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Whether by train, plane or automobile, any excuse to pack up and skip town is a welcome relief come the blistering summer sun. When the city becomes a sauna, that’s my ticket to head somewhere–anywhere, beach bound. While many of us find ourselves overindulging the second that out-of-office auto response has been set, starting your trip off with healthy, and no less delicious edibles, will insure that you have the energy, appetite and bloat-free bikini bod you’ll need once you set foot on sandy shores.
No matter where your travels take you to this summer, avoiding the processed food parade along the way will require some mindful preparations. In my experience, nothing is worse than being stuck in an airport, terminal or traffic, with only chips and soda, burgers and candy, processed pizza and cheese-like fries to satisfy your hunger. If you’re lucky, a banal banana and stale bagel might be within reach, but I wouldn’t count on it. FAA restrictions deter travelers from bringing meals and snacks with them before boarding, but I pack my edible travel necessitates right alongside my SPF…and you better believe my tum and travel companions are thankful for my foresight. I’ve listed my Top 10 easy snack ideas and on-the-go guiltless recipes below. With just a little bit of planning and a whole lot of real foods at the ready, you’ll touch down with just enough sustainable energy to give you the kick you’ll need to drop your luggage at the hotel door and set forth to feast your way through your vaca.
Top 10 Edible Travel Necessities
1. Charcuterie: Bring the taste of France with you wherever you travel! Whether its cheese, olives, biscuits, crackers, cured meats or hunks of a leftover loaf, assemble a protein-packed picnic and enjoy Continental flavor no matter where you’re flying. Just make sure to avoid smelly bleu or washed-rind cheeses for fear of embarrassing your travel companions…I learned this the hard way on a 5-hour trip to Cali with a sticky wheel of taleggio! Cheddar, an aged Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh goat’s chèvre and mozzarella are all good options; be sure to pick up a plastic knife from a fast-food vender once you’re through security, but before you board…asking for knives on planes is asking for trouble!
2. Go Nuts: Airplane peanuts get a bad rap. In truth, there are few more perfect foods on the planet. Nuts of all varieties are jam-packed with vitamins, proteins and good fats, so you needn’t limit yourself to the perennial pea. Tiny and easy to pack, you can bring a lot on board, though it may only take a handful to fill you. If loose nuts don’t do it for you, try buying or baking nut bars or spreading some nut butter on crackers, apples or celery. Fresh-pressed butters are my preference, and I usually opt for raw, unsweetned varieties. If I don’t have time to bake, I just throw together a trail mix heavy on nuts, light on dried fruit, and for a sweet kick, I’ll sometimes add a few broken wedges of dark chocolate. Beats a bag of M&M’S any day!
3. Sammy: Just like Mamma used to make, a simple sandwich can mean the difference between hormone-injected, deep fried dreck and your favorite pasture-raised deli meat layered between fresh-baked bread stuffed with cheese, lettuce, summer’s first tomatoes, and maybe even a homemade aioli or drizzle of good olive oil. I’ve been known to brown bag it on the road, and nothing tastes sweeter then pulling out a homemade sammy while everyone else is emptying a bag of Munchie Mix then complaining their tummies hurt. On my last trip home, I bagged a turkey, apple, brie sandwich on a buttermilk biscuit spread with leftover pesto sauce. Easy and delicious, Mamma would be proud.
4. When Life Serves You Lemons…make water-bottle lemonade! Airports don’t allow liquid, but if I’m flying I always buy or bring an empty water bottle and a baggy of lemon wedges with me. Once past security, I lift some sugar packets from a coffee purveyor, juice my lemons and sweeten to taste, then shake my bottle ‘til I have fresh squeezed lemonade. If you’re the type that craves carbonation, add some sparkling water for a fizz that will quench your sugary soda temptations. Try a lemon-lime blend for a wholesome alternative to 7UP, spike your bottle with the duty-free spirit of your choice for a less-wholesome libation, or bring along some fresh mint, berries or ginger and play around with how to jazz up your H2O!
5. Baked Goodies: I have moments of weakness, just like the rest of us. To help me steer clear of salty chips, processed pizza, sweetened cinnamon buns, and everything else they hawk at airports and gas stations galore, I bake my own delicacies and bring them in tow. Often I’m killing two birds with one stone, since these very same baked goods can be packaged as a tin of treats to greet whomever I’m traveling to visit. As a thank you for hosting me, there’s no better gift than one made by my own two hands, and with tried and true recipes for blueberry muffins, strawberry shortcakes and bacon-chocolate chip cookies, I pack the extras for me to munch on while in transit–temptation solved!
6. Dark Chocolate: Don’t leave home without it. For oh, so many reasons, the darkest dark chocolate you can find will be your best friend as you fly. (1) Dark chocolate is crammed full of antioxidants that can help lower blood pressure if your travel nerves start kicking in. (2) If you grow weary on the road, the natural caffeine found in chocolate is a viable alternative to popping pills or slurping down utterly unnatural 5-hour energy shakes. (3) A sweet treat that tastes as good as it feels guiltless, quality dark chocolate can be hard to come by, so I suggest bringing a bar or bonbons (or a thermos of the hot stuff come the colder weather), and sinking your teeth into the tastiest travel companion money can buy.
7. Leftovers: Why leave so many perishable items in your fridge before flying when you can simply bring them with you? I often pack disposable Tupperware containers full of whatever I made for dinner the night before. Be it meatloaf, pasta or homemade banana bread, using what’s left over not only ensures you’re going to be eating a healthy, satisfying meal, but also saves you the money you would have spent on the overpriced, under-nourishing turkey club at terminal A.
8. Grab-and-Go-Breakfast: Too early to cook? Pick up grab-and-go foodstuffs from restaurants or markets near you, ensuring that if you can’t eat a homemade breakfast as you travel, you can at least eat real foods from real kitchens you trust. Some of my favorites include: hummus and sliced veggies, quick breads, fresh fruit, granola or cereal (you can always pick up a tin of yogurt at any airport vender or gas station), hot oatmeal (sprinkled with brown sugar and almonds) and room-temperature quiche (my very favorite being the individually sized leek & cheese quiche from Patisserie Claude). Any of the above will leave you energized well passed those two glazed donuts you would have eaten.
9. No lettuce required: A delicious salad chock-full of fresh veggies and maybe even some grilled chicken or steak may sound ideal, until your lettuce wilts under the weight of your dressing (which cannot be brought into airports) or from the summer sun beating down on your once crisp romaine. To avoid a soggy salad and enjoy just as many healthful benefits, swap out your lettuce for whole grains. The perfect alternative to iceberg, whole grains like lentils, tabouleh, quinoa, or even wild rice, offer far more vitamins and nutrients than their red leaf rivals. Make a couscous salad with chickpeas, onions, feta cheese, kalamata olives, tomatoes, sautéed spinach, and a little of the dried fruit or nuts from your trail mix (currants and pine nuts being my personal faves), and mix it all together with a splash of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper and a spritz of lemon. Now that salad has legs…no lettuce required!
10. Jello Shots: A little naughty, and quite nice, when you find yourself on a long trip en route to somewhere offering plenty of fun in the sun, my epicurean booze-spiked jello shots bring a touch (just a touch!) of class to the traveler who wants to Drink it Up without breaking the bank on tiny bottles of airline liquor. Just be sure you’re not driving, as my Strawberry-Basil Margarita and Blueberry, Chambord & Champagne jello shots pack a serious alcoholic punch. Jello holds up surprisingly well to heat if you package it in Tupperware, so take my lead next time you jet off to a beach-bound locale, and get the pre-party started on-board. Goodbye processed jell-o cups…hello gourmet jigglers.