The Best Travel Foods For Keeping Your ‘Runger’ at Bay!
With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us are making plans, purchasing our plane tickets, and gearing up to travel to see family and friends. Celebrating with the people we love the most is one of the best ways to ring in a holiday. But that also often means a lot of time spent on the road in a car (usually stuck in vacation travel traffic), in an airport, on a plane, or just a lot of downtime lounging around at Grandma’s that we are not usually accustomed to. As runners, our hunger is NO JOKE – especially if you have a big race on the calendar at the beginning of the New Year, and so are not really taking much time off during November and December. When we are at home and on our typical routines, most of us have access to wholesome, nutritious and filling meals to keep us fueled and satiated throughout our busy days. But when our schedules are thrown off and we are “out of our elements,” finding satisfying foods can be a bit trickier.
Best Foods for the Car
Traveling by car definitely has its pros and cons. While you can’t get up and walk around or stretch your legs after an 8-hour bout on the highway, traveling by car offers a lot of flexibility in what kinds and types of snacks and drinks you can bring along because you can pack a cooler full of ice and keep refrigerated foods cold. While a healthy diet consists of ALL macronutrients (i.e. fats, carbs, and protein), and you should be making sure your meals (and snacks, if possible) are balanced so as to help you feel fuller and more satisfied, the secret to helping a growling tummy make it through to the next meal is protein. This is because protein helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. (Fat will do this as well, but a serving of carbs only lasts for about an hour before your body will start sending signals that it is time to eat again.)
A refrigerated cooler allows you to pack foods like pre-cooked meats and dairy products, which are both generally excellent sources of protein. Boiled eggs are a great option, so long as you boil them in advance, then refrigerate them overnight and store them in airtight containers, to help reduce the “eggy” smell (otherwise, your whole car will end up smelling sulfur which is NOT pleasant!) Before you hit the road, grill or bake up some chicken breasts, and bring along tortillas to have a simple and satisfying chicken wrap snack. (Another option that might take a bit more prep work, but is manageable is making a breakfast sandwich at home and wrapping it up in tin foil and storing it in the cooler for the road. Using a light English muffin, scrambled egg whites, turkey bacon or sausage, and some mustard or guacamole/avocado spread, you can have an absolutely delicious, nutritious, and satisfying roadside snack!)
Having milk or protein drinks on hand can really help amp up your protein intake while keeping excessive calorie intake at bay. You can easily find single serving sizes of low-fat milk or protein drinks (usually around 12 to 20-ounce servings) in the supermarket and at gas stations. Another excellent option is to pack individual Greek yogurt or cottage cheese singles. These are tasty and have a ton of protein. Not to mention, they can easily be mixed with other travel-friendly stales like peanut butter, fruit, or granola to take your snacking to the next level. Finally, fruits are a great option, so long as you plan to eat them within a day or two of embarking on travel (opt to use fruits for a healthy carb source on the road, alongside your protein snacks).
Best Foods for the Airport and Plane
Traveling by air and packing snacks and food can be a bit trickier because 1) you don’t have the convenience of a refrigerator or cooler and 2) airport security and TSA can be a real buzzkill when it comes to which foods they allow through the security line. Fortunately, not all hope is lost if you plan ahead and make sure you have these staples in tow before you fly.
- Packaged Tuna: tuna packets (not cans – unless they are peel-able can lid with a pop top, you will not have a way to open them because can openers are not allowed through security) are easily transportable, chock full of protein, and quite versatile. They stand alone well (if you can snag a plastic fork from somewhere) but also can be mixed into a salad or spread on sandwich bread purchased upon getting through security.
- Trail Mix or Nuts: nuts, and especially a trail mix that contains nuts plus a form of carbs like dried raisins, pretzels, and even chocolate chips, are great options for packing for a plane. They can easily be stuffed into side luggage pouches and provide a great source of fat and protein (with trail mix, you get a really balanced portion of all three macronutrients.
- Self-Packed Protein Portions: Sometimes, especially at smaller airports, security will confiscate protein powders that come pre-packaged because they can’t open them to test them for suspicious chemicals/ingredients. If you pack them yourself in Tupperware or baggies, they can easily be opened, tested by security, and pass through.
- Meat Jerky: jerky is great because it has so much protein for so few calories, relatively speaking. It’s especially great for those crazy travel days when you only have enough time during a layover to spring to your next gate. They will hold you over for quite a while. Beware though – they are extremely high in sodium and so the salt levels will leave you extremely thirsty!
Best Foods for Having on Hand When Staying Overnight Somewhere
Finally, there are a few foods that we’re calling “ancillary” foods – think of them as ‘support’ foods, meaning they work best when paired alongside other foods that might be more difficult to pack but are nutritious and delicious, and will help you keep to your nutrition goals while traveling. If you’re staying over at someone’s house, or are in a place where, once you’re settled, you can get to the grocery store for other foods that you can’t easily travel with, these ancillary foods are great to have on hand (especially so that you don’t have to buy them again and once you’re there, and spend more money).
The first is peanut butter, which is great on a ton of things (and though we’re calling it an ancillary food, it’s perfectly lovely spooned straight out of the jar as well!) You can top everything from bread to fruit and veggies to yogurt parfaits and smoothie and cereal bowls. Others include small sizes of condiments that haven’t been opened yet. While these aren’t necessarily protein-packed snacks, they make sandwiches and other meals much more satisfying – which, in turn, is beneficial for you. Finally, hummus is a terrific option (that travels much better than similar dips, like guacamole). Hummus is low in calories but high in taste – and pairs well with a whole list of foods that you can usually find in a host’s pantry.