One of the more common complaints I hear in my practice is the issue of eating well when you aren't at home. This is not an easy task, as most restaurants and convenience stores are stocked with foods that are highly processed, made with GMO and non-organic ingredients, and usually aren't that great anyway. The solution, then, is to plan ahead and bring food with you when you are on-the-go. Of course you can always bring some fresh or dried fruits like an apple or dried mango, or easy veggies like carrots, but when you are wanting something more substantial to get you through, you will need to plan and get more creative.
In general, I like to promote sitting down to eat in a calm environment, taking your time to chew properly and eat slowly, because when you eat in this way you digest your food better and absorb the nutrients more fully. But this is just not always possible. Sometimes we go on road trips, or are running around for work, or are going canoeing for the day and need to pack a lunch. In cases like these, it is totally possible to eat well, as long as you plan and take time to bring the right foods. Here are five of my favorite foods that are portable, easy to eat when you aren't sitting at a table, and are also nutrient-dense. All you may need is a pocket knife and some napkins taken from a gas station, and you are good to go.
1. Pastured Summer Sausage or Charcuterie
Bringing a good source of protein along when you are traveling helps to keep your energy up and your blood sugar regulated, which will not only keep you healthy, but also make you a better travel companion. Protein will also help keep you full so you are less tempted to fill up on road trip junk food.
For my quick protein, I like to bring meats that don't require cooking or much other preparation, so summer sausage or other cured meats are perfect. Besides summer sausage, other great choices to bring along are salami, prosciutto, or even smoked salmon/lox. For an easy organ meat boost, look for braunschweiger or liverwurst, which would go great with some cheese and mustard if you are putting together a nutrient-dense picnic. Of course, you could always go with classic beef jerky for an easy protein with no utensils required, other than a strong jaw. More convenience stores are even carrying "all-natural" jerky recently. While it may not be organic or pastured, it would satisfy your protein need in a pinch.
When you can, choose organic and/or pastured brands, or as natural as possible. Look for brands like Organic Prairie, Olli or La Quercia. In Southwest Wisconsin, we have Underground Meats which is an awesome source of ethically-sourced charcuterie, but you could look for local brands where you live that would also work.
2. Coconut Oil Chips and Pork Rinds
Are chips the healthiest food in the world? Probably not. But, they are easy to bring on the road and require no preparation, so they make this list. Not just any chips will do, however. Look for chips, either potato, sweet potato, or corn, that are cooked in healthy oils. These work perfectly for dipping into salsa, hummus or guacamole, or as-is alongside your protein snacks.
There are brands like Jackson's Honest that are cooked in coconut oil, and taste amazing, as well as brands that are cooked in avocado or olive oil. Be sure to avoid chips that are cooked in processed oils like canola, vegetable/soy, or safflower, or that have additives like yeast extract for the most healthful option.
For a low-carb crunchy snack that will work for dipping, look for pastured pork rinds from brands like Epic. These are so salty and delicious, and have the added bonus of providing collagen, since they are made from skin. Just be sure to avoid conventional rinds from the convenience store, as they are often fried in processed oils and have additives for flavoring. Seaweed snacks, made from toasted nori, would also fit into this category. Though they aren't as filling, they are a nice mineral-rich boost that is a nice salty snack that travels well.
3. Real Food Bars
In general, I am not a fan of snack bars. Most of them, especially many of the granola bars, are barely healthier than a candy bar, and provide little protein or other nutrition. But when you are traveling or eating on the run, a real food bar can be a life saver. Or at least a hunger saver and energy booster.
The best bars to bring along are ones that are made from real foods and don't have added sweeteners. Fruit and nut bars fit this bill, such as Larabars or Kit Bars (Organic and made by Clif Bars), that are only made with nuts and dried fruits. These are becoming easier to find at conventional stores and even gas stations, if you forget to grab a snack for your tip.
For bars that are more filling and provide higher amounts of protein, look for real food bars like Primal Kitchen that have collagen added (travel bone broth!) or Chapul and Exo bars that are made with cricket protein. Meat-based bars like the ones from Epic or Mighty Bars from Organic Prairie are also great for traveling. These will be more nutritious and have less added junk than your average protein bar and will keep you fuller for longer.
4. Crispy Nuts and Nut Butter Packs
Another protein-rich option that travels well are nuts. Not only do they provide protein, but also fat to keep you full, and plenty of minerals. I like to make "Cripsy Nuts" from the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which is essentially nuts that have been soaked and baked to remove phytic acid and improve their digestibility. This also makes them salty and crunchy, which I look for in a road trip snack for sure. Any nuts will work, but almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds are favorites of mine. If you forget or don't have time to prepare your nuts/seeds ahead of time, you can just bring some raw cashews or toasted pistachios that you find at a grocery store in a pinch.
Another easy nut option is the nut butter pack. Usually these are squeeze pouches, but there are other forms as well, filled with peanut, almond, or other nut butter. These are great for camping or flying when you don't want to bring big, open containers with you. Brands like Justin's, Artisana, and others are easy to find at most health food stores and even conventional stores like Target are now carrying these as an option.
5. Hard Boiled Eggs
Not the most glamorous snack, but it will fill you up and actually travels pretty well. This is a good option for protein if you aren't traveling for long or have a cooler with you on your trip. I also like these because you can peel them ahead of time to make it even easier to eat when you are on-the-go, and you need no utensils.
Other easy proteins and fats that would fit this bill are organic string cheese or even a big chunk of fancy cheese you could break apart at a picnic, a container of olives from an olive bar, creamy hummus, or an avocado (just not one that is too ripe!). All relatively easy to bring along and will keep you full and happy on your journey.
Brine & Broth
I am a gut health-focused nutritionist and online health coach based in Southwest Wisconsin. My recipes and philosophies center around traditional, nutrient-dense foods that support robust gut health.