Healthy Snacks for Planes, Trains and Cars

Over the river and in the forest if it were that easy. For most people, travel involves a dizzying wait at an airport or train station, or hours of driving. At some point, you want a snack.

Snacking in transit can be tricky. Grab-and-go options tend to be processed or ultra-processed foods that are higher in fat, higher in sodium and lower in fiber, says Kayli Anderson, a registered dietitian and faculty member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Deviating from your routine when you travel can lead to an unexpected increase in hunger, he adds. And the time pressures of rushing to catch a flight or train, for example can make it difficult to sit down for a meal.

Boredom eating is also common on long trips, says Shona Halson, a professor and behavioral science researcher at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane. Research has shown that being bored can increase the desire to snack, as well as the urge to eat unhealthy foods.

An occasional suboptimal snack day isn’t a big deal, Ms. Anderson: One bad snack or even an entire trip’s worth of food won’t make or break your health. But if eating well on the road is a priority, here are some expert strategies and suggestions.

The key to a snack trip is planning ahead, says Christopher Taylor, a professor of medical dietetics and family medicine at Ohio State University. If you can be less reactive, it will give you a big step forward.

Pack your toothbrush. Pack your snacks, too, echoed Joan Salge Blake, a clinical professor of nutrition at Boston University.

The nuts must be chosen by Ms. Salge Blakes. They’re heart-healthy and a source of fiber, which most Americans lack in their diets, he said. Pistachios are his 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, she adds.

He also recommends packing dried fruits such as apricots and raisins, for example because they are a source of potassium and fiber. Eat fruit and nuts together and you have a great sweet and savory snack, she says.

Lisa Young, a registered dietitian in private practice in New York, says hummus with veggie sticks carrots, red pepper, jicama, celery is at the top of 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, says Dr. Taylor. He suggests stocking up on protein-rich foods like cold chicken or hard-boiled eggs. Nut-butter sandwiches made with whole-grain bread are another healthy choice, she said.

If packing snacks in advance isn’t realistic, many airports and train terminals now have market-like food 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, Ms. Anderson.

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

Ms. Salge Blake voted for seeds, specifically pumpkin and sunflower. Like nuts, they’re a good source of fiber, protein and potassium, he said. He suggests adding seeds or trail mix to store-bought protein-rich Greek yogurt, if you can find it to make a parfait.

When it comes to energy or protein bars, choose ones with nuts, seeds or fruit at the top of their ingredients list, says Ms. Salge Blake. I love KIND bars, he said. But any bar with lots of nuts will have some protein and fiber in it.

If you want a healthier alternative to potato chips, Ms. Anderson says she looks for dried bean snacks, like dried chickpeas or edamame.

Dr. likes Popcorn is young, which is a whole grain and contains fiber. He suggests making your own at home with an air popper, but says he also likes the Skinny Pop brand.

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

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

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

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