Trying to eat healthy away from your home can be daunting. You don’t always know how restaurants prepare their food, and if you don’t have a fridge and microwave, the options for what you can bring from home are limited.
This guide should help you come up with some healthy snacks you can eat, wherever you need to be.
What’s a healthy snack?
Not everyone defines health food the same way. The debate rages over whether we should be watching our carbs or our fats.
Should you go paleo, keto, or just eat a balanced diet? There’s no right answer for everyone. Always follow your doctor’s advice, which is specific to your health concerns.
Here are the assumptions I’m using in this article:
- Sugar is bad and should be minimized. The WHO recommends no more than 5% of your calories being ANY form of sugar, including what naturally occurs in fruit.
- Fat is high calorie, but not otherwise bad in moderation. They were wrong about saturated fat.
- Protein is good.
- Salt isn’t as bad as once thought, except for people with certain medical issues.
Healthy snacks on the go
Let’s start with a real challenge: people who work out of their cars. You can’t bring cheese or yogurt for later because you can’t refrigerate them.
You may not even have the good fortune to be near restaurants other than fast food joints. Here’s what you can bring from home:
Some people advocate dry-roasted over oil roasted, but the actual fat content isn’t that different. Nuts are full of “good” fats your body needs as well as protein and a few carbs.
Yes, nuts can be fattening if you overdo it, but on balance they’re one of the healthiest and most travel-friendly snacks. Nuts are a great choice for someone who’s watching their carbs.
And if you don’t like plain nuts, there are plenty of easy and even no-cook nut snack recipes that travel well.
Apples, bananas and other fruits
Apples are a great source of fiber that give you a nice little bit of energy from complex carbohydrates. Bananas are high in lots of nutrients.
Most any fruit you bring will need to be consumed on the day because cars aren’t a great place to store them. But if you’re away from home, you can probably find a market where you can buy fruit daily.
Trail mix usually means nuts with fruit, maybe yogurt coating, etc. Be aware that these tend to be high in sugar for the nutrients they provide.
But some trail mixes have less sugar than others. If you can tolerate the sugar, trail mix is a good, energizing snack.
If you have trouble with sugar, consider mixing your own trail mix: get some nuts, some dried fruit (apples and apricots are both relatively low in sugar, banana and plantain chips are full of nutrients), and even a few yogurt-covered pretzels if you want just a little bit of that taste.
There are plenty of dry cereals that taste just fine on their own and aren’t loaded with sugar, salt or other additives.
Granola and Power Bars?
Yes, they’re handy, and many of them are nutritious. But read the labels: some of these supposedly healthy bars can have a ton of sugar in proportion to the protein and fat. They also tend to contain soy or wheat, which some people avoid.
You can also make your own energy bars.
Potato or veggie chips
Yes, I’m serious. Potato chips are basically potatoes, salt, and oil. They actually contain a lot of resistant starch, which is a type of fiber that’s good for you.
And you can buy them with healthier oils like avocado or coconut. They need to be eaten in moderation, of course, but they’re not a bad snack. Veggie chips are a similar good option.
A high-carb snack, but otherwise a better option than much of what you could buy on the road.
Bring a bag of plain popcorn from home to munch on. A little bit of seasoning salt – even a no-salt herbal “salt” for those of you who need to watch your salt intake – adds lots of flavor.
Snacks for a kitchenette
If you’ve got a fridge and/or microwave handy, healthy snacking is even easier. In addition to everything listed above, you can also enjoy the following:
- Yogurt – full of acidophilus, which helps fight bad bacteria in your digestive system. This is very helpful, particularly if you’re sitting a lot or traveling in areas where you aren’t sure of everything you’re eating and drinking. Greek yogurt is particularly good because it has a lot of protein (just because it’s strained differently than regular yogurt – otherwise, it’s the same food).
- Cheese – a nice dose of fat and protein.
- Leftovers from last night’s healthy dinner – when you’re cooking, just make a little extra, and voila, you have lunch for tomorrow.
- Veggie juice (V-8 type) – these have a lot of nutrients, particularly the ones from health food stores. If you’re watching your salt, pick low sodium varieties of these juices (you can add a little no-salt herbal “salt” for flavor – just shake it in and stir it up).
- Cold salad. Make a bean or pasta salad over the weekend, and you can spoon up a lunch from it every day of the week. Include items like meat, beans, nuts, fruit, cheeses, veggies and dark leafy greens; avoid or limit fattening, low-nutrient items like croutons and wonton noodles. Watch your salad dressings and mayonnaise: they can be high calorie or contain hidden sugar.
- Buttered microwave popcorn. Like potato chips, popcorn contains resistant starch, so it’s good to eat in moderation. To keep it uber healthy, buy plain popcorn and drizzle a pat or two of melted grass-fed butter over a small bowl.
What other snacks are you able to enjoy on the road or at the office?