19 August 2014 Easy Travel Snacks for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

The summer is coming to an end but many of you still have a vacation or long weekend to enjoy. This post includes ideas for healthier snacks that travel well for plane, train, and cars. Some of these snacks are somewhat processed but compared to buying from service stations, vending, or from the train or plane service, they fare pretty well in terms of calories and sodium content. Sometimes damage control is a worthy focus! These choices are also convenient for all types of travel, including air travel that excludes use of coolers, liquids, and gels. And these choices are also calories and carb controlled when consumed in typical portion sizes listed on their labels.

Protein

Jerky. This is not your father's jerky - there are many healthful options for all different types of creatures from both land and sea. Jerky will be mostly dried protein with seasoning but not necessarily high in salt - it depends upon the brand and flavor. My current favorite is Krave's Black Cherry BBQ Pork. My other favorite is salmon jerky - any brand. Most jerky will contain about 90 calories ,11-15 grams protein, and anywhere between 300 mg - 700 mg sodium per ounce.

Tuna/Salmon/Chicken/Turkey To Go or Snack Packs. Sure these can be a bit high in sodium, but they are easy, portable, nonperishable until opened, and contain protein for a reasonable caloric and dollar cost. For the snack packs that are “salads” with crackers, most will contain about 150-200 calories, 10-14 grams protein, and 15 grams total carbs. The containers with just fish will be lower in calories and higher in protein but good luck eating that in an enclosed space without complaints!

Cheese Sticks or Rounds. These are perishable but they travel well unrefrigerated for about 4 hours or more. If you freeze them before travel, they will easily last an entire day of travel. You don’t need to buy the rubbery mozzarella sticks – there are many aged cheeses as well as reduced fat cheese to choose from. My favorite is Tillamook’s Cheddar Tilla-Moos. Most cheese sticks or mini rounds will contain about 60 (reduced fat) - 80 calories (aged) and 5-6 grams protein.

Protein Supplemented Products. Protein bars are fairly processed foods but they can come in handy when you are really hungry and do not have access to other foods. Most high protein/lower carb bars contain about 200 calories and 15 grams or more of protein. Adding protein powder is a lower calories tactic to bump up protein grams but powders require a good mixer or shaker to fully dissolve. If you are traveling by train or car, then consider high protein/low carb prepackaged shakes as they are nonperishable until opened. My favorite is Light or regular Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème or Banana Crème given very little if any aftertaste. See this post at MyNetDiary for more info on protein supplements.

Fruit

Whole apples. Apples travel well, do not have to be refrigerated, do not bruise easily, and can be eaten without washing one’s hands if they are held carefully at the ends. They are not “drippy” fruits. The core needs to be thrown out but it is small and can fit into a small plastic baggy. One small – medium size contains about 60-80 calories and 15 grams of total carbs.

Grapes. Grapes travel well in plastic baggies. They are less likely to burst than berries and you can eat the entire fruit without having to dispose of seeds or pits. If you hold the baggy while pushing out the grapes, you can eat these without having to wash your hands. About 12 small-medium grapes contain about 60 calories and 15 grams of total carbs.

Dried fruit. Forget candy, pack lightweight dried fruit instead – just use portion control to limit both excess calories and carbs. The dried fruits below are usually made without any added oil or sugar and contain about 60 calories and 15 grams total carbs:

  • Prunes or Dried Plums (3 medium) – perfect if you suffer from constipation
  • Dried Figs (3 medium) – also great for constipation
  • Dried Apricots (6 small or 3-4 medium) – delicious with cheese

Nuts & Seeds

Most people think of nuts and seeds as protein foods, but by calories, they are mostly healthy fats with some protein. Nuts and seeds travel well since they are nonperishable, lightweight, and are satisfying while also being nutritious. Use portion control to limit calories and choose unflavored styles (e.g. avoid BBQ, chocolate covered, etc.) to limit added sodium and sugar. There is not one single type of nut or seed you should consume for health – mix it up according to taste. One ounce (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons) on average will contain 150-170 calories and 4-6 grams of protein and only 1-3 grams of fiber.

Peanut Butter Squeeze Packets. Squeeze packets are extremely easy to use – they do not require a utensil to spread, take up less space, and are lighter and less messy than bringing a jar of nut butter. There are many brands to choose from, include natural and organic nut butters (not just peanut butter). Most packets will contain about an ounce, 170-180 calories, 7-8 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber.

Veggies

Fresh veggies are perishable but if you consume them the same day that you pack them then you are good for a day unrefrigerated at room temperature. The trick with veggies is to clean and slice them at home and store in frig until it is time to travel. These veggies travel well since they do not bruise easily, do not brown quickly, and have a nice refreshing taste that can help quench your thirst: sliced sweet peppers, zucchini sticks, or carrot sticks. You can buy bagged baby carrots to save time.

Sweets

Some of us want to indulge a bit during travel. Instead of blowing tons of calories on junk food, consider these indulgent treats instead. Warning, these treats do NOT travel well in high heat but do fine at room temperature.

Chocolate Covered Prunes. Not a high risk for overeating since they move the bowels (i.e. you will have loose stools or diarrhea if you binge on these babies). My favorite is Sunsweet PlumSweets – 1/4 cup serving contains 150 calories. If you are trying to limit your snack to 1 carb choice (11-20 grams total carbs), then 3 level tablespoons will contain about 115 calories and 19 grams total carbs.

Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans. Not a high risk for overeating unless you are impervious to caffeine. Great for a little pick me up and less calories-dense than chocolate covered nuts or just chocolate. One ounce contains about 130-150 calories and 15 grams total carbs. Bigger beans will have a lower calories density than smaller beans since there is more espresso bean than chocolate per weight.

Extra Dark Chocolate. Choose 70% cacao or higher content chocolate and limit to 1 ounce (about 1/3 of a standard high quality chocolate bar). One ounce is about 170 calories and 15 grams total carbs (1 carb choice).

Water

It is easy to forget to hydrate while traveling. If you are traveling by plane, consider using a collapsible plastic bottle. You can fill up the bottle at a water fountain once you pass airport security. My favorite for plane travel and sightseeing is the Vapur brand ½ liter collapsible container – it fits perfectly in my travel purse, is not too heavy when filled to capacity and it NEVER LEAKS!

If you are traveling by car and have a little extra room, then consider traveling with an ice chest or chest cooler to expand your options for healthier snacks and drinks. Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Snacks Travel/"Planes, Trains, & Automobiles"

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