I am on spring break right now with my family! Before I left my house, I made sure we had everything healthy we needed to eat...at least while traveling. As an aside, "healthy snack packing" wasn't exactly my forte years back. I'm from the Milwaukee area. Before I moved to Chicago, where I currently live, I resided in Minneapolis. I would regularly make road trips from my house in Minnesota to my parents' house in Wisconsin - which was somewhere in the neighborhood of a six hour drive. At the time, it was just me and my awesome black Jetta that made the trip down I-94 dozens of times. This was well over ten years ago. I wasn't quite as enlightened about nutrition as I am today, and had no problem stopping for what I called "pity food."
What is Pity Food?
pit·y food /ˈpitē fo͞od/ By (my) definition, pity food is any unhealthy food a person can easily justify eating while traveling because they feel sorry for themselves as they're on a long flight, car/bus ride, or traveling by train. Pity foods typically include ice cream, french fries, M & Ms, pretzels, donuts, soda, slurpies or any other nutritionally-void form of sustenance that can be found in between McDonald's and the nearest gas station. All trips must be at least two hours. No trip under two hours could possibly justify consumption of pity food. The person who eats pity food is slightly delusional, often believing things like a 99 cent sugar-laden ice cream from McDonald's is healthier because it's budget-friendly.
Healthy Travel Snacks
Now that I'm all grown up and have put my body through the ringer, I actually care a lot about what I eat. I have no problem with splurging a little bit while on vacation, but I don't want to derail my efforts (or my family's health) before we reach our destination. For spring break, my family and I flew to Dublin to visit my husband's family. Long flights provide food, but not everyone is a huge fan of the mystery chicken served on the flight. Even if we went to a place that didn't require flying, unless you plan, you're completely at the mercy of roadside restaurants - most of which are fast food chains, or greasy spoon restaurants attached to gas stations.
Taking long trips is a lot of fun, but travel the wrong way and you could end up feeling sluggish, bloated and retaining fluid - all common culprits of long car rides and flights. Whether you're driving or flying, traveling with kids or traveling on your own, smart snack packing can save you from caving to poor food choices, subsequently gaining weight - or at the very least, suffering from a really, really bad case or sock lines. Here are some easy healthy, pack-n-go suggestions that will keep your body happy:
Note: The list below consists of foods that travel well and are TSA-friendly, getting you through security faster and without question, should you travel by air. It's not exhaustive, but you get the gist...
Sliced Cucumbers (cut into big chunks, not thin, or they get mushy)
Hard Boiled Eggs
Protein Powder (I really like Orgain)
Plain Yogurt (not drinkable)
Air Popped Popcorn
Sweet Potato Chips*
(Needs a little more planning, but slice thinly, coat in a little EVOO, and bake at 300 degrees for 60 minutes, or until crispy. Sprinkle with sea salt).
(store in small container)
Black Bean Dip
Note: Drinkable yogurts and pre-mixed protein drinks will not pass through airport security, so keep foods like this in mind if you're traveling via air.
Food Rules to Follow When Traveling
Here are a few healthy rules of thumb to follow when hitting the road:
1) Water First:
If you're at the airport, this has to wait until after you pass through security, but do your best to drink water before you eat any meal or snack. You'll digest your food better, you're less likely to eat as much and you'll stay hydrated. All three help your body and boost your metabolism. If you happen to be flying, it's especially important. Flying has a way of dehydrating the heck out of a body. You don't need to drink a full bottle of water, but drinking up at least eight ounces (adults) and four ounces (kids) pre-flight.
2) Watch the Sodium:
You don't need to completely avoid salt, but try to go easy on it. A big bag of salty pretzels or chips will probably make you feel a little bloated and uncomfortable by the time the trip is over. Concentrate of foods that are going to keep things moving through your body instead (examples below).
3) Protein is a Plus:
Eat protein and some fat in your snacks. It's easy enough to grab an apple or banana before you hit the road, but you really should try to add protein and healthy fat to your snacks. Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy options (see below).
Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.