Whether you are packing for a vacation or loading up for a weekend road trip, traveling can often lead to poor nutritional choices. By adding healthy snack options to your packing ‘check list,’ traveling not only becomes less stressful, it becomes healthier.
“One of the easiest ways to save time, calories, and money is by planning ahead for your on-the-go snacks,” states Megan Davis, MS, RD, clinical dietician with UAB EatRight. “By thinking of items that are easy to fit in a cooler, don’t create a mess in the car, and don’t require utensils, it becomes easier to avoid unhealthy food while on the road.” By planning ahead, we remove unhealthy temptations and actually eliminate unnecessary stress on the road. “If you are not a big planner, it can be a challenge to think ahead to ensure that you and your family have healthy options,” says Davis. “Planning ahead makes being healthy convenient if you can work to incorporate these changes.” Check out these six healthy travel snack options provided by Davis to help you when planning for your next trip.
Whole grain cereal cups mixed with yogurt and a banana can be a quick and healthy breakfast for early travelers. These items are also easy to locate at convenience stores if you need something at the last minute. However, be sure to read the label on the cereals you choose. A good rule of thumb for whole grain cereals is 160 calories or less per cup with 4 grams of fiber per serving. Davis also likes VitaTop muffin tops, which require no clean up or utensils. They usually average around 100 calories, 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and are free of trans fat unlike pre-packaged baked goods.
Fruits offer a variety of ready-to-eat and easy to pack single-serve options. Bananas, apples, and oranges can be easily packed or purchased at roadside convenience stores and average less than 100 calories per serving. Grapes and strawberries are easy to place in individual bags and are perfect while on the go. By eating fruits, you are also increasing your vitamin C intake, which will help fight off sicknesses while being exposed to germs during travel.
Low Fat Cheeses
By choosing low fat or part skim milk options, you decrease the amount of saturated fat while keeping a better flavor than the fat free options. Some great ideas for kids include string or cubed cheeses, single-serve cottage cheese, and individual servings of
cheese wedges or cheese wheels. Some hard cheeses, such as sharp cheddar, don’t even need to be kept in a cooler while traveling. Eating cheese as a snack can help provide your three daily servings of dairy, while also providing an average of 7 grams of protein per serving.
Many vegetables are now available in pre-cut, pre-washed, individual serving bags in the produce section. These options make for great snacks with no preparation and virtually no clean up. Try baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and 100% vegetable juice. A cup of baby carrots with 2-ounces of hummus or peanut butter provides 90% of your daily vitamin A requirement and averages 100 calories. Cherry tomatoes are easy for kids to grab, and one cup includes only 27 calories, and boasts 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of protein. A 12-ounce serving of 100% vegetable juice provides 3 servings of vegetables, 70 calories, and plenty of potassium and lycopene.
Peanuts, pistachios, and sunflowers are easy to buy in bulk and on the road. Each of these can be purchased in a shell, which keeps you from overeating by slowing you down and creating a visual of your servings. Each nut is a heart healthy option with mono-unsaturated fat, protein, and fiber in abundance. A half cup of peanuts averages 160 calories, 7 grams of protein, and 20% of your vitamin E requirements. Twenty pistachios will only cost you 120 calories with similar protein and fiber. A cup of sunflower seeds with a shell will increase the calories to 200 but has similar amounts of fiber and protein.
If you are looking for an easy alternative to chips, consider popcorn. By air popping your own kernels, you will save on processing and calories. A common movie theater butter style microwave popcorn averages 170 calories and 12 grams of fat for a 4-cup serving. The same serving size of air popped popcorn averages 112 calories and 1.4 grams of fat per serving. A great alternative to a popcorn machine or stove top cooking can be created with a brown paper lunch sack. Simply spray the inside of the sack with cooking spray and place popcorn kernels in the sealed bag for 3 to 7 minutes, depending on the microwave. This allows you to pop large amounts that may be stored in an air tight container for later enjoyment. Check out this great recipe for your own popcorn trail mix.
Popcorn Trail Mix
Recipe makes 4 servings. Trail mix measures approximately 200 calories per serving.
– 9 cups popped, light microwave popcorn*
– ½ cup dried cranberries
– ½ cup roasted, unsalted almonds (or other nut)
In a large mixing bowl, combine popcorn, cranberries, and almonds. Mix bowl to ensure that all ingredients are evenly distributed. Place trail mix in large air tight container or gallon plastic bags for storage. Trail mix may also be placed in small resealable sandwich bags for individual servings.
* To save on calories, try air popping your own popcorn in the microwave or on the stovetop.