Here I am gazing out at the turquoise waters of Turks and Caicos, where I’ve come with family for a respite from a (very) cold, grey December in Toronto. In fact, I travel a lot, both for my work as a registered dietitian and for vacation, and that means I have my travel snack game down to a science.
I don’t always have a lot of say in what I eat while I’m traveling or even when I'm at my destination. Of course, this is one of the most exciting things about traveling to a new place—trying local foods and cuisine—but depending on where I’m headed and how long I'm in cars, airplanes, shuttles, and trains, is it can also be pretty inconvenient. So I like to manage things a bit by bringing my own food for the flight. I always have some left over for my hotel room, too, which is great for between-meal bites and just to stash when I’m on the go in an unfamiliar city.
I like to choose things that are (mostly) nutritious, non-smelly (as a courtesy to the other passengers trapped in the plane with me), leak-proof, smash-proof, and of course, delish. Fruit is out of the question though because when I’m traveling out of Canada, it will get confiscated if it’s discovered.
Here are some of my faves (along with tips and technique):
My airport sandwich
These sandwiches are celebrities on my Instagram. I pack one almost every time I travel, because I usually leave in the early morning, and they’re a substantial portable meal that I eat either at the airport before I leave, or on the plane.
Making a sandwich that is delicious and travels well is part art, part science, and I believe I’ve mastered both. My sammies are usually meatless, so they last longer without refrigeration, and consist of either black beans, chickpeas, or cheddar with toppings like avocado, tomato, and various greens. The bread is always Ezekiel, because it’s made with sprouted grains, which I love. It also doesn’t get soggy easily, because the slices are really hearty and rough. To prevent sog, I usually make the sandwich before I leave or late the night before, and I insulate the bread with a layer of mayo and/or avocado. Another sog-free tip: put the tomato slices on in the morning before you go. Like I said: part art, part science.
For the sammie you see above, I tossed leftover chickpeas into the food processor with cumin, olive oil, ancho chili, smoked paprika, salt, and dried apricots (key ingredient, don't skip 'em). I spread the mixture on Ezekiel bread, added sliced avocado and tomato, and voilà.
Whole unsalted nuts
As far as I'm concerned nuts are the ultimate travel snack. I usually pack a bag of my current fave (it usually rotates between almonds and walnuts) and I bring enough to keep in my hotel room wherever I’m going. I recently went to Italy, and I brought a huge bag of mixed nuts. When I got there, I replenished it with a local offering—walnuts from Turin. They were so different than American walnuts—bigger and paler, but so good! Nuts are full of healthy fats, protein, and fiber, and they’re basically the most portable, non-perishable snack on earth. I always choose unsalted ones because flying makes me (and many of us, tbh) so bloated, the last thing I need is salty food before I get on an airplane.
Hummus and pretzels
I’ve found travel containers of hummus and pretzels in every American airport from Alaska to Montana to Florida, and they’re also available on a lot of flights. Of course, you can also pack some at home in a reusable container, or buy a single-serve portion for your trip. Hummus is a great source of protein, and the pretzels are perfect for dipping. You can get in some extra veggies by packing baby carrots and other veggies to eat with the hummus.
Storebought or homemade bars
Nutrition and snack bars are another go-to for snacking on my travels. They’re another non-perishable food that I bring everywhere and keep in my hotel room for between-event snacking. My faves are Luna Protein, KIND, and RXBar, but really, you can even make your own if you want. Buy them before you leave; they’re super-expensive at the airport!
Packets of nut butters
It doesn't get simpler than this. Alongside my whole nuts, I also stuff my carry-on bag with individual serving-sized packets of nut butter. These have totally saved me from starving on several occasions, and they’re really nourishing and filling. Just rip open the top and suck out the contents (while nobody’s looking, because it’s not super attractive!), or use the nut butter on fruit, bread, or in oatmeal. I love how these packets take up next to no space in my bag, too.
There are some really great oatmeal cups out there that taste good and are lower in sugar. Many of them are locally sourced, but Quaker makes them, too, which means they're readily available in lots of places. They’re easy to pack, either in your carry-on bag or your suitcase, and all they need is some boiling water (a flight attendant will give you hot water and plenty of hotels make it easy to boil your own). Take a nut butter packet and squeeze it into the oats once they’re rehydrated, toss in some nuts, and you’re all set.