus is an excellent source of plant-based protein and heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats. Pair with veggies for a complex carbohydrate boost, and you have a complete nutritional package!
Do you have a favorite healthy travel snack? Drop me a line at [email protected] to share. I’d love to hear from you!
About Sara Dow
Hi, I’m Sara and I am passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the knowledge and practice of good nutrition.
In 2018, I was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian. I am now in my senior year, double majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics at Kansas State University. I am excited to share with you what I am learning.