With the weather heated up and many of us spending more time active outdoors—and planning summer travel—it’s a great time to put a little thought into making sure you’re prepped to be well-fueled wherever you go!
Whether you’re road-tripping, flying off to visit friends and family, backpacking, hiking/biking, or just headed to the pool, it’s important to be conscious of including snacks among your essentials. If you value your health and energy, you don’t want to be at the mercy of an airline meal, a roadside fast-food joint, or a concession stand. Worse, you don’t want to run out of food where there isn’t any at all. And in the Southwest where I live, we also have to make sure our snacks hold up to the heat!
As a longtime advocate of clean, delicious and joyful fueling for a great body and life, I am happily rigorous about what I’ll allow into my one precious body (my vehicle for all I do in the world!). Therefore, one of my cardinal rules is that I never go anywhere without healthy snacks. Even if I’m planning to do an errand a few miles from home, I make sure to have munchies along for the ride. You never know what unexpected delays might come up!
If you’re going more than few miles, you definitely want to be in charge of your refuel. Not eating when you really need to is a surefire way to slow your metabolism, store more fat, and lose muscle—not to mention get “hangry,” lose your oomph, and make poor choices later when you’re ravenous!
With a bit of planning, savvy and tasty fuel for you and your family—en route to anywhere—needn’t be complicated. You can find wholesome noshes that are yummy, simple and fun!
While I try to eat mostly whole foods at home, on-the-go snacks sometimes require a bit of a compromise in the “processed” department. But even when I eat a packaged good, I choose organic whenever possible. And I avoid packaged foods that are high in sugar (my rough rule of thumb is 8 grams of sugar or less per serving, preferably lower) or that have any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives; high fructose corn syrup; or GMOs. When you can’t find USDA Organic, at least look for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal.
Here are my favorite picks for common spring/summer situations!
A FLIGHT BAG: Flight snacks need to be compact and tidy. Soft fruits that bruise, foods with excess packaging; food that can spoil; and foods that are super messy don’t make the cut. My standard flight snack bag usually includes a firm fruit like an apple, assorted nuts, a small amount of dark chocolate well-wrapped in foil, a favorite low-sugar energy bar (I like Garden of Life bars—their Plant-Based Performance and High Protein Fit/Weight Loss bars—I loathe that they called them “weight loss,” but they’re high protein, low sugar, all organic, and no isolates; I also like the Orgain kids’ O Bars, Amazing Grass Sweet and Savory Superfood Bars, Aloha Chocolate Mint bars, Zing Vitality bars, and Health Warrior Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed bars, to name a few), and a baggie of chopped crunchy veggies (try mixing red pepper, bok choy, and carrot sticks).
You can include a small smoothie in a squeeze pack (I like Mamma Chia’s Green Magic or Cherry Beet, only 7 g sugar per pack). Seitan jerky by Primal Strips is a neat plant-based high-protein snack; a small bag of roasted/toasted chickpea or other bean snax is crunchy and satisfying, and offers a nice mix of carbs and protein. Squeeze packets of nut butters are good too—try with a handful of organic pretzels! Nuttzo and Artisana make great organic nut butter squeezes.
If you have time to pre-cook beforehand, this is the time to use processed plant-based foods as a treat (rather than rely on them at home!) Maybe veggie sausages like Amy’s or a veggie/bean burger (even if you’re not usually plant-based, these will last much longer while traveling without spoilage danger!—I LOVE Hilary’s burgers). Or try a tidy burrito (I love Sweet Earth’s Lighten Up, Kyoto, or Big Sur breakfast burrito, as well as Amy’s gluten-free Black Bean and Quinoa burrito or Tofu Scramble pocket).
TIP: I always pack one extra burrito and/or cooked veggie burger, beyond what I night need for the trip’s meals. Why? If my flight is delayed and I need to stay overnight, I won’t have to hit the Denny’s next door to the motel! If you don’t use it, no biggie—it’ll likely keep till you arrive!
A ROAD TRIP: In an air-conditioned car with more room, we can be more liberal about provisions. All of the above snacks could be included, but you can also add stone fruits, cherries or berries (I find plums and apricots last longer than peaches) and bags of healthy chips (kale, parsnip, beet, bean).
I pack sandwiches (since I am plant-based, for me that means veggie/bean burgers, Tofurky, or Field Roast—or just avocado, portobello and one of the good vegan cheeses like Miyokos, Violife or Follow Your Heart—made extra flavorful with good condiments and pickles on a whole grain bread 9or gluten-free or ancient grain) or English muffin, or gluten-free bread if you prefer); a baggie of crackers (I like Flackers or Mary’s Gone Crackers, both seedy flour-free varieties) with a few slices or cubes of said vegan cheese; and a jar of nut butter.
In a small cooler, I might add hummus or bean dip, and small nut-milk containers. Small organic soup tetra-paks or noodle cups make good dinners for when you arrive at a motel. (I don’t microwave at home, but I’m not averse to rare use on the road.)
I’m also loving Super Rebbl coconut-milk based drinks (Dark Chocolate Protein is decadent, yet includes healthy herbs and quality protein!) They are low in sugar for “chocolate milk” type drinks (Svelte and Orgain make similar drinks that are shelf-stable don’t need refrigeration, but they’re not as tasty IMO). Many Suja Organic juices are high in sugar (read labels!) but their Lemon Love, Ginger Love and Turmeric Love have hardly any, and are nutritious and refreshing.
POOLSIDE OR PICNIC: Most of the snacks listed above will do (except the chocolate, which can melt!) One trick where melting is actually a plus: put your favorite plant-based cheese inside a multi-grain, coconut-flour, chia-flax or corn tortilla with some veggies and maybe hummus or other spread, and wrap in foil. The warmth will naturally melt the cheese—no heating necessary! Add some crumbled veggie burger or a slice or two of plant-based “lunch meat” for an extra protein boost.
POTLUCK/BBQ: I used to bring Field Roast sausages or Tofurky brats for the grill; they’re more enticing than a plain veggie dog. But the newer No Evil sausages are AMAZING—way less fat than those and all the flavor. And organic ingredients and real beans! (Always go organic, especially on soy-based mock meats!) Tote a bag of chopped veggies to skewer—peppers, red onion, mushrooms, purple carrots. For speed, tofu that’s already baked and marinated (such as a teriyaki or Thai flavor) also grills well without the prep time.
Large bottles of sparkling mineral water in flavors (Whole Foods’ 365 brand offers raspberry-lemon, strawberry, lime, grapefruit and more) add a festive touch without sugar—much better than soda.
And bright colorful salads—with a base of deep leafy greens plus loads of color (think purple-red cabbage, orange carrots, red and yellow pepper, and pink watermelon radish), plus walnuts or pistachios, might even lure folks away from the slaw! I make my own fresh, simple dressing out of mustard and honey. Chopped pieces of Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon add chewy protein satisfaction (the aroma has completely fooled my meat-loving friends!)
For dessert, consider going fresh and nutritious: cold watermelon or cantaloupe refreshes the palate and brightens the table. Peaches and berries with vanilla cashew yogurt and some nuts can satisfy as much as ice cream (and frozen, they can be pureed with nut milks into “nice cream” in seconds!) Pureed fruit (optional: nut milk, a touch of honey or maple syrup, bits of whole fruit) also makes gorgeous, healthy, low-sugar popsicles.
HIKING: My standard hike pack fare in warmer weather is mixed nuts, dried fruit (I like figs for the nutrition and size), a few “healthier” cookies (such as Andean Dream quinoa cookies, or good old graham crackers—Whole Foods 365 Organic are only 1.5 grams of sugar per square cracker) and a non-chocolate low-sugar energy bar (see above). Again, a precooked veggie burger, or the fine-if-it-melts whole-grain wrap with cheese/veggies/nuts inside works great. Whole fresh dark sweet cherries if you can find them organic hold up well, and a handful of nuts adds crunch and fullness.
BACKPACKING: Many of the snacks named above for hiking and flight work terrifically for backpacking. Plant-based deli slices will last for days on the trail—an advantage over meats. To bump up the variety without adding too much weight or complexity, instant camping meals work well. Several are certified organic; my favorite has long been Mary Jane’s Farm. You can also make your own, combining fast-cooking grains (like couscous) with dried veggies and bits of protein such as seitan jerky or veggie bacon.
Backpacker Magazine is a terrific source of gourmet trail cuisine tips; it’s amazing what you can do tent-side with a few key items. But personally, I don’t feel the need for tiramisu when backpacking; a small pack of superfood low-sugar granola, or a plain fruit-nut-chocolate bar is decadent enough for my trail treat!
WATER! Besides food, it’s especially important in summer (even more in uber-hot climates) to ensure that we stay hydrated. Try to bring your own bottles to avoid polluting with plastic. I like glass water bottles, but for hiking and backpacking where glass is too heavy, I’ve found that HydroFlasks are the best to keep liquid super-cold, and hold up well when banged around. But almost any stainless steel bottle will do. Avoiding all plastics, especially in summer/southwest heat, is always a good idea.
Day to day, the key is to find a few healthy, nutrient-rich snacks that you and your family love, and keep stocked up so you can grab them and go!
The deeper trick: make sure you value your body and health enough to put this at the top of your list. Giving daily thought to how grateful you are for a body that works and carries you through life will inspire you to invest in your fuel. The more energy and attention you give to cherishing “the body that brung you,” the more connection you’ll make between what you put in your mouth (or your bag!) and how you feel and look. You’ll make healthier choices, gladly!
I’m always delighted to help people figure out the healthiest alternatives to their favorite snack indulgences. There’s always at least one better substitute! Just ask…or set up a consultation.
Get out there and enjoy the sun—and don’t forget your mineral-based sunscreen (another topic dear to my heart)!
NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared in Natural Awakenings Tucson Edition June 2016.
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ROBYN LANDIS is an ACE-certified fitness professional, personal trainer, health coach, herbalist, motivation specialist and bestselling author. She is a mind-body transformer who helps people LOVE getting the body and energy that’s fit for their dreams—without hype, regimens, extremes, or concern for irrelevant “weight.”
Robyn brings science, spirit and common sense to untangling the “health hairball.” Her unique, trademark Conscious Inspiration™ process has helped thousands overcome health-info confusion, overwhelm, and resistance, get free of the toxic paradigm she calls Diet Thinking™, and crack the code of “motivation.” She tirelessly dissolves destructive myths about health and fitness, and models joyful self-care, embodying and advocating a radically vibrant, radiant vision of “ wisening.”
Robyn’s books (including Herbal Defense, cowritten with KP Khalsa, one of the country’s foremost plant medicine experts) have been published in five languages with a combined 200,000+ copies in print. Her vision is to uplift and uplevel the way we think, talk about and DO healthy living—and how we teach kids to understand and treasure their bodies. She also strives to end the use of “weight” as a measurement. She writes, teaches, speaks, coaches, trains, facilitates and life-changing programs and practices that help people make healthy choices joyfully. She offers individual and group coaching, including “JOY FUEL” and “NOURISH U: 9 Weeks to More Energy, Less Fat and a Super-Fueled Life.” www.robynlandis.net, www.nourish.university.