4 Tips to Eat Healthy While Traveling & Best Snacks to Pack From an RD
This Memorial Day Weekend, 39 million people are expected to travel, making it the highest travel weekend for the official start of summer since 2019, or pre-pandemic times. Most of us also want to eat healthy while on the road or in the air, and we need strategies to stick to our best exercise and diet routines while navigating the food court at the airport or the snack shack or gas station quick-stop.
Here, Keri Glassman, RD and founder of the Nutritious Life, shares her best tips for staying healthy on the road, in the air, and at all points in between.
Healthy Travel Tip 1. Stay Hydrated. Bring a 32-Ounce Water Bottle
First of all, you need to stay hydrated, Glassman says. So instead of thinking "don't forget to pack my running shoes," which are also an important piece of equipment, do think:I need my oversized water bottle. Just by carrying a 32 ounce reusable bottle, Glassman says, you can be sure to fill it up before or after you get through security where the TSA check may require you to toss any liquids.
Try to drink at least two full bottles of water if you're flying, which can be dehydrating in the controlled air, so fill up that 32 ounces to get at least 64 ounces, and aim to do that twice a day, Glassman says.
For how much water to drink in a day, calculate half your weight in ounces. If the goal is to lose weight, then drink even more water, since studies have shown that drinking water is a way to stay full and not mistake thirst for hunger.
Bring that water bottle with you and keep it refilled. When going thru TSA fill it up after you get through the security. If you have 32 ounce bottle fill it at least twice a day to get your 64 ounces.
Water not your favorite beverage? Then make a healthy (unsweetened) tea and bring that, Glassman suggests. "I tell people bring your favorite teas with you. I like Traditional Medicinals Teas. You can pack them in your carry on and they take up no space. They make different teas and each one has a benefit that can be helpful on the road, especially the Nighty Night Extra Tea, since it has valerian root which helps mellow you out, so you can get sleep even away from your bed."
Healthy Travel Tip 2: Bring Healthy Snacks with you in Individual Packages
"Bring nonperishable snacks on the plane and the best way to do this is to make your own individual snack packs," Glassman suggests.
- Snacking Olives: Now days you can also buy healthy snacks in nonperishable packaging, like Freestyle Snacks. Look for pitted olives, and enjoy knowing that olives are high in heart-healthy Omega-3s, she adds.
- Nut Butters: Yes, you can bring a small package through security. Look for Justines, Rx Bars and other individual nut butters, she says. Add a small stack of Nut & Seed crackers, or any healthy whole grain crackers.
- Whole Fruit: Bring a single banana, which you can generally find at any hotel restaurant, to go with the nut butters, since it's a great snack packed with fiber and potassium. Other fruit that travels well are apples, oranges, or anything with a peel.
- Dried Fruit or Freeze Dried Fruit: Look for no added sugar and also no added sulfur dioxide, which is sometimes used as a preservative. It can cause headaches in many people.
- Small Packages of Nuts: Buy these or you can make your mixture before you go. Add almonds, pistachios, cashews and walnuts which each are high in fiber and antioxidants
- Dried Chickpeas: A protein-packed crunchy snack are dried chickpea snacks. You can buy them in flavors like BBQ or other, Vienna makes them. Or it's easy to make roasted chickpeas. Simply rinse and dry your chickpeas on a paper towel, then spread evenly on a sheet pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake at 425 for 25 minutes.
- Beet Chips, Kale Chips: You can make your own healthier kale chips before leaving home, and avoid the unhealthy potato chips or snack packs they hand out on the plane. If you are stuck buying, check the quality of the oil on the package. Avoid saturated fats when possible.
- Protein Bars: There are so many good protein bars on the market, check out this list of snack bars that are healthy and taste great. Look for those that are lowest in added sugar or are sweetened naturally with dates or figs.
"If you get stuck in an airport or on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open, you can make a makeshift meal with chickpeas and olives and a piece of fruit, and it's almost a real meal," Glassman says.
Healthy Travel Tip 3: Plan Ahead and look at Restaurants you have access to
"The best way to eat healthy anywhere is to know that you are going out, so look for restaurants that serve plant-based or healthy options and make sure you know what is available," Glassman suggests.
Find a restaurant you want on Happy Cow, which lists all the vegetarian or vegan options near your destination, and check The Beet City Guides, which include restaurant reviews in dozens of US cities that are chock-a-block with healthy plant-based restaurants.
She suggests that if you are prone to having digestive issues while traveling you include Traditional Medicinals' Smooth Move tea. "Sometimes your GI system gets thrown off when you travel, and you can get constipated so this tea acts as an organic laxative and helps relieve occasional constipation," Glassman says, "so it's good to bring with you and use as needed."
Healthy Travel Tip 4: Stick to Your Routine and Be as Consistent as Possible
There are four pillars of a healthy life, that I teach at Nutritiouslife.com. One is eating healthy and being mindful of food choices, and the another is daily exercise. A third is sleep and a fourth is stress relief. If you know you are going to be someplace stressful, like with family, take time to meditate every morning, even before you get out of bed.
"Of course on vacation some things are going to give. All the pillars don't have to be perfect, she reminds us. but do the best you can. You don't have to to all of those things (like eat healthy) as well on vacation as you do at home -- but you want to keep as consistent as possible.
If you are in Italy, for instance, you are going to enjoy the local fare, because it's delicious. But then you'll probably want to make sure you are getting in all your steps, or maybe even more," she tells us.
"If you're in the mountains you're hopefully getting out and hiking but you may also be enjoying more alcohol at night with friends. It's a balance, but generally keep your habits as consistently healthy as possible," for a healthy, safe and enjoyable holiday.
Bottom Line: You Can Stay Healthy While Traveling With a Little Planning Ahead
When you hit the road or head to the airport, bring your large water bottle and a few healthy snacks in order to stick to your best efforts to be healthy while traveling, says Keri Glassman, RD. Try to stay as consistent as possible and you'll have a healthy, happy holiday weekend.
For more nutrition advice, check out Ask the Expert articles on The Beet, where doctors, nutritionists and other expert professionals share helpful tips on how to stay healthy and eat more plant-based.