Eating on the Road: How to eat well while traveling

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It was a long day that was about to get longer. I’d run out the door late for my flight, navigated crazy security lines at the airport, ran to my gate, and flopped into my seat in a breathless flurry. I made it!

As I sighed with relief, my stomach started to rumble. Oh yeah, breakfast. Forgot about that. Uh oh. I’d forgotten to pack food. Yikes. Not only did this mean waiting until we got up to altitude for the drink and snack cart, this meant my food future for the next few hours was in the hands of the airline… not a good scenario.

You see, I always travel with food. If your body likes real food (and ALL bodies like real food), then you want to take matters into your own hands wherever possible. Those little snacks they hand out on airplanes are more chemical concoctions than foods. (Don’t believe me? Read the ingredients. Even something as simple as peanuts will have a long list of unpronounceable stuff in it.) And while the options for purchasing “real” meals are better than they used to be, they’re still far from ideal.

We’ve been doing a lot of travel lately as a family and today I thought I’d share with you what’s in my travel food bag. It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated in any way – and you certainly don’t have to take as much food as we do. I always pack more than we need so that we have lots of options and are prepared if flights are delayed. The following example was for two adults and our toddler preparing for an 8-hour travel day that would include breakfast, lunch and plenty of snacks in between.

What's in your food travel bag?  |

Fresh produce – I always pack a few different options here. I’ll bring whatever’s in season or in the fridge. In this case we brought apples, bananas, pears, oranges, an avocado, a grapefruit, sliced red/yellow/orange peppers, carrots (not shown), and half a bag of sunflower sprouts I needed to use up (not shown).

Protein – This is something I never skimp on because this is what really fills you. In this case I brought nitrate-free salami, grass-fed beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, and some yummy raw cheese. I also brought some yummy tempha (fermented black bean and rice) from our local farmers market, but this is only something you’ll have access to if you live in LA. (If you’re a local, check your farmer’s market for Dave’s Korean food – it’s all vegan and naturally fermented. Some truly yummy stuff, although they do use soy so read ingredients if you have a sensitivity.)

“Snack” food – Ultimately anything is a snack food, but for our purposes today I’m considering this the little odds and ends like Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten-free crackers, homemade coco-roons, kale chips, spirulina super chips, sea weed sticks, and homemade fruit leather. In a perfect world I’d make all this myself, but it’s not a perfect world and thankfully there are some great companies making healthy products.

Note on the sea weed in the picture: I did what I always say you should never do and grabbed something new without reading the ingredients – this is a brand I love, but I usually get their dried seaweed snacks, not the “sticks”, which it turns out have a load of unnecessary extra ingredients I’d have avoided had I read the label.

Utensils – I have a lovely set of bamboo cutlery that I bring wherever we go. It gets past security easily, and is sufficient to cut into things like avocado and cheese. It’s not perfect, but it does the trick and it’s better than flimsy plastic. I also bring a couple of cloth napkins, which serve as placemats, wipes, napkins, etc. If I’ve got space, I bring a couple of (empty) water bottles we can fill once we get through security so we’re not at the mercy of expensive bottled water.

The bag I use is a cooler bag, but I never actually bring ice packs because the food itself usually keeps cold enough over the course of the day.

Armed with all this food, we had more than enough to keep us going through a long travel day – everyone was happy and well fed (well, as happy as you can be with an energetic toddler on a 6hr flight!)

Do you travel with food? What’s in your travel bag? I’d love to hear your travel food strategies in the comments below.

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  1. Elizabeth

    February 11, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I like all these ideas, but what will pass through TSA security checks? I’ve had some really good foods taken away from me at airports, so I don’t want to take chances with cheese, salami, fruit, etc. Have things changed lately?

    • Margaret Floyd

      February 17, 2015 at 11:06 am

      None of these ever get flagged in my experience (and we travel a LOT and always bring food). The things to worry about are things that have liquid/gel textures: hummus, nut butters, liquids. For these, you have to bring them in really small sizes, or just skip them altogether.

      Although, here’s an important tip: If you or someone you’re traveling with has food allergies or sensitivities, you can get a note from a medical professional that explains that these are foods you need to have on board due to your dietary restrictions. That will get just about anything across security food-wise.

  2. Rebecca Cody, NTP

    February 11, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Wow! You really did plan ahead for your trip. Good job!

    Last fall we traveled for five weeks by car. I bought a Berkey Travel water filter that we carried into the hotel room and topped off every night. I think it holds about 1.5 gallons of water. The Berkey has been tested (see to remove all the nasty chemicals from water, including fluoride and chlorine, while leaving calcium, magnesium and other minerals your body needs. We knew we’d be getting all kinds of unwanted chemicals if we had to rely on either whatever bottled (and expensive) water was available, and tap water would be even more questionable.

    The Travel Berkey is too big for many travel needs, but we wedged it in and put it on the cart with our luggage to take into our room at night. When someone would ask my husband what it was, he would tell them that I make my own whisky and it was my still! You can’t stop a guy like that!

    I’m still using my Berkey at home now.

    Berkey makes a filtering cup, but it would have been too small for our needs on this trip.

    • Margaret Floyd

      February 17, 2015 at 11:04 am

      This is such a great tip, Rebecca! Totally looking into it. Thanks for sharing that!

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