Healthy Eating while Traveling Recipe

I received and email from someone who was having a hard time eating healthy while traveling for work. It can be tough. I started this post suggesting a few of my tips and tricks for healthy eating on the road, but once you read those be sure to check out the 100+ ideas you all contributed in the comments, fantastic.

Healthy Eating while Traveling

Eating healthy while traveling is an ongoing challenge for me. I'm not a light packer to begin with, and my attempts to squirrel various snacks into every pocket of my suitcase and carry-on(s) are met with varying degrees of success. There is a point when my laptop trumps a 12-pack of oatmeal packets. Apparently quite a few of you have similar troubles. I know because you email me about it. For example, the following email showed up in my in-box not too long ago. Written by a hotel-hopping business traveler with no kitchen at his disposal...

Dear Heidi, I work in real estate consulting. This allows me frequent trips to foodie paradises such as Shreveport, Louisiana, and the middle of Nebraska. One can go days without seeing anything as quaint as an apple. I am searching for a healthy way to eat while traveling for business.

Cooking, the one true way to ensure healthy eating, is out for obvious reasons. Often one cannot get to a grocery store, so buying simple whole foods is out too. Even eating salad isn't an option; McDonald's surpasses all measures of common decency with salads that have more fat than Big Macs do.

At this point I'm about ready to do something weird like pack most of my food as if I were going camping. My question/challenge to you is this: what solutions are available for the health-savvy business traveler other than subsisting solely on McDonald's yogurt parfaits and apple pies?

Regards, C.S.D.

While I have a few strategies I deploy, I still have plenty to learn on this front, so I thought I'd ask you to offer up your favorite tips for eating healthy whole traveling. Try to limit yourself to your all-time favorite tip (or two). My tips...

- Good airplane food: If I start off eating poorly at the beginning of a trip, it can be downhill from there. Things are usually hectic around here the day (or two) before leaving on a trip, and sometimes I flat out don't feel like cooking. But I do like having good (substantial) food in flight, and I like to kick off a trip on the right foot. Lately I'll bake off two Amy's Indian Spinach Tofu Wraps, let them cool to room temperature, wrap them in parchment paper, and then bag them in plastic. Think Indian burrito - it's a whole wheat tortilla, a bunch of tofu, spinach and spices in one compact package - really tasty. I just eat a half a burrito whenever I'm hungry until I run out.

- BYOF: If I'm traveling domestically, I pack three apples and a pound of nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds for snacking in my carry-on, and one box of cereal in my suitcase. Herein lies the catch - I like to eat cereal with plain yogurt (not the artificially sweetened stuff offered at just about every breakfast buffet I've encountered). I can usually buy the plain yogurt at a corner grocery, BUT I've been in plenty of hotels that don't have refrigerators, so there have been times when I fill up the sink with ice to keep the yogurt cold.

- Just add water products: They're great in a pinch. Look for the ones with natural ingredients. I can always find hot water.

- If you are on a road trip, pack a camping stove: This means even if you are staying in hotels or motels. Wayne and I go on lots of road trips, and we like to pull over to various parks and beaches for lunch/dinner. We'll cook something up on our little stove and be on our way. Makes us less reliant on eating "out" for every meal.

Don't get me wrong, I love to experience local foods ingredients and inspired cooking - but anyone who travels extensively knows there can be long stretches between healthy meals. These a just a few fall-back tactics I've come to rely on.

Ok, your turn - favorite healthy travel eating tips...

Wayne took the opening photo and was nice enough to let me use it here.

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Hi! I actually have been the Shreveport, Arkansas on a business trip as well, and although trying hush puppies and fried cat fish once was fun, eating regulararly at these places is just not feasible if your goal is to stay healthy. What I did when travelling to the deep down south was hunt down a Walmart, at first out of desperation, but when I discovered that you could actually find some really healthy options there I was relieved that no matter how small the town I was visiting there would always be a Walmart there. I would always by the following: - 4 gallon bottle of water - baby carrots - healthy yogurt - Arthurs Fruit Juices - cherry tomatoes - dry roasted almonds. These items helped me get to my next healthy meal.


I carry freeze-dried fruit when weight matters. The brand I usually buy is Sensible Snacks; it's widely available and the packages don't crush badly in packing. It costs a bit less in a 24-pack from Amazon.

Harper Smith

Hi! I actually have been the Shreveport, Arkansas on a business trip as well, and although trying hush puppies and fried cat fish once was fun, eating regulararly at these places is just not feasible if your goal is to stay healthy. What I did when travelling to the deep down south was hunt down a Walmart, at first out of desperation, but when I discovered that you could actually find some really healthy options there I was relieved that no matter how small the town I was visiting there would always be a Walmart there. I would always by the following: - 4 gallon bottle of water - baby carrots - healthy yogurt - Arthurs Fruit Juices - cherry tomatoes - dry roasted almonds. These items helped me get to my next healthy meal.


Because I have celiac disease and also like to eat healthy foods, I always travel with a separate bag full of my food necessities. That includes a "hot pot" like I had in college, 2 cans of lite coconut milk (which I use in coffee because I don't like artificial milk products and don't eat much dairy), some organic coffee and my camping French press mug, a bag of my homemade granola, assorted food bars (Lara Bars, Bumble Bars, Nectar Bars, etc.), a couple of Fuji apples, a camping style tube of almond butter, dehydrated soup (which I make myself, then all you need is the hot water from the hot pot), instant quinoa hot cereal, instant hummus and some GF crackers, a few small packets of Ultima and Emergen-C, homemade trail mix, and my little stuff sack of various kitchen necessities (a camp spoon/fork, a small can opener, my Swiss army knife, a tiny little bamboo cutting block, a plastic plate and bowl). I have a special duffle bag that I keep all my goodies in. My list of food does vary, but that's basically it. I always request a refrigerator and say I need it for medical reasons, which I do in a way. My food bag often weighs more than my clothes bag! I travel a lot and eating healthy is at the top of my list. Oh, I almost forgot — and a bar of dark chocolate. Melissa


I'm more than a little insulted with CSD's condescending comment about "foodie paradise such as Shreveport, Louisiana." I wonder if that person ever stopped to consider that there are many 101Cookbook fans from this area and we find almost all the ingredients necessary to try Heidi's recipes right here in our local shops. We have farmer's markets, roadside produce stands, and many vegetarian and vegan choice restaurants. For the life of me I can't understand how an apple would be hard to find. And yes, our stores carry more varieties than Delicious and Granny Smith. HS: Thanks for the comment Lillianne. I decided to run the letter as I received it. I'm glad you've stepped in to offer up your perspective as a resident of one of those communities. It goes to show that if you can plan a bit ahead of time, or scratch beneath the surface a bit you can likely find wonderful alternatives to chains. Thanks again for participating in the conversation. -h


I actually pretend i'm going on a trek. I would bring a hunk of cheese, a piece of salami or baked tofu, PButter and Ahmok crackers. i brought israeli couscous with some pinenuts and veggies and ate it as a salad. I would cut up hardboiled eggs and make a sorta- egg salad sandwich on pitas w/ the extra veggies (make a mayo packet with herbs and S&P in a tiny ziploc). For meat eaters, we usually also grab a couple of tuna now packed in a little bag for the pita as well. Condiments are key- BYOB - salad dressing - at all times. I also suggesting exploring into a chinese/asian market for convienece packs (watchout for sodium) but they have great soups in packets, much like oatmeal but made of sesame and black beans. There a wholesome biscotti i make that would help too, we have it to scoop up yogurt in camping trips. (email me if you want the recipe) I love Heidi's Granola bars too. i've made them for hiking trips, backpackign trips, air travels, lazy lunches, several marathon breakfast/fuel for all of my running buddies. they are great! i love the variations too. i go for blueberries and flax, cherries and coco nibs, all nuts drizzed in chocolate, lime and pineapple... and it goes on.


echoing what Katie says about sushi, i find that i crave sushi whenever i get back home from a trip. the first place out to eat is always a sushi bar. perhaps it's a remedy for the not-always-healthy travel food!

Sherry H..

I spent the last few months driving big rigs around America, and eating healthy was obviously a huge challenge in that setting. Because of this experience, my tips are more vehicle-friendly than plane-friendly, but I hope they help. Meat jerky (sorry, vegetarians) has a ton of protein while being very low in fat and carbs. It's pretty much the perfect snack for times when you know it'll be hours before your next real meal. Granola, nuts, dried fruits, and seeds all keep really well, are convenient to carry around, and make for much better and tastier snacks than anything you can get from a vending machine or snack bar. The best $5 I've ever spent was on my little immersion heater. It's light, portable, and heats up a cup of water in under 10 minutes anytime, anywhere. (In a vehicle, it works well with an inverter hooked up to the lighter socket.) If traveling by vehicle, plug-in heaters are a great way to keep food cool without needing to stop for ice every few hours. Most come with adapter plugs for both vehicle lighter sockets and regular indoor electrical outlets.


While not necessarily the tastiest option (yet light, portable & durable) are the many options of freeze-dried meals designed for backcountry hiking & camping. We've been known to throw a couple of Mountain High entrees in our suitcase for emergency rations. Just add water, let sit, stir & eat. No dishes to carry or clean up (except the plastic utensils, which are easily cleaned in a hotel sink). There are meat, vegetarian & vegan options out there. While I'd much prefer to cook my own, our find a fabulous local (healthy) eatery around the corner, sometimes you're stuck in a hotel surrounded by strip malls & fast food eateries, with a toddler. Under these trying circumstances freeze-dried can save the day.

Erin in AK

The musician, inspired by her own touring experiences, Dar Willliams wrote a great book called "The Tofu Tollbooth" about where to find health food stores and restaurants when you're on the road. It's a comprehensive list of places all over the country. You can find it on Amazon.


As a native of Shreveport (although now I live in St. Louis), I am slightly offended, but at the same time, I completely understand C.D.S.'s predicament. It is hard to be a vegetarian in the South, but, if you ask the right people, you can usually find good places to eat. My suggestion is to always call up the local health food store and ask for restaurant recommendations. Shreveport has several health foods stores, and many restaurants that are vegetarian friendly. If you rely solely on the yellow pages or the main streets, then, yes, the options look limited. You just need to do a bit of "research." Happy traveling in the South!


Great topic, great ideas. For my three-day biz trips to nowhere USA, I usually go to Trader Joe's and pick up healthy convenience foods - ready to eat salad in a bag, pre-cooked brown rice, hard cheese, dense nutty german bread, canned/tetra-packed soup, etc. I also bring my own tea bags, coffee, and a camping french press. As long as I have access to a microwave, I eat well!


I've found that what I crave most when I'm on an airplane is fresh things. In addition to fruit, I usually also pack a salad with greens in a tupperware. You can mix a little olive oil, salt, vinegar and crushed garlic in a 3 oz bottle to bring a long. For road trips/car camping trips with a camp stove, soup is the way to go, you just toss everything in the pot and you have a full meal - bring along lentils, rice and some of your favourite spices and stop in at grocery stores for the fresh ingredients.


Great tips! My job often takes me to Mississippi, where they deep-fry everything. I have a 2-week trip coming up, and I will have to strategize!


Great ideas! someone cautioned about avoiding Starbucks- I don't know for sure about the airports, but the stores now have lots of healthy options; all fruit and protein smoothies, oatmeal, and a healthy egg, fruit and bagel platter:). I also recently spoke with a 'frequent traveler' on a flight to Denmark (as we were walking the aisles and standing and stretching as much as possible) He said he always orders the Vegetarian meal and lots of water (ok, that was my addition). I decided to try it and found it to be much easier on the digestive system, especially the day or two after the flight. I feel much less discomfort from bloating.


wow - all great tips...cant wait to use some next time I travel because i always come back feeling bloated after a trip.


I like the comment about going to a grocery store in the area rather than a fast food joint. If there is a Whole Foods or other store that sells organic prepared foods, then great. SparkPeople came up with a list of healthy, low-calorie and diet-friendly fast food choices:


When I travel, I pack single serving bags of almonds from Trader Joes and cups of no sugar added applesauce. That way I have something reasonably healthy to eat no matter the circumstances. Almonds and applesauce make a good breakfast too.


Biggie over at Lunch in a Box just did an excellent post on bringing along empty bento containers to pack up restaurant leftovers. I hate to waste good food, so I often end up toting a big clamshell container and trying to figure out how to keep it cold. Taking along a smaller, sealable container is one way to make saving those leftovers more convenient. (Add a couple of Ziplocks and you can get some ice to go, too.) Makes for a good snack or even a meal later on!


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