Healthy snacks for the road

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Time for a vacation? What will you eat while you're away from home?

Packing good, nutritious food along with other vacation supplies will help you stay healthy. It will also keep your energy on an even keel, so you'll arrive at your destination not ready for a nap, but ready for adventure.

It doesn't take much thought or preparation to travel with enough healthy snacks to see you and your family through a car or plane ride. In an ideal world, we would spend time cooking and creating healthy, tasty homemade snacks and meals for the road. If you don't have time for that, there are plenty of natural snacks and some pre-made alternatives that are helpful to have on hand. The next time you travel, pack a few of the food suggestions below, and avoid the roller coaster of energy dives that come with fast food. (Not to mention the cost! Feeding a family of four just one fast-food meal at a rest stop can easily cost $40 to 50!)

All of the items below can be brought on a plane in small portions (see  the TSA's website for more information).

For the car, a small cooler with ice will keep the perishables safe to eat for several days.

In general, road snacks are best if they are high in nutrition, easy to transport, and not messy to eat. All of the following qualify.

First and foremost, bring vegetables. Fresh vegetables are the hardest thing to find on the road. Fill a large zip-top bag or other container with raw vegetables, cut into bite-size chunks. Here are some suggestions that travel well: cauliflower and broccoli florets, baby carrots, snap peas, radishes, grape tomatoes, celery sticks, and green beans. Bell pepper strips and cucumber slices are more perishable, but they will last a few days.

If you need something to dip your vegetables in, bring hummus, guacamole, or salsa.

For something sweet, bring fruit that is easy to eat: Clementines, seedless grapes, apples, and bananas (eat these early in the trip). Dried or freeze-dried fruit is also a good alternative, as are squeezable applesauce packages (look for varieties without added sugar).

Healthy, homemade trail mix is a road snack that is crunchy, sweet, and chewy all at once. It's easy to make. In a large bowl, mix your choice of raw nuts and seeds; unsweetened, unsulphured, dried fruit; and unsweetened coconut flakes. Divide this into individual zip-top sandwich bags for portion control. You can buy pre-mixed trail snacks, but check the package first to avoid varieties with added sugar, sulphites, fat, and high sodium content.

Two other crunchy snacks you may enjoy include lightly salted homemade popcorn (make your own with coconut oil and real popcorn) and healthy crackers, like the Mary's Gone Crackers brand.

Packing a good source of protein is also important for maintaining health and energy. Here are some easy-to-pack ideas: raw nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans; unsweetened pumpkin and sunflower seeds; plain Greek or dairy-alternative yogurt; protein bars made of minimally-processed foods like nuts, seeds, and dates (Larabars bars are a good choice); hard-boiled, pre-peeled eggs; healthy versions of jerky (Epic for example); individual-serving packets of nut and seed butters (available at many health food stores); and cans or pouches of wild-caught salmon.

To make your own paleo-friendly protein bars, visit Elana's Pantry (look for her Chocolate Cranberry Power Bar).

Don't forget to bring liquids. Water is best; carry enough for your trip needs. For an electrolyte and mineral replacement drink, coconut water is great to have on hand. Avoid sweetened, artificially sweetened, and caffeinated beverages.

It's a good idea to take some time to go online and look for restaurants and grocery stores that will be along your route. Knowing ahead of time that you have healthy options for restocking and for those meals you want to eat out can lessen the stress of trying to find healthy options as you go along.

There are plenty of good reasons for planning what you will eat while traveling. Principle among these are saving money and keeping yourself healthy. No matter what else happens, you are going to get hungry eventually. Having a plan can help you to avoid the many temptations of junk and fast food. And you'll enjoy your trip more if you are well fed.

Here's hoping that you will enjoy your vacation.

Cheryl Shaw is a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant, Certified Wellness Coach, and Certified Exercise Physiologist with over 17 years of fitness and wellness experience. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Fitness from Springfield College.

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