Eating Smart While Travelling

Written by Caitlin Littrell, UNL Dietetic Intern

Summer is the time of year when a lot of us are packing up the car to go on a road trip with the family or buying a plane ticket to see our friend half way across the country. This often entails eating out, convenience store stops and fast food. Our food choices don’t count though because we’re “on vacation,” right? This type of mentality is what can lead to overindulgence. So how can we eat smart while traveling and avoid bringing home more than just souvenirs and memories? Check out these easy traveling tips to find out!

Pack your own snacks

Food Shoot for UNL Extension
Photo by Craig Chandler/University Communications

If you plan on being in the car for a while, go ahead and pack a cooler full of healthy snack options. This can include whole fruit such as apples or bananas, low-fat cheese sticks, baby carrots, whole-wheat crackers or your favorite trail mix. Bring items that are nutrient dense—foods that are high in nutrients, but lower in calories that will help make you feel full longer.

Skip the candy bar and soda when you pit stop for gas

Convenience stores are an easy place to load up on unnecessary calories. You go inside to use the restroom and feel compelled to buy yourself a treat for the road. However, foods offered at convenience stores are typically high in both sugar and fat. Same goes for beverages. It’s important to be mindful of liquid calories. Instead of soda, energy drinks or that iced mocha, opt for beverages such as water, unsweetened tea or other low-calorie options. Grab a bag of pretzels (not the chocolate covered ones) or a container of yogurt to help tide you over until your next meal.

Find the healthy options at the airport

When it comes to air travel, the hub of the airport with its vast array of food choices can be extremely overwhelming. If you know you’re going to have a 3-hour layer over that falls over lunch or dinner, know the healthier options available. Look for a refrigerated section that can offer things like fresh fruit, salad or Greek yogurt. Or better yet, keep your wallet happy by packing your own meal or snack (Yes, you can bring food from home on the plane!). Pick foods high in fiber that will help tide you over until you reach your final destination like a turkey and veggie hummus wrap. For more information regarding packing food for air travel, visit:

Map out your meals

Just as you planned other aspects of your trip—duration, lodging, sights to see—it’s important to plan meals too. Scout out the area for restaurants you want to try and then see what their menu has to offer. Be prepared when hunger strikes.

Don’t let yourself get hungry

Food Shoot for UNL Extension
Photo by Craig Chandler/University Communications

It can be easy to lose track of time while you’re out sight-seeing; before you know it you somehow skipped lunch and now it’s almost dinnertime! Skipping meals and prolonging your eating can lead to over indulgence and binge eating later on. Keep snacks on hand and try not to go more than 3 hours without eating. This will help keep your tummy satisfied through out the day and decrease the likelihood of you making unhealthy impulse food choices because you were starving.

Eating smart while traveling is all about finding that balance and planning ahead so you’re prepared when confronted with temptation while on vacation (or any other time). Know the healthy options that are available, but don’t forget to allow yourself to splurge a little bit every now and then to help satisfy those cravings.

Enjoy this simple yet versatile trail mix recipe that’s perfect to have on hand in the car or to tuck away in your purse or travel bag when you need a quick fix.

Make Your Own Trail Mix

32 servings

Courtesy of “5 Ways to Make a Healthier Trail Mix with Recipe” By Kayla Colgrove MS,RDN, ACSM-CPT


  • 4 cups of whole grain cereal
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup banana chips
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips


  1. Add all ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Stir to mix
  3. Pour ¼ cup trail mix into a snack-size storage bag.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 107, Total fat 5 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 17 g, Total Carbohydrates 17 g, Sugars 9 g, Protein 2 g


This post was reviewed by Jessica Meuleners RD, LMNT and Morgan Hartline MS, RD, LMNT 



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