Whether you’re hitting the road or taking to the skies, packing snacks when you travel is key for keeping hunger at bay. Plus, packing snacks ahead of time will both save you money (those airport prices can really add up!) and set you up for healthier options, rather than grabbing something quick and convenient to-go. But what are the best travel snacks to carry with you? Read on to discover what top nutrition experts recommend as the most nutritious and filling portable snack options and why you’ll want to toss them into your travel bag too.
Nuts. When it comes to a quick and portable snack, nuts top the list. “Nuts are just so easy because you can buy them already in portion-controlled bags or easily bag them yourself,” explains KeyVion Miller, RDN. As a source of plant-based protein, healthy fats, and fiber, nuts provide a trio of nutrients that can allow you to feel satisfied for hours to come. For instance, a one-ounce handful of walnuts contains four grams of protein and two grams of fiber.
But the benefits of nuts don’t stop there. Although nuts are often considered a calorie-dense food, research on almonds has found that your body may not absorb all of the calories from nuts during digestion. In fact, eating nuts daily may even help promote weight loss and waist size due to the impact on satiety and nutrient-rich content.
The healthy fats found in nuts may also play a role in improving long-term health. “Nuts are a heart-healthy food recommended to lower the risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, or even diabetes,” adds Miller. Walnuts, for instance, are the only nut to provide an excellent source of the plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a fatty acid thought to help prevent the risk of heart disease. And eating nuts such as pistachios, almonds, and hazelnuts may help to improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Baby carrots. When traveling, our intake of fruits and vegetables can often decline. But it doesn’t have to. “While it’s generally easy to find transportable fruit, vegetables are often neglected. Carrots are a perfectly bite-sized snack and are easily accessible while providing an extra vitamin boost during the holiday season,” explains Jess DeGore, RD, CDCES.
Filling up on carrots during your next road trip can offer numerous benefits. Just one cup of raw carrots contains about 10 percent of your daily fiber needs, a nutrient that can support gut health and improve blood sugar control. Carrots also provide a source of both vitamin A and lutein, two nutrients that play a key role in eye health.
Easy-to-carry fruits. Portable fruit can make a nutrient-rich and filling snack that requires little, if any, prep work. You can quickly pack a cooler with bananas, oranges, and clementines or wash a few apples before you head out. “I love to recommend taking in-season fruit such as persimmons, pears, and/or apples with you when traveling as a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can enjoy alone or paired with a handful of nuts,” shares Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND, author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes.
Dried fruit can also make a great option when traveling as well. “I recommend taking along raisins as a sweet treat that is also a source of iron—a nutrient of concern for pregnant women, women of child-bearing age, and anyone with iron deficiency,” adds Miller.
Prunes also make a portable option and are perfect for those watching blood sugar levels as they contain one of the lowest glycemic index levels of all fruit. Plus eating just five to six prunes per day has been shown to help prevent against bone loss.
Homemade trail mix. Making bags of homemade trail mix before you head out can be a great way to satisfy sweet and salty cravings while filling up on key nutrients. “A trail mix with cashews, almonds, dried cranberries, or chocolate chips provides a nice balance of carbs and protein, making this a satiating road trip snack,” shares DeGore, who adds that you can easily reduce added sugars and sodium by opting for unsalted raw nuts and dried fruit without added sugar.
“I recommend making a trail mix with a combination of high fiber cereal, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and a few chocolate chips to offer a variety of textures, flavors, and nutrients,” explains Sheth. Got a nut allergy? Try including sunflower or pumpkin seeds to your trail mix instead, so you’ll still get that crunch factor.
And the addition of whole-grain cereal to trail mix can be a great way to maximize the nutrient benefits. “Choosing a high fiber cereal provides a non-perishable, convenient option with a boost of fiber that we all need since the Dietary Guidelines for Americans state more than 90 percent of women and more than 97 percent of men do not meet the recommended intakes for dietary fiber each day,” adds Miller. That’s 21 to 25 grams per day for women, and 30 to 38 grams per day for men.
Ginger. Although it may not be the top of your list, having ginger on hand when traveling can offer a few benefits, especially when it comes to feeling your best. “Ginger can be crucial for anyone that gets carsick when traveling or overeats at a holiday meal,” explains DeGore. That’s because ginger has long been found to aid digestion and relieve nausea. When traveling, consider packing ginger teas, ginger candies, or ginger chews to have easy-to-access relief on hand when needed.