My boyfriend likes meal plans and I like snacks, so together you can bet we’re always packing food, even at the airport. Since I keep dragging him on international flights, we’ve developed a go-to list of healthy snacks for traveling. Along the way we learned some lessons about what’s easiest to eat out of hotel rooms or Airbnbs and how to get it through airport security. Now I’m sharing all of that with you.
I haven’t written about it before, but I have an amazing coach that works with me on diet and training. For the most part, our goal for my vacations is simply for me to eat healthy while traveling without feeling deprived. In some areas that means my boyfriend and I pack very little. In others, we rely more on the healthy snacks for traveling that we drag along. But in general, here’s what we bring, why we bring it, and what you need to know about packing it.
Healthy snacks for traveling and how to pack them
The two of us both try to eat healthy, but have different breakdowns in macros. (Not to mention the fact that he eats way more than I do.) But when we’re headed out on vacation, our main priority in healthy snacks for traveling is protein. We’ve found it’s relatively easy to find carbs and fat wherever we go, but hitting our protein is harder and more expensive. The amount of protein we both need per day based on our goals skews higher than many cultures tend to eat.
Quest protein powder packets
Although we prefer to get our protein through whole food sources, protein powder packets are easiest while traveling. We’ve also found that the key to taking protein powder on planes is buying them in individual packets, even though it costs slightly more. (Yes, we used to measure out servings in Ziploc baggies.)
Why we bring it: Traveling tends to make us tired and hungry. Most of the options in airports aren’t the best, so we like to have easy sources of protein that make us feel full. My meal plan for days off of the gym are also lower carb, since I’m not active. Protein powder helps me stay full and avoid hidden sugar and fat in airline meals.
How we pack it: We calculate how many packets each of us needs each day of our vacation, based on the destination. Then we’ll put the individual packets in large Ziploc bags to keep them together and organized. We tend to have two Ziploc bags: one for a carry-on bag, and one packed in a checked bag. Bonus: Using them up automatically creates room in your suitcase for local treats you want to bring home.
Where to buy it: You can pick these packets up in-store at GNC and Vitamin Shoppe, but they might not have all flavors in stock. We order through the Vitamin Shoppe website, where we can get an entire 12-packet box for $26.99. Our favorite flavors are Chocolate Milkshake (actually tastes like a milkshake), Salted Caramel (the BF’s favorite), and Cookies and Cream.
Lehigh Biltong, or jerky
If we’ve planned ahead properly, I’ll order biltong, which is more tender and has better macros than jerky, from Lehigh Biltong. Their flavors are mouth-watering, and biltong has less fat, less sodium, and more protein than most jerky. In a pinch, we’ll just go with Jack Links Original jerky since they keep the sugar relatively low.
Why we bring it: Think of protein powder and jerky or biltong as the protein go-tos for our sweet and salty cravings. Sometimes you’ll want savory, somethings your sweet tooth kicks into high gear. We like having options in our carry-on for both situations. It’s also relatively no-mess, making it ideal for snacking on the go.
How we pack it: Since we have endless restaurants and convenience stores at our disposal once we’ve arrived, we only use these healthy snacks while traveling. We pack one large container in our carry-on for in-flight snacking and another in our checked bag to save for the flight home.
Where to buy it: Stock up on these healthy snacks for traveling in new flavors (like Lime & Cilantro or Sriracha) or the classics of Lehigh Biltong through their website. You can get 16 ounces for $33.95. That’s only pennies higher than the brands you see in stores, but a much better texture and flavor. I can’t talk up their product highly enough.
Once Again nut butter packets
There’s nothing I need to say to convince you to bring nut butter on vacation. I could outline all the health benefits to explain why it’s one of my favorite healthy snacks for traveling. I won’t, because we all know it’s delicious, and that’s the real selling point. But there are tons of local delicacies and treats to enjoy on vacation, so why do I weight down my bag with nut butter? Let me explain.
Why we bring it: This one’s just for me. My boyfriend and I have very different goals and diets, yes, but also different ways of eating. He forgets to eat, I get hangry. He can do intermittent fasting no problem, and I need plenty of small meals each day. I keep packets of nut butter on-hand for the times when I’m hungry, but he’s not. We’re not going to hit a restaurant for just me, so I have half a packet to tide me over.
How we pack it: I don’t tend to use nut butter packets when I’m on a plane, so these go straight in the checked bag. I put them in the Ziploc along with the protein powder packets to keep things together and contain potential leaks.
Where to buy it: My preferred nut butter brand right now is Once Again. I get packets of their Lightly Toasted Almond Butter and Creamy Cashew Butter. Although no sugar is added, the cashew butter is naturally sweet enough to knock out some of my cravings. I find mine at local health stores as well as Whole Foods. The brand also provides a product finder tool so you know where to look in your area.
Instant oatmeal packets
The boyfriend and I both pack oatmeal, but for very different reasons. Carbs aren’t typically hard for us to find on vacation, although complex carbs can be. Since we both use these packets for such specific reasons, I’ll outline both below.
Why we pack it: Nothing ruins a great vacation like constipation and bloating. That’s why this makes my list of healthy snacks for traveling. Oatmeal has prebiotic benefits thanks to its beta-glucan fiber and resistant starch content. That means it feeds your healthy gut bacteria and can keep things on their normal schedule even when you’re half a world away. That’s the main reason why I’ll pack oatmeal.
The other benefit is simply having a quick and easy breakfast on-hand. My boyfriend tends to wake up later than I do. Sometimes I can wait to eat until he’s up, and sometimes I can’t. When I wake up hungry, I use our hotel room’s electric tea kettle or coffee maker to heat some water for oatmeal. I’ll mix in protein powder and some nut butter for a balanced meal that will keep me satisfied for hours.
Depending on your goals, you might decide oatmeal is most useful for calories on the go, like my boyfriend. Since instant oatmeal is so fine, you can add it to a protein shake and drink it. Combining these two healthy snacks for traveling in a blender bottle is a quick and easy meal that keeps him from getting too hungry (or dropping too much weight).
How we pack it: Individual packets of instant oatmeal just get thrown in the Ziploc bags with our protein powder. I pack two or three in the carry-on, and the rest in the checked bag.
Where to buy it: Nothing fancy here, we just get Quaker original unsweetened from the grocery store. We do like the Trader Joe’s unsweetened oatmeal packets, but sometimes we don’t have time to go downtown to hit the popular grocery store.
Trader Joe’s coconut oil packets
Does it make sense to pack more than one fat source? For us, yes. Nut butter is great for snacking, but sometimes it’s not ideal for mixing. Trader Joe’s makes it easy to bring this healthy fat with their individual serving packets, which we just pick up at the store before we leave.
Why we pack it: If we’re staying at an Airbnb, I like to have coconut oil for our morning eggs instead of butter. It also comes in handy for really rough travel schedules. If we’re taking a long overnight flight that doesn’t provide breakfast, I’ll put coconut oil in a shaker bottle with my protein powder and coffee. It’s sort of like Bulletproof Coffee on the run.
How we pack it: I don’t pack many of these per trip. I’ll slide one packet in the carry-on Ziploc filled the other healthy snacks for traveling: oatmeal, nut butter, and protein powder. Two more packets go in the Ziploc headed for the checked bag. We don’t go through much of this each trip.
You might be wondering, can you take coconut oil on a plane? Understandable since it’s a liquid at warmer temperatures. I’ve never had an issue bringing it along. I also don’t put it in my liquids bag, and have never had problems. You might have a different experience. But if you’re worried, you can always put all of it in your checked bag instead of your carry-on.
Where to get it: We head down to Trader Joe’s, where you can get a box of 15 packets for $3.99. Other brands also make individual packets of the oil. Boxed.com, where we stock up on sparkling water for cheap, has coconut oil packets in boxes of 16 for $8.99.
Ooh Snap! Protein bars
These are absolutely only for me, since my boyfriend thinks I have an unhealthy protein bar addiction. But these beauties are hands down the best protein bars I’ve ever eaten, as long as you get one specific flavor: salted caramel pretzel. Salty chunks of pretzel rods are rolled into this crunchy bar, and the result is irresistible. Their calories sit slightly lower than other bars on the market, making them easier to fit into a lower-calorie diet. And, to me, making them one of my essential healthy snacks for traveling.
Why we pack them: I just like having one of my favorite foods with me when I travel. Sometimes I nibble half on a long plane ride. Sometimes I enjoy a quarter of a bar before bed as a tiny dessert. I just like to have them around, even if my boyfriend doesn’t get it.
How we pack them: For trips up to 10 days, I only pack one or two of these bars. I tend to have a half or quarter of a protein bar at a time, so this is enough to last me through a trip. I pack one in my carry-on bag, and one in my checked bag for when I arrive.
Where to get them: Although select 7-Eleven stores stock these sweet-and-salty stunners, it’s easier to order them off Amazon. I’ve only found one 7-Eleven that stocks them. I pick up one or two at a time there when I can, but it’s nice to have a box in the pantry.