Healthy snacks for planes, trains and cars

Over the river and through the woods, if only it were that simple. For most people, traveling means waiting in the blink of an eye at an airport or train station, or driving for hours. At some point you’ll want a snack.

A healthy snack while in transit can be tricky. Grab-and-go options are likely to be processed or ultra-processed foods that are higher in fat, higher in sodium and lower in fiber, said Kayli Anderson, a registered dietitian and faculty member at the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Deviating from your usual routine while traveling can lead to unpredictable hunger spikes, he added. And, for example, the rush of a plane or train journey can make it difficult to sit down for a meal.

Boredom eating is also common on long trips, said Shona Halson, a professor and behavioral scientist at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane. Studies have shown that being bored can increase the desire to snack and the desire to eat unhealthy foods.

The occasional suboptimal snack day isn’t a big deal, Ms. Anderson said: One bad snack, or even one whole trip’s worth of meals, won’t make or break your health. But if eating well on the go is a priority, here are some expert strategies and suggestions.

The key to snacking on the road is to plan ahead, said Christopher Taylor, professor of medical dietetics and family medicine at The Ohio State University. If you can become less reactive, that gives you a big leg up.

You pack your toothbrush. Also pack your snacks, echoed Boston University clinical nutrition professor Joan Salge Blake.

The nuts are Ms. Salge Blakes Choice. They’re heart-healthy and a source of fiber, which most Americans lack in their diets, he said. Pistachios are her favorite because, unlike many other nuts, they are a complete source of protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. But all nuts contain protein, which helps you feel full, he added.

He also recommended packing dried fruits like apricots and raisins because they are a source of potassium and fiber. Eat fruit and nuts together for a great sweet and savory snack, she said.

Lisa Young, a registered dietitian in private practice in New York City, said hummus with veggie sticks, carrots, bell peppers, jicama and celery tops my list. Chickpeas in hummus are another complete protein.

If you’re traveling by car, being able to pack your own cooler is an advantage, Dr Taylor said. He suggested stocking up on protein-rich foods like cold chicken or hard-boiled eggs. Nut sandwiches made with whole-wheat bread are another healthy choice, she said.

If pre-packing snacks isn’t realistic, many airports and train terminals now have market-like grocery stores that sell produce and salads, and grocery stores are an easy alternative to gas stations when you’re driving somewhere. Many places have healthier prepared foods, such as bento boxes with vegetables and hummus, Anderson said.

Dr. Taylor recommended trail mix as a relatively healthy, satisfying and convenient option that you can find almost anywhere.

Mrs. Salge Blake voted for seeds, especially pumpkin and sunflower. Like nuts, they’re a good source of fiber, protein and potassium, she said. She suggested adding seeds or trail mix to store-bought yogurt protein-rich Greek yogurt if you can find it for a parfait.

When it comes to energy or protein bars, choose those with nuts, seeds or fruit at the top of the ingredients list, Ms Salge Blake said. I love KIND bars, she said. But any bar that’s high in nuts contains protein and fiber.

If you want a healthier alternative to chips, Anderson said to look for dried beans like dried chickpeas or edamame.

Dr. Young likes popcorn, which is whole grain and contains fiber. He suggested making your own at home with an air popper, but said he also likes the Skinny Pop brand.

And if you’re wondering what to drink, all the experts recommended plain water (no surprise). My other drinks are unsweetened iced tea or flavored sparkling water, said Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. These help keep you hydrated and have no added sugar calories, she said.

Above all, when you’re snacking on the go, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, Ms. Anderson said.

Eating different foods can be a fun and enjoyable part of traveling, he added. You don’t want to miss out on micromanaging too much.

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