Travel can bring out the “hangry” in the best of us. With odd transit times, schedules turned upside-down, and regular meals out the window, getting nourishing, satisfying food can be a challenge. While you can’t exactly pack entire meals for your journey (at least, not in most cases), you can stave off grump-making hunger by packing healthy travel snacks. Fortunately, the best ones you can make yourself at home, so dig into these delightfully delicious and spoil-resistant snack ideas to make your next venture a well-fed one.
What makes a spoil-free, healthy travel snack?
Most travelers who think about packing healthy travel snacks consider the taste of their nibbles, but not so much their longevity or nutritional content. Samantha Cassetty, an RN contributor to Better by Today on NBC, notes that first and foremost, snacks should focus on whole foods. These include beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Avoiding foods that have high levels of sodium and sugar is also key, she advises. We would add: Avoid packaged foods altogether and make your own healthy travel snacks, enabling you to bypass the processed food mess you’re likely to face at the grocery store.
Additionally, keep in mind that travel schedules are both hectic and erratic with no hard-and-fast guarantees. You may, indeed, end up following your itinerary to the minute, or you may be flung off course by a day or more. To ensure that the food you pack doesn’t spoil in worst-case scenarios, pick snacks that are largely shelf-stable. You’ll see what we mean below.
Finally, be sure to label snacks clearly if you’re traveling in a group. You never know when bags will be inadvertently swapped or goodies mixed up. To prevent someone else from eating your snacks (or to make sure everyone in your family is getting the snacks they requested), label your containers.
Now, on to those healthy travel snacks:
1: Trail mix
It’s tried and true – for a reason. Purchase the fixin’s for this age-old treat in bulk, then mix and match to your heart’s content. You can even add a little extra salt or other dried seasonings to kick it up a notch. Our favorite combo features almonds, raisins, sunflowers seeds, and walnuts with a touch each of salt and paprika. Just put it all into a Ziploc bag and toss to coat.
This healthy travel snack takes a little more effort to prepare, but is still fairly simple. Combine 2 cups steel-cut oats, 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans, 1/2 cup dried cherries, 1/4 cup flaked coconut, 4 tablespoons melted butter, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and a pinch each of salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Toss to combine. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees – or until the oats start to brown. We recommend stirring the granola halfway through the bake time to ensure everything cooks evenly. When your granola’s cooked, remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet.
3: Charcuterie and aged cheese
While this combo is slightly more perishable that the others on this list, it still holds up – given that the meat is cured and the cheese is aged. Slice up some of your favorite salami or smoked ham and pack it with a few slices of Parmesan or Asiago. You can even toss in some durable crackers (to endure the inevitable jostle of travel). And, if your trek is a bit shorter, you can tack on a little baggy of marinated olives. How’s that for a charcuterie “board” on the fly?
4: Dried fruit and nut butter
More often than not, folks like using nut butter to make their lunchtime sandwiches or otherwise smear it on bread. But they’re missing out. It turns out that a small container of nut butter (we love almond, though peanut and cashew are also delightful) stored in a small container is great with nuggets of dried fruit and the perfect healthy travel snack. Just dip and go! For the best dipping experience, we recommend fruit that is a little bit larger – like dates, figs, or prunes. These also have a lot of fiber so will fill you up quickly and keep you sated.
A warning, though: If you’re buying your nut butter from the store, make sure you check the label first. Many commercial brands have tons of sugar and additives. Be sure you pick one that’s simple and natural; you don’t need added sugar.
5: Energy bar (homemade)
If you’re keen to make your own bars to carry along, we recommend keeping them simple. This recipe is a great start: Mix together 3 cups of quick-cook oats with 1 cup dried fruit (dried cherries, dried cranberries, and raisins all work well) in a bowl. In a small pot, gently warm 1-1/2 cups of smooth peanut butter over low heat until it’s thinned slightly and is easy to work with. Pour over the oat mixture and combine well. Press into a buttered 8×8 pan and put it in the fridge. After a few hours, they’ll be set and you can easily cut your creation into bars.
You could add a number of other ingredients to this recipe, too, including chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, and coconut.
It’s sometimes hard to make sure you have enough protein when you’re on the road. That’s why we recommend carrying some jerky with you. You can make this yourself, but we’re not that industrious, so we recommend buying a variety that’s low in sodium and additives/preservatives. We love salmon jerky, but you could certainly get beef, too.
7: Roasted edamame
Another good source of protein – and a great snack for salt addicts – is roasted edamame. Much like the other ingredients we’ve mentioned (e.g. oats), these serve as a great canvas for whatever flavors you like. We keep it simple by buying a package of soybeans, tossing them in olive oil and salt, then spreading them on a baking pan and roasting in the oven at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes (or until they just start to brown).
Other flavor additions to consider: cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper.
8: Carrots and hummus
An oldie but a goodie, right? Carrots are a pretty durable vegetable – and oh-so-good for you – so they’re a safe bet when packing snacks for the road. Cut them into easy-to-eat spears and pack some hummus to dip them in. As with the peanut butter above, be sure your hummus is as free of sugar and additives as possible – keep it simple, clean, and healthy.
Do you have healthy travel snack ideas you’d like to share? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to the list!