We’ve just returned from a few weeks of travelling here in Alberta, trying to stay on track with heart-healthy(ish) eating while on the go, and I have thoughts.
If you’re fortunate enough to stay somewhere with a kitchen, it’s pretty easy. (I shared a few tips and easy recipes for cooking in a vacation kitchen here.)
But if you’re in a bare bones hotel room with nothing but a small fridge and maybe a microwave, and you don’t want to get into messy food prep, this post is for you. With just the basics, you can supplement restaurant meals with heart health boosting foods and plan for snacks to hold you over between meals.
(Shoutout to everyone else who has arrived at a restaurant famished and eaten twice as much as a result. Easy mistake to make when travelling.)
I’ve linked below to examples of products, to make things easier for you, but as always, I have no relationship with any of these companies. None of my posts are sponsored. Lots of similar great products out there.
Suitcase packable items, no cooler needed
For those trips where you can’t bring a cooler and you don’t have time to hit a grocery store upon arrival, you can still pack snacks. (Dietitian’s orders, always pack snacks!)
- Nuts and seeds. Take the edge off your hunger, add heart-healthy nutrients, and round out those sad free breakfasts. Think almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, cashews, or even mixed nuts. You can do seeds like pumpkin or sunflower if you’re allergic to nuts or just want more variety. Unsalted is ideal, but most salted nuts and seeds aren’t bad. (Seriously, read the labels on the ones I linked to above and you’ll see.)
- Trail mix. Usually this is a mixture of nuts and seeds and sweet ingredients like dried fruit, chocolate chips, or other candies. The best trail mix is homemade, because you can minimize cheap sugary fillers. If you do buy one pre-made, you may want to pick one relatively low in sugar and sodium. This one looks good on paper, although I’ve never tried it.
- Bars. For an even more convenient snack, you can’t beat bars. Many of them are more cookie than “superfood,” but some aren’t bad, and they certainly beat what you’ll find in a vending machine. See if you can find one made mostly with whole grains, nuts, or seeds, with not too much sugar (say 8g or less) and a bit of fibre and protein (say 3g or more). We like the Kirkland Signature Nut Bars, but Simply Protein Bars and Kashi bars and also good, nutritionally.
- Whole-grain crackers. Whole grains and fibre can be in short supply when you’re on the road, so crackers can help. Some of my go-to crackers are Triscuits, Crunchmaster Multigrain, and Finn Crisp. If you have a different favourite, just check that the first ingredient is a whole grain – whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, or rye are typical. (Sorry to say, rice crackers and cakes are often not whole grain.)
- Popcorn. More fibre! A (relatively) lower sodium option is preferable, like this one. Or for less space in your suitcase, pack a healthier microwave popcorn like this.
- Canned tuna (snack sized) or sardines. Not for everyone I know, but if you like them, they make a protein-rich, convenient snack. Just watch the sodium. This tuna and these sardines are better, but still more than fresh fish, so pair with lower sodium foods.
- Roasted chickpeas or edamame/soybeans. I’m not a fan personally, but I know some people like them, and wow, the fibre! Plus protein too. Try them in trail mix if you like the nutrition but want to dilute the sawdust texture. (Or I do think they’re good on a well-dressed salad, in place of croutons.)
- Peanut butter. I know I’m kind of a PB nut, but we never leave home without a little jar! Usually that means we’re travelling with a loaf of bread too, but you could also pair this with an apple, banana, or crackers. Bring a knife, or ask the hotel to loan you one.
- Instant oatmeal. Guess what? Instant oatmeal is still a whole grain. There’s not quite as much fibre, and usually 2-3 teaspoons worth of sugar, but it’s better than a bag of potato chips. You can buy plain instant oats to avoid the sugar and then jazz it up with fruit and nuts or seeds. Or do the flavoured and balance with less sugar throughout your day. (More about the different kind of oats here.)
- Cold cereal. As with the crackers, there are higher fibre, lower sugar, whole grain options, but they’re few and far between. (I wrote a post with 16 options here.)
- Plant-based “milks”. If you don’t want to hit a grocery store for milk to go with your cereal, you can bring shelf-stable soy beverage like this or oat milk like this one.
- Packaged snacks. There are all sorts of fun things out there. Not everything you eat has to be heart-healthy! (80/20 principle right?) If you want to stay in the healthy(ish) zone, look for those more fibre and protein, less sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. A few fun examples here, here, and here. (Note – I haven’t tried those either.)
If you feel like you might overeat these foods if they’re in your hotel room, you can store them in the car once you’ve had your fill.
Stock that mini-fridge!
If you can bring a few simple foods in a cooler or stop at the grocery store near your destination, your options expand dramatically.
- Fruit! We stayed at several hotels offering free breakfasts on this trip, but didn’t see any fruit beyond apples and navel oranges, which are messy and hard to peel. Fresh cut fruit is great if your only option for rinsing is the bathroom sink (yuck), but if you have a little kitchenette sink, or can rinse carefully, you can do “no-cut” fruit like grapes, cherries, blueberries, and raspberries. I also love mandarins for travelling – so easy to peel.
- Vegetables. You knew I would say that, right? Most of us can use more, especially on vacation! Again, fresh-cut or “no-cut” options like snap peas, cherry tomatoes, or cauliflower florets are handy.
- Yogurt. Greek yogurt is higher in protein, which is great if you’re eating it in the morning when people don’t typically get enough. Individual cups are almost always flavoured, which means added sweeteners, but occasionally you can find plain Greek yogurt in snack-sized cups. Either way, worth doing – it’s a nutritious one, despite the sugar. (More about yogurt here.)
- Hard-boiled eggs. Many grocery stores sell these little protein nuggets in individual packages.
- Cheese. If you don’t travel with a knife, you can pick up individually wrapped cheeses like Babybel, cheese sticks, or the many little snack-sized cheese options at Costco. They’re minimally processed and a satisfying option to pair with your crackers or fruit.
- Hummus. This chickpea dip/spread is getting more popular, and also goes nicely with those crackers. Available in individual and full-sized containers, depending on how many you’re feeding.
- Guacamole. Similarly, avocado dip/spread is available in snack-sized containers and good with crackers, or more traditionally, tortilla chips.
- Prepared meals. If you’re lucky enough to be near a good grocery store, like Trader Joe’s or a natural foods store, you might find ready-to-eat food substantial enough to provide a whole meal, like this burrito, this salad, or even this tofu bowl. If you travel a lot for work, these can be a great way to cut back on heavy restaurant meals.
Pack like a pro
If you think of it, a few more items that will have you eating away from home with ease:
- Food storage bags or bag clips to contain half-eaten bags. (Thank you to reader Karen D. for those smart suggestions.)
- Plastic cutlery – a few spoons, forks, or knives.
- Napkins or hand wipes.
- A sharp knife in a sheath (we travel with this one, as the sheath is also easy to clean).
(Don’t be like me when I went hiking with just a steak knife in the side of my backpack to cut apples and ended up with six stitches by the end of the day. Safety first!)
Let’s do this
If you have the time and energy, you can also prepare meals and snacks at home to bring with you, but this is just a keep it simple list for the busy bees. I know I’ll refer to this when counselling people who travel for work, and I’ll be pulling it up before our next trip!
What have I missed? What do you like to bring? Chime into the conversation in our Facebook group.
Again this post is unsponsored. I have no financial relationship with any food company. Just trying to make things easier for you.