When Mark and I decided to go on a 10-day vacation in Costa Rica, I knew I’d have to start packing early. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my 12 years at goal weight, it’s to never leave anything to chance. So when I leave town, food comes with me. Although Mark is always amazed at how much food I can pack into one suitcase, it’s really not as difficult as it seems.
Here’s a list of my food staples that are nutritious and travel well…
1. Cacao Powder: I use this raw, unsweetened “super-food” (i.e. packed with nutrients and antioxidants) to wake up in the morning instead of pounding coffee. I mix one tablespoon into a cup of hot water, add stevia and either some milk or cream, and it’s like a power-packed cup of hot chocolate, sans the chemicals, caffeine, and sugar.
2. Sardines: Yes, really, I think most people get sardines confused with anchovies, the small, flat, extremely fishy fish that come on pizzas and in Caesar dressing. Sardines are actually less fishy than tuna and bursting with healthy oils and protein. You can get them cheap (I recently found a cool “10 for $10” deal). In Costa Rica, I discovered that a can of sardines, paired with a large tomato from the local mercado, and drizzled with olive oil, makes for an excellent breakfast.
3. Kale chips: Now that kale has gone mainstream, you can find it everywhere. Kale chips have become a recent (and favorite) addition to my suitcase because (1) they don’t require refrigeration and (2) they help to ensure I get my daily servings of vegetables. Warning: Kale chips are not cheap. I’ve seen them run as high as $8 bucks a bag. Trader Joe’s has the best price so I’ll usually pick them up there.
4. Vegetable juice: Although not my personal fave, vegetable juice also provides the much-needed daily servings of vegetables, is low-calorie and much cheaper than kale chips.
5. Sugar-free dried meat sticks. I like these because they travel well in purses, beach bags, and glove compartments and don’t require refrigeration. They’re also great between meals to keep blood sugar stable. I’ve tried several brands but my rule of thumb is to read the labels carefully: Dried meats are notorious for being packed with sugar, so always, always, always make sure to select only the ones without sugar.
6. Dried edamame: These crunchy nuts are packed with protein and make a great pre-workout snack.
7. Almonds & sunflower seeds: Nuts and seeds are a traveling must for me. I’ll measure out one- or two-ounce servings, place them into snack-sized baggies, and keep them handy in my purse in case dinner or lunch is delayed (also great snacks for beach days).
8. Stevia: If they stopped making stevia, I would seriously have to reconsider whether I could go on with life. Although some people find this sweet herb has an unpleasant aftertaste, to me it’s pure heaven. I put it in my morning cacao powder, add it to club soda + lime to make a refreshing soda-like beverage, mix it with lemon + water for a healthy lemonade…I could go on but I think you get it. Fortunately, stevia is everywhere these days so you can get it in powder, tablet, packet, or liquid form and use it instead of the harmful artificial sweeteners and sugar provided by most restaurants.
9. Whole grains. It can be extremely difficult to find whole grains (or even ones that aren’t filled with sugar such as the standard continental breakfast oatmeal). I travel with packets of instant oatmeal, whole grain crackers, and rice cakes to make sure I’m not eating refined carbs and causing unpleasant blood sugar spikes and cravings.
10. Beverages: Go down any supermarket aisle and you can find a multitude of options to add a little sum-sum to your water – everything from green tea packets, to electrolyte powders, to fruit flavor drops. I’m personally not a big fan of chemicals but a lot of these options are much better for you than soda. And besides, you’re on vacation…why not live a little?
So you’re probably thinking…
Are you crazy? I’m not packing all that stuff!
Well, you don’t have to. Even I don’t pack all this stuff all the time. For Costa Rica, for example, I packed everything since I wasn’t sure what would be available. For weekend getaways, I tend to just pack my breakfast and snack foods. It’s your trip – make it work for you and keep it healthy!
If you have any food-traveling tips, please share them with the class either in the Comments section or at Shannon@positiveportions.com