The Best Healthy Snacks for Travel
Snacking on the road is such sweet suffering. I always leave it until the last moment and then just decide I’ll buy things at a gas station or at the airport. And then when I get there I’m bombarded with aisles and kiosks of sugary, high-calorie/low-quality goodness that I convince myself I can stock up on because I’m “on a trip, it’s a special occasion”.
And that would be all well and good if I chose one or two treats. But suddenly everything I eat for the duration of my travel is cheap fast food and treats and suddenly I still feel hungry or unsatisfied while simultaneously feeling so bloated and ill from overindulging because I’m not choosing healthy snacks for travel.
The good news is, there is a solution. And it’s probably a little easier on my wallet too.
If I stock up on snacks before I leave, not only am I saving money, but I’m preplanning and will make fewer impulse decisions. In the moment I want chocolate and chips. But if I lay it out beforehand, I can get excited about far healthier options that will save my poor stomach.
So whether you’re looking for ideas of what to take with you hiking, or on a day tour of a city, or travelling on airplanes, or even on a road trip, we’ve got you covered. And the best thing is, these snacks are not just for travel. These are great when you’re at home or at work as well!
So here are some of the best healthy snacks for travel.
Pros: Vegan Friendly, Don’t need special storage
Cons: Need to find hot water, must be eaten with utensils
Oatmeal? I know it doesn’t sound very travel friendly, but there are endless instant oatmeal cups out there that you just need to add hot water to. If you’re on a road trip, or in the city, you can stop in any gas station or restaurant and get hot water for free. When on a plane, you can also ask for hot water. All you need to do then is add it to your oatmeal cup, wait a few minutes, and voila! Oatmeal!
Oatmeal, if you make sure to choose brands without much added sugar, is both filling and healthy. You can add toppings of your choosing to keep it interesting as well.
You don’t even have to use preportioned/flavoured oatmeal cups. Save yourself even more money by buying a large bag of instant oats that you bring with you in reusable Tupperware. Better for the environment and your wallet!
The only situation in which this may be a less than ideal snack would be hiking. In that case, you would need to carry a thermos of hot water with you, which is extra baggage.
Pros: Vegan friendly, Don’t need special storage, Finger food!
Cons: Can contain too much sodium, Easy to overeat, Can be messy if they’re not de-shelled
Nuts are a classic hiking snack and for good reason! They are packed with protein and energy, and they are very easy to carry with you and eat on the go. You can purchase pre-portioned and seasoned nuts, but you may find it more cost-effective in the long run to buy a larger bag and portion it yourself. This also allows you to make use of more reusable packaging once again. Seasoning them yourself can prevent too much sodium, which tends to be a trend in the prepackaged nuts.
If you’re like me, and you tend to eat small snacks very quickly, a great way to slow yourself down with nuts is to get them in the shells. I love pistachios in their shells. It forces me to slow down and I feel more satisfied because I spend twenty minutes eating a handful of nuts, rather than two minutes.
If you want to go all the way, eat your nuts in trail mix! Although I do find that if you’re in a car, the seeds can get everywhere quite quickly. Also, the dried fruit can be high in sugar and the little bits often get stuck in your teeth which is why trail mix, though excellent, did not make the list of BEST healthy snacks for travel.
Pros: Vegetarian friendly, Finger food, Slows sugar-breakdown with fruit and veg
Cons: Not vegan friendly, Can only be stored for so long without being chilled
Cheese is amazinggggg! It’s delicious, filled with protein, and it makes the world go ’round. It goes great with fruit and vegetables (another item further down this list) and tastes great on its own. You can get cheese sticks, Babybel cheese wheels, spreadable cheese, you name it. I like to buy a block of cheese and slice it up to take with me as a snack. It’s often cheaper than the Babybel or Cheese Strings/Sticks, in terms of getting more cheese for your buck. And you can use it for other things like cooking. Just check before crossing international borders that it is permitted through customs.
Pros: Protein, Finger food, Don’t need special storage
Cons: Not vegetarian or vegan friendly, High sodium usually
Jerky is one of my all-time favourite snacks. It doesn’t require refrigeration. It qualms the salt cravings. It provides protein and energy. It is just A++. Even better if you can get homemade or organic jerky. One time at a cast party for a musical in high school, I ate so much of the homemade deer jerky that the hosts sent me home with a bag.
Looking back, embarrassing really, but hey. I was seventeen and loved eating. And really loved the jerky.
I still do. I haven’t tried many kinds, really only beef, deer, maybe moose?, and reindeer. I did try fish jerky once and I will never do so again.
With jerky, like cheese, you should make sure it’s allowed across international borders if your travel includes it. Otherwise, you’ll just have to eat it quickly before you cross.
Pros: Vegan friendly, Finger food, Some have their own biodegradable “packaging”
Cons: Some can be messy, Some may only last a little while without refrigeration
Fresh fruit and vegetables are something we can rarely get too much of. Out of everything on this list, this is probably the one section that it’s super okay for you to eat too much of. Some fruits and veggies fair better for travel than others. Bananas, apples, and mini oranges (clementines and mandarins), tangerines, plums, and pairs are all excellent because they can be thrown right in your bag. They’re easy to eat and peel in some cases and don’t require you to cut them up or eat them with a utensil. Grapes and other berries are wonderful if stored properly.
Peaches, navel oranges, pineapple, pomegranate, dragon fruit, and others may require a little pre-preparation if you want to eat them with minimal mess.
Baby carrots and sliced cucumber are two of my favourite travel vegetables. I try to stay away from broccoli because the little bits get easily stuck in your teeth and that’s the last thing you need as you’re suddenly called to board the train and now have to closed-mouth smile at everyone you meet until the plane is in the air and you have a chance to use the washroom and fix it.
Fruits and veggies are perfect for travelling as long as you’re not crossing any borders. Make sure to eat them before entering another country.
Pros: Vegan friendly, Finger food, Doesn’t need special storage
Cons: Pretty much none
Popcorn is another versatile and wonderful option for a travel snack. If you pop it at home using an air popper, or on the stove, you get to control the seasoning exactly, so it’s not overly done. Popcorn is a much healthier option than chips with the same kind of feel: crunchy and salty. There are numerous seasonings available to choose from and you could even make it sweet if you wanted to.
Popcorn is also lightweight so it won’t weigh down your bag. It’s not forbidden across borders, and it can fill you up with very few calories. Popcorn, honestly, is a nearly perfect snack. And you can buy it pre-popped in chip bags if you don’t fancy popping it at home.
Hummus and Pita Bread
Pros: Vegan friendly, Finger food
Cons: Can only be stored so long without refrigeration
Something about eating hummus with pita bread or even crackers makes me feel like I am the picture of health and I’m preparing to run a marathon. In fact, hummus and pita bread give me such a health-food vibe that I almost feel like a fraud when I eat them. Like I’m lying to the world about the kind of person I am. Because trust me, I may be eating this power-house protein snack, but I can’t even do one plank push-up yet. Oops.
Hummus is great. You can make it at home but there are also tons of flavours of it out there for you to buy. It’s great as a dip for veggies too!
Pros: Can be vegan friendly, Finger food, Many options
Cons: Some are only about as healthy as candy/chocolate bars
Bars are a curse and a blessing. They’re toted around as the healthy travel snack but half of them are not much better for you than eating a Kit-Kat. Not to bash Kit-Kats. They’re amazing. But they’re not a health food and no one kids themselves into thinking they are.
Chocolate coated granola bars with layers of gooey caramel, though? Oh yeah. Health food! Obviously! I mean… hellooooo it has granola!
The truth is many bars leave you feeling unsatisfied. There are protein bars and fruit and nut bars, and all sorts of bars. But when it comes down to it, I would feel far more satisfied eating a bowl of grapes with some nuts and cheese on the side. And I’m probably netting the same calories.
This isn’t to knock bars altogether. After all, they still made my list. Just be choosey about the types of bars you get. Make sure you’re not fooling yourself into “health”. And try making some from home if you can!
Pros: Vegan friendly, Finger food, Doesn’t need special storage
Cons: Homemade ones can get soft after a time
Roasted chickpeas are like a more protein-filled popcorn. Crunchy and seasoned, these make a far better salty snack than chips. They’re lower calorie than nuts, so you can eat more, and they have more nutritional value than popcorn. When it comes to savoury/salty snacks, roasted chickpeas are pretty amazing.
You can buy them or make them at home. Pop them in a container and take them wherever you go.
What are your favourite healthy travel snacks? If you had to live off of just one of these snacks, which would it be? Let us know in the comments!
Don’t forget to check out these strange food ads from the 1920s!