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 (my latest favorite is 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 the best I’ve found for high protein, low sugar, all organic, and no isolates), 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 pretzels (Newman’s Own Organics High Protein pretzels are good)! Nuttzo and Artisana make great organic nut butter squeezes.
If you have time to pre-cook beforehand, veggie sausages, Gardein Crispy “Chik’n” (a fun “finger food” treat) or a veggie/bean burger (even if you’re not usually plant-based, these will last much longer while traveling without spoilage danger!) Or try a tidy burrito (I love Sweet Earth’s Lighten Up or Big Sur breakfast burrito, as well as Amy’s 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 favor a plant-based diet, for me that means veggie/bean burgers, Tofurky, or Field Roast, made extra flavorful with good condiments and pickles on whole grain toast or grainy 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 vegan cheese like Miyoko’s or Follow Your heart; and a jar of nut butter. In a small cooler, I might add hummus or bean dip, and small nut-milk containers; you could add hard-boiled eggs if you like. Small soup tetra-paks make good dinners for when you arrive at a motel. (I don’t microwave at home, but I’m not averse to occasional use on the road. You make choices!)
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).
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 dairy or plant-based cheese inside a multi-grain tortilla with some veggies and wrap in foil. The warmth will naturally melt the cheese—no heating necessary! Add a slice or two of plant-based “lunch meat” for an extra protein boost.
POTLUCK/BBQ: I bring Field Roast sausages or Tofurky brats for the grill; they’re more enticing than a plain veggie dog. (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 yogurt and some nuts can satisfy as much as ice cream (and frozen, they can be pureed with nut milks into “ice 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. Again, a precooked veggie burger (I like Amy’s because they’re mostly organic and hold together well) or the fine-if-it-melts whole-grain wrap with cheese/veggies/nuts inside works great.
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 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 granola (my hands-down fave is Living Intentions Cacao Crunch; Purely Elizabeth or Bunches of Crunches is also good) 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 (Ello and Contigo are my faves) and for hiking and backpacking where glass is too heavy, I’ve found that HydroFlasks keep liquid super-cool 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.
FREE EBOOK: www.nourish.university/motivationgift
I am a holistic health coach/consultant, fitness trainer, fitness nutrition specialist (ACE-certified), bestselling author of BodyFueling and Herbal Defense, and joyful nourishment instigator. I help you fuel/nourish the body and energy that is fit for your purpose and passions, becoming super-informed and deeply inspired to optimally eat-move-sleep-destress. I provide the perfect fusion of inspiration and information to melt health-fitness obstacles, so you get strong, lean, and energized—for life—with clarity, joy, and a sense of choice! I’ve been walking this talk for over 25 years, and I love to share the powerful potentials of this vibrant, delicious life. Performance, pleasure and purpose.