I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road recently for a mix of work and pleasure. I love to sample local foods (and beers!) with the friends that I visit, but I try to eat most of my meals each day from food I’ve brought along with me, to save money, and to keep things healthy and consistent for myself. It also makes the trip a lot easier when I don’t have to think about most of my meals. Here’s a quick list of what I travel with, and why:
-Soylent. A recent discovery and the new key armament in my travel arsenal, Soylent was created as a high-tech meal replacement drink, with a balanced profile of calories by fat, carbohydrates, and proteins (47%:33%:20%), and 20% Daily Value of 25 different micro-nutrients. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated (until opened), and each small bottle is 400 calories of healthy energy for around $2.50. Considering I used to spend $3+ at gas stations for Muscle Milk, Naked Juice, and other “healthy” road trip items, Soylent is a huge upgrade. I keep a case in my car at all times now: post run nutrition – ready to go; quick morning breakfast before jumping back on the road – ready to go; healthy snack to avoid mid-drive munchies – ready to go. I love this stuff. You can read more about it and try it for 50% off (while also donating 4 meals to the World Food Program USA) on my other blog site, The Curious Optimist.
-Homemade Banana Bread. This doesn’t fit in well with my current lean toward a fat-dominant diet, but I’ve been traveling with banana bread since college, so it’s not an easy habit to break. I’ll post the recipe on here in another post, but it’s heavy on healthy fats, whole wheat flour, and flax seed meal. I try to keep it refrigerated, but for a 3-4 day car trip, it’ll last fine even if it doesn’t stay cool. Super filling, perfect with tea or coffee for breakfast, and a roadtrip staple of mine.
-Macadamia Nuts. As far as nuts go, these are the most calorie-dense, and the highest in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. I love the rich buttery taste, and they’re a perfect complement to a fat-dominant diet. Just 10 nuts yield around 200 calories and 22 grams of fat. I've tried a few from Amazon, and these are the best so far: Mauna Loa.
-Nut Mix. My standard mix is almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, dried blueberries, dried cherries, and cacao nibs. The nuts provide a nice balance of fats and proteins with a touch of saltiness, the berries provide a slight sweetness, and the cacao nibs are a healthy substitute for the traditional m&ms that most people douse their trail mix with. It takes some time and $30+ at the bulk section of my grocery store, but I end up with a massive bag that easily lasts 1-2 weeks on the road.
-Wild Planet Sardines (link). A new find thanks to Tim Ferriss. I used to like sardines as a kid (on my pizza!), but fell off in recent years. It took me a few cans to bring my taste buds back around, but now I can tolerate them easily, and am starting to enjoy them (tip from my sister – a pinch of salt and some lemon/lime juice). The reason I’m forcing them on myself? They’re a nutritional powerhouse for only $2.50 per can! High protein, high fat (and a great balance of fats), no carbs, and a slew of other important nutrients. I’ll let the back of the package give you details: “Ounce for ounce, Wild Planet sardines provide more calcium and phosphorus than milk, more iron than spinach, more potassium than coconut milk and bananas and as much protein as steak. One can of Wild Planet sardines contains 313mg EPA and 688mg DHA Omega 3 and is an ample source of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and selenium.” Interesting side point: if you worry about mercury or other toxins (PCBs) from your seafood, consider eating lower on the food chain (like sardines). The larger the fish, the higher the concentration of environmental pollutants.
-Water Water Water Water. Most of us don’t drink enough water. I aim for 100oz each day (it’s a nice round number, and a good aim for all of us), which means I keep 4 liter-sized bottles of water full in my car to start each day. Every evening I make sure to reload my bottles so I’m ready to go in the morning!
-Green and Black Tea Bags. To extract caffeine, you can brew tea for 3-10 minutes at near boiling temps, or if you don’t have easy access to boiling water, you can extract the caffeine and flavor with an hour or more in room-temperature water. I travel with a load of green and black tea bags, to avoid awful gas-station coffee and ensure my caffeine addiction get its daily fix. Tea provides a nice way to flavor up some of the water I’m drinking each day, and is a nice way to avoid the bigger ups and downs from the higher caffeine content in coffee, as well as the related increase in pee stops. Some day I'll start buying good expensive tea, but for now I've been buying large quantities of Stash brand Green and Black.
-Local Farm Stand Fruit. Growing up in an agricultural town, I've always loved stopping at local farm stands. Now while traveling different parts of the country where I can see the different local produce and products, I find them almost irresistible. They're a great way to break up some of the monotony from eating sardines, nuts, and Soylent for days on end, they help support local farmers, and they can give you a good feel for the local scene and people.
I'd love to hear about your travel tips and staple foods in the comments below!