7 nutritious snack choices to make while traveling


by Angela Finn, MS, RD

Jul 10, 2024

Traveling, whether by car or plane, often has its challenges—especially when it comes to sticking to your nutrition and wellness goals. Stopping by a fast-food restaurant, gas station or airport kiosk often seems like the only option to fuel our bodies when traveling. But with a bit of planning and knowledge, it’s entirely possible to enjoy nutritious and satisfying snacks on the go.

Convenience foods: Airports and drive-thrus

An airport may only offer the opportunity to grab pre-packaged snacks from the convenience store, as could a gas station. Look for options with minimal added sugars, sodium and artificial ingredients, such as:

  • Single-serve bento box, providing several food groups such as cheese, fruit and crackers
  • Fruit cup in water or natural juice, paired with a cheese stick of your choice
  • Low-sodium jerky
  • Mixed peanuts or tree nuts

If given more time and accessibility, you might find yourself able to sit down quickly for a meal at a fast-food restaurant or you might make your way through a drive-thru. With these options, consider your opportunity to:

  • Lean into controlling your portions by ordering a small fry instead of a large fry
  • Pair your meal choice with a vegetable or fruit, instead of fries

Lastly, staying hydrated is crucial during travel. Pack a refillable water bottle and aim to drink water regularly throughout your journey. When you can, consider ordering water rather than a sugar- or calorie-filled beverage, and don’t shy away from refreshing alternatives such as herbal teas or sparkling water with a slice of citrus.

7 nutritious food choices while traveling

Non-perishables food choices

  1. Nuts and seeds trail mix
  2. Trail mix can pack in protein, healthy fats and fiber! Choose unsalted varieties, if you can, to keep sodium intake in check and pair with your favorite fruit. You can prepare your own trail mix with a combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruits and even a small bit of dark chocolate for a touch of sweetness.

  3. Fresh fruits and vegetables
  4. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a quick and easy way to boost your hydration intake, vitamins and minerals, and fiber. Many of these options don’t require refrigeration, but if there is space in your packed lunch bag or cooler, why not include choices like berries, carrots and celery, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower or mini bell peppers.

  5. Protein bars
  6. There is a difference between an energy bar and a protein bar. The biggest key here is to look for bars that are low in added sugars (I suggest 10g or less per serving), and instead, high in protein and fiber.

    Cooler-friendly food choices

  7. Greek yogurt
  8. Packed with protein, probiotics and calcium, Greek yogurt can pair well with a sprinkle of nuts, your favorite fruit slices and maybe some cinnamon or a drizzle of honey. Already prepared Greek yogurt is an option, too, just keep an eye out for added sugars.

  9. Whole grain crackers or rice cakes
  10. Fiber-rich carbohydrates for energy, whole grain crackers or rice cakes can pair well with single servings of nut-butter, hummus, cheese or fruit slices.

  11. Hard-boiled eggs
  12. Believe it or not, I have seen packaged hard-boiled eggs at a gas station before. This may not be a crowd favorite due to the smell, but hard-boiled eggs are not only portable, they’re also packed with high-quality protein and essential vitamins and minerals.

  13. Sandwiches
  14. Without a doubt, sandwiches can be an easy and portable vessel to consume a variety of nutrients already described throughout this list. Start with a protein of choice (I suggest lean turkey or chicken) and add vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers and a slice of cheese in between whole-wheat bread or wrap.

Mindful eating habits on the go

Whether you’re set up for success with your own packed snacks and foods, or you’re limited by a single vending machine or late-night drive-thru, it can be helpful to practice mindful, intuitive eating habits while traveling.

Take time to enjoy your snacks and meals, chew slowly, and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Swallowing completely before taking sips of water in between bites can be a handy tip to pack with you on your next travels. Ultimately, the key is to slow down, as this can help prevent overeating and promote both physical satiety and mental satisfaction.

Keep in mind that sometimes food may not be the most optimal choice for practicing wellness. Sometimes our choices will be so limited that we may need to shift our focus to other healthy habits, such as hydration, creatively fitting steps into our day or winding down with a refreshing shower and some deep breathing.

If you’re looking for nutrition support to help you achieve your wellness goals, even while traveling, connect with a dietitian today.

About the Author

Angela Finn, MS, RD, is a clinical program manager at Baylor Scott & White Quality Alliance.

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