Sorry, Vending Machine: 5 Nutritious Portable Snacks to Make You Healthier Anytime, Anywhere

Perfect for anyone who’s always on the go (AKA everyone).

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Snacking in an airport terminal or in your car is usually synonymous with packaged goods: cereal bars, Cheez-Its, fruit snacks, Goldfish, or a giant bag of Twizzlers. Convenience stores are getting better at offering some healthy fare like nuts, apples, and low-sugar snack bars, but it’s a safer (and cheaper) bet to come prepared with snacks from home.

But how do you prepare fresh and healthy snacks when you don’t have a fridge? Your favorite hummus probably won’t make the cut, but there are plenty of healthy options that don’t need refrigeration—at least in the short-term.

Healthy Eating While Traveling

In some ways, traveling may be a “special occasion” that warrants splurging on less nutritious foods, but there are plenty of reasons to stick to your usual standards—if not go above them.

Have you ever caught a cold after a flight? It’s not a coincidence. “Our immune systems are often compromised when we’re tired or jet-lagged, which happens when we’re traveling,” says Mindy Lu, MS, CN, LMHCA, and owner of Sunrise Nutrition.

Oh, and then there’s your digestion. Grabbing low-fiber, high-sugar, or high-sodium snack options while traveling can lead to constipation or bloating, which can add more stress to your busy day. (#ugh) Here are more daily habits to prevent constipation.

How to Snack Well on the Go

Healthy, portable snacks require some creativity, but these ideas are a great start. They don’t need refrigeration, and some of them don’t even need prep work (you’re welcome).

  1. Dried apricots and almonds. Nuts and dried fruit are the OG of portable snacks. Any fruit or nut will do, but almonds and apricots might be a special option: Apricots contain sorbitol, which can help keep you regular (it’s also in prunes, apples, and pears). Almonds also earn a gold star from the American Heart Association due to this nut’s cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory properties. Three dried apricots and 20 almonds add up to 200 calories.

  2. Roasted chickpeas. If you want something a little lighter than nuts, roasted chickpeas offer a similar crunch with a fraction of the calories. Each 1/4 cup of roasted chickpeas is around 100 calories (and offers five glorious grams of fiber!). Find out how to make spicy roasted chickpeas at home here.

  3. Air-popped popcorn. Because these kernels are popped by hot air instead of oil, you’ll save on a ton of calories and fat. What you’re left with is whole-grain goodness. Three cups of air-popped popcorn is 100 calories and has four grams of fiber. Pop popcorn at home before a road trip or travel day and keep a large zip-top baggie in your handbag.

  4. Oat-date energy balls. OK, this snack requires a little prep work and has a shorter life in room temperatures, but you can still pack a few balls in a container for a day on the go. You can make these with any combo of nuts, dried fruit, and flavors, but check out this three-ingredient energy ball recipe from EatingWell. Each blissful ball is about 80 calories.

  5. Apple with a peanut butter squeeze packet. Ever notice how gas stations and airports only ever seem to have Red Delicious apples that are mealy and kinda flavorless? Even worse, convenience stores sell these subpar apples for a dollar or two. Better idea: Use that money to invest in crispy, sweet apples you’ll actually enjoy, and throw one in your bag before your long day. 

    This combo could go over 300 calories, but if you’re trying to cut down your snackage calories, look for a mini squeeze pack (like Justin’s) that are just 80 calories. An apple and mini peanut butter squeeze pack amount to 210 calories total.