Healthy travel foods make all the difference with how you feel on a trip! Get healthy travel ideas for road trips, hotel room meals & Airbnb.
Taking time away from your normal eating patterns can be part of the fun of travel. Experiencing a different culture's food, lingering in a great restaurant with a beautiful view or watching your kid eat their first lobster roll. Each of those things adds to the travel experience.
You know what doesn't though? Hitting up the drive-through because everyone is starving and you have no idea where the nearest decent food is. Or ordering hotel room service for days on end because you can't face bringing your young kids to yet another restaurant.
I've done a lot of traveling, both with kiddos and solo, and I've learned that at least for me, I enjoy those authentic, celebratory food experiences more if I'm able to fit in some healthy travel food as well. If you're like me, then I have a great resource for you today!
I've rounded up my favorite healthy travel food options for road trips, hotel stays, and Airbnb or vacation rental stays. I would love to hear your ideas as well – please share in the comments, on Facebook or @prepdish on Instagram!
Snacks for Traveling in the Car
Snacks are a quintessential part of a road trip. That doesn't mean they have to be chips and candy from the gas station though! Below are some of my favorite snacks for traveling in the car, for kids and adults alike. I recommend including a mix of sweet and salty to satisfy all of your crew's cravings.
- Raw, chopped veggies: Celery, carrots and sugar snap peas are hearty enough to hold up for a few hours on a road trip. Homemade ranch, hummus & guacamole all make great dips for veggies. Pack the dips in small containers to easily distribute to different people in the car.
- No-chop Fruit: Apples, clementines, bananas and berries work really well! I love dipping fruit in nut butter. Bonus – you can also use the nut butter to make sandwiches for the kiddos or to spread on rice cakes!
- Homemade Trail Mix: You can of course buy trail mix but it often includes less-than-healthy ingredients and also comes with a serious price markup. It's super easy to make your own trail mix though! Just combine your favorite nuts and dried fruit. If you have kids, get them involved in selecting and mixing the ingredients.
- Spiced Nuts: You can of course simply pack raw nuts but if you take a few minutes to toast them and add some seasoning, they'll be even tastier! My rosemary pecans would be a perfect road trip snack.
- Hard Boiled Eggs: Finding high protein car snacks can be tricky but if you have a cooler, hard boiled eggs work great! Good for breakfast, snacks or part of a lunch, they're easy to prep and totally portable. I recommend peeling them ahead of time.
- Popcorn Snack Bags: Popcorn is an excellent way to satisfy that craving for salty, crunchy snacks without giving in to the gas station chip aisle. You can stick to plain popcorn or get creative with different mix-ins! I share three of my favorite popcorn combinations here, along with easy instructions on how to make homemade popcorn.
- Energy Bites: These are one of my favorite snacks when I'm home as well as traveling. They taste like a treat but are packed with plenty of protein and healthy fats to make a highly satisfying snack. My Almond Butter High Protein Energy Bites and Cranberry Almond Energy Bites are both delicious! Especially if you're traveling in the summer, make sure to keep them in a cooler as they can get a bit crumbly if they get too warm.
- Cooked Veggies: You don't have to only stick to raw veggies for snacks! Steamed sugar snap peas or roasted sweet potato fries make great snacks. Bonus – this is a good way to use up the leftover veggies in your fridge before leaving on a trip! Don't feel limited to traditional “snack foods”.
Healthy Road Trip Meals
Healthy road trip meals are tricky. I definitely recommend prepping ahead if you can, especially if you don't know the area you'll be driving through. Still, I know sometimes travel comes up last minute so I've also included some healthy items that you can find on the road that work in a pinch. For the below healthy road trip meals, I've assumed that you can either switch off driving to eat or stop driving while you're eating, as some of them do require a fork. I've also assumed you have a good cooler, a road trip must!
To Pack Ahead
- Healthy Muffins: These Chai Spiced Zucchini Muffins are one of my favorites!
- Grain-free Granola: This granola was a huge hit with our meal plan subscribers. Lightly sweet and perfectly crunchy, it packs in a lot of protein and healthy fats, making a satisfying breakfast or snack.
- Frittata: If you haven't tried frittatas cold, they're actually quite delicious. You can either wrap up individual slices or use this mini frittata method. This works well for breakfast or lunch.
- Breakfast Cookies: Sweetened with dates, these breakfast cookies taste like a treat but have only clean ingredients. Sub almond butter or cashew butter if you want to make them paleo.
- A Hearty Salad: This Mason Jar Salad is made to be prepped ahead and my Middle Eastern Salad is also hearty enough for a road trip. Just pack the dressing in a separate small container to keep everything fresh.
- Summer Quinoa Goat Cheese Salad: This salad is even better leftover, making it an excellent road trip choice.
- BLT Pasta Salad: If you need to pack a road trip dinner, a healthy pasta salad like this is perfect because it doesn't need to be heated up.
- Chicken Salad: Chicken salad is an excellent way to get in some serious protein for a road trip lunch or dinner. Eat over a salad, with crackers or alongside raw fruit and veggies. You could also wrap it in your favorite tortilla or wrap!
To Buy On-the-Go
If you want to avoid fast food, stop at a grocery store instead! I've actually had a lot of luck with Walmart grocery stores on road trips because they're available in many small towns and have convenient hours. Here are some items you can purchase at a basic grocery store and eat on the go:
- Tortilla Chips: Gluten free crackers work too!
- Pre-chopped veggies: like broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, etc.
- Pre-made Guacamole or Hummus
- Tuna Pouch: No can opener needed! You can sometimes find salmon pouches too.
- Deli meat: I sometimes roll up deli meat with guac in the middle.
Hotel Room Meals
I definitely prefer staying in a house rental when traveling with my family but that doesn't always work out. Below are some meals you can enjoy in a hotel room that has a mini fridge, but no kitchen. Putting in a grocery order when you arrive is SO much less expensive than relying on restaurants and room service the whole time. It's also a great way to fit in some healthy travel food.
- Overnight Oats (AKA Soaked Oats): This just may be my favorite healthy travel food hack! You can enjoy healthy oats, without heating them up. Simply soak oats in water or your favorite milk overnight and add toppings like fruit and nuts in the morning. Add chia seeds to make the soaked oats thicker. If you'd like an actual recipe to follow, this is a good one!
- Bananas: This is a great choice for fruit because they don't need to be refrigerated and they don't go bad quickly. Sliced banana is also a nice way to sweeten plain yogurt or oats.
- Berries: Fresh berries make an excellent topping for yogurt or oats, as well as for salads! Bonus – they require no chopping!
- Full Fat Plain Yogurt: You can buy whatever yogurt you love but I enjoy plain yogurt topped with fresh fruit and nuts.
Lunches & Casual Dinners
Coming up with actual hotel room dinners can be hard. Your best bet is to not limit yourself to traditional dinner foods. The below items can be combined in different ways to create highly satisfying meals…they just may not look like the dinners you serve at home!
If there's a store like Whole Foods with a good deli / pre-made section, this is also a good time to utilize that. Procuring some roasted veggies or cooked chicken or salmon to enjoy with your meals will make them more satisfying.
- Hard-Boiled Eggs: Again, these are so versatiIe! You can find already boiled eggs at many grocery stores. The ones I purchased on a recent trip were from Vital Farms.
- Mini Cucumbers: You can eat these without chopping! They make a great snack.
- Mini Peppers: Same! No chopping required.
- Gluten Free Bread: Sandwiches are of course an easy way to eat when you don't have a kitchen. Make an almond butter & banana sandwich, peanut butter & apple, deli meat & cheese, or tuna!
- Sliced Deli Meat & Cheese: These items are great for sandwiches or simply to enjoy on a “snack plate” style meal.
- Nuts & Seeds: So versatile, nuts and seeds work for breakfast, snacks or as part of lunch.
- Tuna or Salmon Pouches: I like to use the pouches, rather than cans, when traveling because it's just easier.
- Pre-roasted Veggies: This is where it pays to check out the deli section of the local grocery store! If you can find some pre-roasted veggies like butternut squash or cauliflower, it will really liven up your hotel room meals.
Easy Airbnb Meals (Or Hotel Suite Meals)
Healthy travel food gets a lot easier if you have a real kitchen at your disposal! Still, I like to keep things relatively simple when traveling for a few reasons.
First, I don't know exactly what the kitchen will have. Some of them have a great supply of spices and quality knives and appliances…and some don't. For that reason, I do try to minimize chopping and spice requirements when planning easy Airbnb meals.
Second, I don't want to spend all of my time cooking when traveling! I love cooking but whether I'm traveling for work or vacation, there are generally other things I'd prefer to be doing.
Lastly, I really don't want to overbuy groceries and waste food. I try really hard to minimize food waste. Keeping travel meals simple and choosing multi-purpose ingredients really helps with this.
- Breakfast Hash: I love making one of my favorite breakfast hash recipes. However, you can also make a totally delicious hash by simply sauteing leftover veggies, protein and greens and topping with an egg! Trust me, it's delicious. This is a great strategy when you're traveling so you don't have to plan a bunch of extra ingredients.
- Oats: If you eat grains, oats are a nice choice because you can enjoy them either cold or hot. This gluten free muesli works really well for overnight oats too. This is a great strategy because it includes dried fruit and different grains and textures so you don't need to buy a lot of toppings to make it tasty.
- Chia Pudding: Similar to oats, chia pudding takes very little prep.
- Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowls: You'll see in the dinner section below that I love making a batch of baked sweet potatoes when I travel. You can use leftovers to make these sweet potato breakfast bowls! They're really flexible in terms of toppings.
- Plain Greek Yogurt: Add your favorite toppings and breakfast is ready to go!
- Berries: Great on their own or on top of yogurt or oats!
- Nuts & Nut Butters: Such a great way to make any breakfast more filling. I also love snacking on nuts and adding them to salads later in the day, so they're a good multi-purpose item to include.
Lunch & Dinner
- Healthy Pre-made Meatballs: I personally love the Beetnik brand from Austin, TX! They're gluten free and have simple, clean ingredients.
- Pre-cooked Sausage: Similar to meatballs, sausage is a convenient travel option because it already includes seasonings. I like to choose pre-cooked versions when I'm in an unfamiliar kitchen just to make it easier on myself.
- Shrimp or Chicken: Simple proteins like this are a good choice for AirBnBs because they're so versatile in terms of spices. You can also check out this episode of my podcast, where I outline ten proteins that are delicious with just salt and pepper!
- Burgers: Buy pre-formed burger patties and spice them up with toppings! My BLTA burgers are a personal favorite.
- Baked Sweet Potatoes: I love looking for produce that needs little to no chopping. I like to bake sweet potatoes so there's no need to chop! They're also versatile – I enjoy them for dinner or breakfast with an egg on top.
- Spinach: A big part of my strategy for healthy travel foods is selecting multi-purpose ingredients, items I can use in more than one way. Spinach is perfect because it requires no chopping and I can eat it either sauteed or in a salad.
- Green Beans: You can find pre-trimmed green beans at most grocery stores and they're quick and easy to saute.
- Cauliflower rice: Cauli rice is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies and, again, no chopping!
- Sliced Mushrooms: Mushrooms are another pre-sliced veggie that works well.
- Small Potatoes: If you can find mini potatoes, they're great because you can roast them without any chopping!
- Prep Dish Meal Plans! If you enjoy cooking, consider just bringing along a meal plan and putting in a little meal prep time at the start of your trip. I've done this several times and it worked well. While I love trying new restaurants, I do not enjoy eating out for every meal while traveling, especially with kids in the mix. Our Super Fast meal plans take only around an hour to prep 5 healthy meals, totally doable! If you want to learn more about our Super Fast meal plans, you can learn more and even download a sample meal plan here!
Phew, that was a long list! Like I said though, healthy travel food is important to me because I want to actually feel good while traveling. I would really love to hear how you handle travel food! Share with me in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Instagram @prepdish.