Travel is hectic, sometimes stressful and always an easy way to get off track with your healthy diet. That is—if you don’t prepare for it. While airport food is getting healthier thanks consumer demand, it’s never smart to rely on the foods you’ll find between flights or along the interstate as you drive to your destination. What you’ll find is likely anything but healthy—and you’ll end up compromising, noshing on something you’d never normally eat. Think: greasy burgers, processed snacks and sketchy egg salad sandwiches.
Avoid this problem altogether by prepping healthy food for your holiday travel. Making salads, packing a to-go picnic, and stocking up on healthy, pre-packaged items will help you stay on track, while boosting hydration and your energy. Here’s what you need to know as you prep healthy options for your holiday travels this year.
1. Get the right containers
The right food containers make it possible to bring the healthy foods you want to eat without compromising. For example, small containers allow you to bring your favorite homemade dressing instead of buying processed dressing packs from an airport shop. You can also use small containers to keep wet items separated from dry ingredients until you’re ready to eat, like chopped tomatoes in a salad or pickles for your sandwich.
Containers with separated spaces are great for packing a whole meal. You can also try trendy mason jar meals. These allow you to build salads or healthy grain dishes, separating wet from dry, and keeping it that way, until you’re ready. Just add your dressing, shake and enjoy.
Try these mason jar salads or use them for inspiration:
2. Stock up on water-rich foods
If you’re flying, your body will be craving water. Airplanes dehydrate us as air from outside the plane is circulated through the cabin. This causes humidity to drop 10 to 20 percent, as reported by Travel + Leisure, and means you’ll need more water than normal. Boost your intake with more H2O and water-rich snacks, like watermelon, celery, tomatoes, spinach, cucumber, iceberg lettuce and cantaloupe.
Bring a water-rich salad with you, combining lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, or dice up a container full of melon for a sweet, mid-flight treat that will also appease your parched palate.
3. Pack a travel picnic
The key with pre-packing food is bringing items that won’t go bad or taste weird without refrigeration. In many cases, these food items are the same ones that you might grab when you’re planning a picnic at the local park; finger foods that create a filling meal when eaten together. Here are a few foods to toss into your travel bag for a mid-flight “picnic:”
- Cheese sticks
- Dried fruit
- Fresh fruit like grapes and bananas
- Dried meat (think, jerky)
- Sliced veggies
4. Pre-cook cold dishes
There are many make-ahead dishes that are better cold, which are perfect for traveling, when you don’t have anything to reheat with. When you have a full dish, you’ll also be sure to get plenty to eat—and won’t have to fall back on gas station or airport food to keep you full between locations.
You don’t have to rely on salads either. Cold sesame noodles, for example, are both filling and are tasty enough to feel like a treat. You can also load them up with veggies and use gluten-free noodles to get plenty of protein, carbohydrates and fiber, keeping you full all day long. Check out this cold brown rice noodle sesame salad recipe.
5. Purchase easy-to-pack snacks
Cooking and packing a bunch of food is not only time-consuming, but the containers may take up a lot of space in your bag. Maximize the minimal room you have by stocking up on healthy, pre-packaged snacks that can sneak into small pockets, like nut butter packs, protein bars, energy balls, trail mix and roasted nut packs. Better yet, pack more than you’ll need for the day of travel so you’ll have easy, go-to snacks during the entire time you’re gone.
When choosing these snacks, focus on those that are protein heavy, low in sugar and sodium, and have minimal preservatives and additives.
6. Check container sizes
Foods like yogurt and nut butter is perfect for a mid-flight snack, but they’ll get tossed at security if they’re not below the liquid maximum of 3.4 ounces. Look for snack-size containers of your favorite items, or pack your own in leak-free containers. If this isn’t possible, bring healthy toppings for your favorite items like yogurt, and then buy the yogurt when you arrive.
Eat Healthy on the Go
Spend the evening before your trip prepping foods to bring with you, or stocking up on healthy, pre-packaged snacks. Don’t forget about the 3.4-ounce limit so you don’t lose anything while getting through security and remember to choose containers that will help keep your food fresh for as long as possible. When you arrive at your destination, you’ll feel healthy, energized and ready to celebrate.