Three Ways I Eat Healthy on the Road

I recently spent time with my sister Kris exploring Joshua Tree National Park.

Hiking in the park’s surreal desert landscape among the twisted, spiky Joshua trees, giant granite boulders and abundant wildflowers was truly an eye-popping, soul-nourishing experience.

Wherever I travel, I always do my best to maintain many of my healthy eating practices. Doing so helps ensure I feel good physically and mentally (i.e., not tired, bloated, sluggish, irritable, distracted, etc.), so I can fully enjoy my trip.

Here are three of the ways I eat healthy on the road:

1. Buy Fresh, Local Goods
Before I travel anywhere, I always research local farmers’ markets and producers. I love to explore and experience foods unique to the region, and pick up fresh vegetables, fruits and other wholesome fare to fuel my adventures.

2. Get a Kitchen
Whenever possible, I get a place with a kitchen so I can easily store food and prep meals.

This enables me to balance simple, scratch-made meals with more indulgent fare from local eateries (like the delicious toasted coconut and dark chocolate muffins I discovered at a Joshua Tree cafe).

Before arriving at our Joshua Tree cabin, my sister and I loaded up on groceries for our meals and snacks.

We also hit the Saturday farmers’ market, where we bought bundles of spring asparagus and bunches of leafy greens, including a few varieties we had never tasted before.

We had fun cooking in our tiny kitchen and enjoying new flavors and leisurely meals together.

3. Fly with Food
Whether my flight is one hour or 20 hours, I always expect delays and always pack plenty of food so I don’t have to rely on airport or airplane fare.

A typical in-flight lunch for me is an almond-butter sandwich with a side of sautéed kale. It holds up well and keeps me full for hours.

My sister was grateful I encouraged her to pack both a lunch and dinner for her long flight home. As her first flight was delayed, she had no time between connections to grab dinner at the airport.

Thankfully, along with the nut-butter sandwich and greens she had prepared for lunch, she had also packed a hummus and veggie sandwich for dinner, plus an apple and nuts for snacks.

This prevented her blood sugar, energy and mood from nosediving. And ensured she didn't arrive home a weary, cranky traveler.

My Favorite Airplane Foods

With its delays, tight quarters, stale air, turbulence and quirky seatmates, airplane travel can make a person pretty darn cranky. While you can't control most of this, you can take charge of what you eat.
Whether I'm flying two or 22 hours, I always tote a healthy (and enviable) snack pack instead of relying on the overpriced crap offered at airports and on planes. Doing so ensures I never go hungry or suffer from tummy troubles, sluggish digestion, headaches, energy crashes or mood swings courtesy of low-quality foods.

(I once sat next to an oncologist who commented on my healthy fare as he opened a McDonald's bag. I should have handed him my card!)

Travel Snack Pack Tips
When assembling my snack pack, I follow three simple guidelines:

  1. Healthy: For all the reasons stated above.
  2. Non-perishable: Naturally, for flights longer than an hour or two, you don't want to pack foods that will quickly go bad such as deli meats or mayo-based salads.
  3. Easy: Getting out the door to catch a flight is always a mad scramble. Only include foods that are fast and easy to prep and pack.

My Go-To Flight Foods

Sandwiches (made with firm whole- or sprouted-grain bread or English muffins):

  • Nut butter (e.g., almond, walnut, cashew, pecan, peanut, etc.) with low-sugar jam (long-lasting, these are perfect for international travel)
  • Avocado with cucumber, carrots, sprouts and sunflower seeds
  • Hummus with raw or roasted veggies

Fruit: Sturdy produce, such as apples, pears, oranges, bananas and grapes hold up best. Prep and bag juicy and soft fruits, like oranges or peaches, at home if you want to avoid making a mess on the plane. If the prepped fruit produces a lot of juice, you may need to drain it before going through security or put it in your carry-on liquids bag. You could also easily grab a fruit salad at your local market, as long as it's not watery or security will nab it (or try draining it before going through security).
Veggies: Nothing is simpler than a bag of baby carrots. Sliced cucumber is very refreshing. Raw veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and bell pepper can be purchased precut if pressed for time.
Nuts: Unsalted, raw almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc. are nutritious nibbles. Avoid salty snacks (too dehydrating) and trail mixes loaded with high-sugar dried fruit or chocolate.

Cracker Combos: Whole-grain crackers with nut butter, hard cheese or avocado. I also love pairing almond butter with apple. I always stash a few packets of single-serving nut butters or hummus in my carry-on liquids bag for consumption on the plane or during my trip. (Note: You cannot take a jar of nut butter or container of hummus through security.)

Leftovers: Rather than toss leftovers before I depart, I pack them to go. Grain salads with beans, nuts and veggies as well as veggie side dishes like sautéed kale or Swiss chard with chopped nuts or seeds hold up well. Of course, you can't take liquids like soup.
Energy Bars: For long, international flights, I pack a few low-sugar, high protein energy bars for the return trip home or stuck-in-the-middle-of-nowhere emergencies.

Protein Powders or Green Drink Mixes: For a quick boost, mix with water in your water bottle.
Extras: Small cooler bag, bamboo silverware set, napkins, and an empty water bottle for filling at a post-security airport fountain. (Air travel is extremely dehydrating thus it's important to consume lots of water, fruits and veggies.)
With just a wee bit of effort, you can ensure you arrive at your destination happy, healthy and well-fed.