Airport food and gas station fare can leave you tired and cranky. But it doesn't have to be that way!
I get on an airplane at least four times a month, so I’ve racked up a lot of experience traveling. I've learned firsthand that planning ahead can make it much, much easier to say no to other tempting options (from the in-flight brownie to fast-food fries) encountered along the way. If you’re headed out of town this holiday season, here are a few simple ideas for staying fueled and energized en route.
Pack healthy snacks to eat on the go
Grab some ziptop bags and load them up with filling snacks to nibble on throughout your flight or road trip. My go-tos are raw veggies I can eat with my hands, like sliced cucumber, red bell pepper, carrots, and grape tomatoes. Other great options include nuts, pumpkin seeds, or individually-sized pouches of almond butter or sunflower seed butter. Roasted chickpeas, popcorn, whole grain crackers, or energy balls also work well, as do protein bars with clean ingredients. A few of my personal favorites: Rise’s Lemon Cashew vegan bars, Amrita’s Chocolate Maca vegan bars, and RxBar’s egg white-based bars.
Consider all the options at the airport
While many airports are filled with fast-food joints and kiosks selling sugary treats, more and more healthy eateries are popping up. Look for a place where you can buy sushi, a customized smoothie, or a made-to-order taco salad with greens, pico or salsa, veggies, black beans, and guacamole. Many airport shops also offer nutritious and portable snacks like hummus, olives, Greek yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs.
If it’s breakfast time, see if you can get oatmeal from a coffee shop. If you sit down for lunch or dinner at a restaurant, stick with appetizers and sides—such as a broth-based soup with a side of steamed or grilled veggies—instead of a heavy meal. A barbeque joint can also be a decent option if they offer sides like cooked green beans, baked beans, and coleslaw. Spot a breakfast all-day place in the food court? You can't go wrong with a veggie-and-avocado omelet with a side of fresh fruit.
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When you're on the road, look for a grocery store
Instead of stopping to eat at a gas station or service area, find the closest grocery store using your phone’s GPS. Most groceries have a salad bar and prepared food section where you’ll find healthy choices like grilled salmon, bean salad, and veggie sides. Plus you can load up on healthy snacks for the car.
If your travel companions opt to eat somewhere with zero healthy options, it's worth speaking up. Your choices shouldn’t have to be limited by what others want to eat; and making a second stop at a local market won’t take that much time.
If you get pushback, don’t let it turn into a food fight. Just explain that you aren’t judging anyone, but having more energy and feeling good is important to you, especially during the holidays. It's perfectly okay to prioritize taking care of yourself, even if you're the only person in the car who doesn't feel like overindulging.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.