Paleo Travel Snacks: How to Eat Healthy While You’re On the Go

Paleo Travel Snacks: How to Eat Healthy While You’re On the Go

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Have you fallen off the Paleo wagon on a vacation? Do you think it’s “too hard” to eat Paleo if you travel a lot for work? Wondering how to stay Paleo for a road trip with friends or family? Then this is the article for you! Read on to learn all of my Paleo travel snack hacks, from what foods to bring and what foods to buy to where you should eat when you’re out and about.

Packing your own Paleo travel snacks can protect from you making unhealthy choices while you’re traveling, like this woman in Budapest.
Taking the time to pack a variety of Paleo travel snacks can lessen some of the stress of your next trip—and ensure you eat healthy while traveling. iStock/martin-dm

Many of us following a Paleo lifestyle slide into a comfortable eating routine. Maybe you have perfected your meal prepping. Maybe you have a reliable rotation of favorite recipes. Maybe you eat have your basic breakfast down to a tasty science, switching up the veggies and protein as desired. When you’re in your own element and have total control over your food supply, it’s easier to stay on track. But what happens when you take a road trip or travel for your job? Take it from me, you’ve got this! I travel extensively, from book tours and conferences to vacations, so I know what it’s like to face this challenge of staying committed to this way of eating. But it’s doable—and I’ve gathered the best tips and tricks for staying Paleo while traveling, all in one place.

It can be hard to eat healthy while traveling. But with a little planning and flexibility, it is possible to stay Paleo on the road. Check out this article for my tips and recommendations on the best Paleo travel snacks. #paleo #healthylifestyle #chriskresser

Five Tips for Packing Paleo Travel Snacks

As you’re packing that suitcase, leave plenty of space for the snacks. Bringing your own food gives you the best control over the situation, so that you won’t find yourself hungry and cranky, tempted by a bright drive-through sign five hours into a long road trip.

1. If Possible, Bring a Cooler

Logistically, it’s definitely easier to pack a cooler for a road trip than for air travel, but however you’re hitting the road, being able to bring one will expand your eating options considerably. If you can bring a light-weight cooler—which you certainly can do if you’re traveling by car (or bus or train), there are loads of food possibilities:

  • Hard or soft-boiled eggs, perfect with cherry tomatoes and avocado
  • Thinly sliced leftover meats to pair with Paleo mustard or mayo
  • Lettuce wraps with leftover meats and veggies
  • Pumpkin hummus*
  • Full-fat yogurt or kefir (though not technically Paleo, some people tolerate dairy and incorporate it into their “Paleo template”)*
  • Cheese from grass-fed cows’ milk
  • Paleo “granola bars
  • Raw veggies or fruit, like carrots, sugar snap peas, sliced bell peppers, and apples
  • Dump ranch” dressing to dip veggies in*
  • Nut butters for dipping fruits (macadamia, almond, and hazelnut butters are best)*
  • Baba ganoush, but if you’re on the autoimmune protocol, you’ll want to skip this one because eggplant is a nightshade*
  • Fruit smoothie, with coconut milk, almond milk, yogurt, or kefir as a base*

A note on the foods starred with an asterisk: If you’re bringing these liquid or liquid-like foods through airport security, they will have to meet national Transportation Security Administration (TSA) restrictions—that means packed in clear containers and in amounts that are 3.4 ounces or less. (Check with your carrier for the latest TSA guidelines.) On top of that, bringing melting ice and cool packs can get a little tricky with the TSA.

Here is one workaround: Don’t use cool packs. Instead, use a freezer-grade resealable bag with ice to keep your food cool when you leave home, and bring some extra bags. Throw out the bag of ice at security, and then replenish the ice in a new bag at a food vendor in the airport. Most vendors will charge you for cups of ice, but it’s definitely worth it because you’ll have a cooler-full of Paleo snacks to satisfy your hunger. (And it’s worth pointing out that if you’re checking your bag, you can pack extra items that don’t require refrigeration, and just bring enough on the plane to get you through your flight!)

2. Try Paleo-Friendly Packaged Food

In general, I try to avoid packaged foods, which likely contain industrial seed oils, added sugars, excess sodium, preservatives, artificial colors, and other questionable ingredients. But, traveling can be an exception to this rule. I would rather have high-quality beef jerky and some dry-roasted nuts on hand than be forced to choose between fast-food restaurants after not eating for 12 hours. The key here is high quality. Learn how to read a nutrition label and ingredients list.

Sneaky names for gluten, sugar, soy, and more are hidden in ingredient lists. Don’t ever assume you’re in the clear with packaged food without first reading the label. I’ve seen added sugars lurking in places you’d never expect, like in canned kidney beans and feta cheese!

Some of my favorite packaged Paleo travel snacks include:

  • Grass-fed beef jerky
  • Prepared meats like salami, pepperoni, and coppa
  • Organic lunch meats, served with mustard
  • Smoked salmon (make sure it’s soy free)
  • Nuts and seeds (dry roasted or raw are best, as most manufacturers roast in industrial seed oils)
  • Olives to eat with nuts, cheese, meats, and pickles (watch out for artificial colorings)
  • Canned salmon or tuna (packed in water or oil)
  • Nori chips or sheets
  • Pork rinds
  • Siete “tortilla chips” made with cassava flour
  • Kale chips
  • Individual containers of plain yogurt, kefir, or nut milks
  • Freeze-dried fruit
  • 90 percent cocoa dark chocolate
  • Coconut flakes (these are surprisingly satisfying and filling)

Energy bars are often considered Paleo because they only contain “Paleo” ingredients like dates, cashews, and egg whites, but I would only buy these in a pinch. This type of calorie-dense, semi-processed treat walks a fine line between real food and a dessert.

3. Go Plastic Free

Don’t put your grass-fed beef taco lettuce wraps into plastic storage containers! Plastics are among the worst environmental toxins. Even BPA-free plastics have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system. (1) Ditching the plastic wrap, bags, and containers also cuts back on waste.

My favorite containers for packing food to go are stainless steel LunchBots. Also check out reusable beeswax wrap, glass mason jars of all sizes, and Pyrex glass containers with lids.

4. Fuel Up before You Hit the Road (or Consider Fasting)

I deliberately eat a big meal at home before leaving for a trip. If the trip is half a day or less, this is often enough to tide me over until I reach my destination.

As an alternative to eating before you leave (or if you didn’t have time to prep any snacks), don’t be afraid to fast! Occasional fasting was common for our Paleo ancestors, and regular intermittent fasting has been linked to many health benefits, including weight loss and improved cardiac health. (2, 3, 4)

5. Shop Smart and Get Creative

Even if you’ve packed snacks and have a good meal before leaving, eating on the road is inevitable, especially for longer trips. Typical rest stops, gas stations, or convenience stores generally don’t have much to offer, but some might sell hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, or roasted nuts. Thanks to smartphones and GPS, it’s easy to search for other food options beyond the fast-food places that populate most interstate exits. But instead of searching for “restaurants near me,” type in “grocery store.”

It’s not even a contest—if a grocery store is near the exit, you’re much better off shopping there than at any fast-food chain. As a bonus, you’ll get in some light exercise walking around the store.

Not every exit will have a Whole Foods, but even an average grocery store will have some reasonable options, including the Paleo-friendly packaged foods I listed above. If you’re unable to find those, or you’re looking for something different, try one of these creative meals instead:

  • A rotisserie chicken (remove the skin since the seasoning may contain sugar)
  • A shrimp cocktail ring (just skip the cocktail sauce)
  • A raw vegetable or fruit platter (these can be pricey, but items are conveniently already washed and sliced)
  • Pre-washed sugar snap peas, green beans, or other veggies
  • Salad bar items that are Paleo friendly, including grilled chicken, veggies, and olives

How Eat Paleo in a New Place

When you’re away from home, don’t expect to wander into the nearest food establishment and find grass-fed steak and organic, locally grown grilled vegetables on the menu. When eating Paleo in a new place, planning is the key to success.

First, whenever possible, I book a hotel with a kitchen or at least a kitchenette in the room. That way, I can brew my own tea, keep my kombucha in the fridge, and save any delicious (but large-portioned) leftovers from a nice dinner.

Next, research nearby restaurants ahead of time. If I’m heading to a book signing in a new city, I always get great recommendations from social media. Or try searching for keywords like these:

  • Local
  • Foodie
  • Gluten-free
  • Grass-fed
  • Organic
  • Pasture-raised

For a group dinner, take the initiative and suggest a restaurant from your research. If you can’t choose the restaurant, visit the menu online and call the restaurant to inquire about special accommodations. If the menu is severely limited, eat a healthy snack before you go.

Here are some other tips for navigating a restaurant while staying Paleo:

  • Opt for grilled, steamed, or roasted meat, steamed or baked veggies, and a simple starch like potatoes or white rice.
  • Avoid sauces, which usually contain sugar, gluten, and/or soy.
  • When ordering a salad, request dressing on the side to avoid industrial seed oils. Try asking for olive oil and vinegar instead.
  • If you’re gluten intolerant, always ask if a dish has gluten. Restaurants notoriously have sneaky gluten additives, in spice blends or as thickeners in sauces.
  • Don’t be afraid to be “that person” who asks the server a million questions. Maybe if more people kept requesting the same menu adjustments, restaurants would better accommodate Paleo customers.

Remember: You Can’t Control Everything

Obsessing over every morsel of food during a long trip can be downright exhausting. In fact, I don’t think it’s healthy to be so rigid that there isn’t any wiggle room to try the world’s best beer when you’re in Belgium or authentic, freshly made pasta if you’re in Italy. Likewise, when your flight gets delayed five hours, it might be better to buy a chef salad or have a burger without the bun than end up grumpy, “hangry,” or light-headed.

Live by the 80/20 rule—80 percent of the time, adhere to the ideal Paleo diet, but the other 20 percent of the time, loosen up and eat whatever you want (or, if you’re stranded while traveling and starving, whatever options you have on hand).

More Holistic Health Travel Tips

Eating nutrient-dense, whole foods is just one aspect of healthy living. Don’t ignore other aspects of health while traveling:

  • Find time to move around. Walk around the airport terminal, do chair squats on long flights, and try some jumping jacks at car rest stops. Taking a long morning walk in your new location will familiarize you with the area and is especially beneficial for your circadian rhythm if you’re traveling to a different time zone.
  • Stay hydrated. When flying, it’s recommended that you drink a cup of water for every hour in the air.
  • Make sleep a priority. It’s important to maintain the same healthy habits you follow at home. If you normally go to bed at a certain time, try to stick to your established routine as much as possible.
  • Meditate, practice mindfulness, and find time to relax.
  1. Thank you for the information. Some of my Paleo followers find it most difficult to remain on the diet while staying with friends on vacation. The restaurant idea you shared was great! How would you avoid offending the dinner host for at-home meals?

  2. This is a helpful article, thank you.

    We like Epic meat bars and Coconut Secret bars, though I don’t think the coconut bars are as paleo as most people might like. I just traveled by air across the country a few weeks ago and I took sliced cheese, meat bars, nuts and apples for on the plane. I also carry organic teabags in my purse, it’s the only time I actually use teabags, but loose tea doesn’t work on an airplane. (Sorry, I’m not as paleo as most, I grow apples as they are my favorite fruit, so I eat them.)

    I know these bars are wrapped in plastic and I agree, it’s bad packaging, but taking food on a plane is now a bit tricky and I need foods that fit into my large purse which I use as a carry-on. The nuts were in a small jar, and there are now nice square containers made of glass with silicone gasketed snap-on lids that hold sliced cheese, wedged or sliced hard boiled eggs, or anything that fits – like roasted chicken chunks. My daughter likes to take olives in those glass containers. The small ones fit in my purse as well. Really large purse! :o)

    Finding a decent restaurant is often difficult, but grocery stores are easier and many have some organic produce. If not pastured chicken and eggs, they often at least have organic versions of these. My all time favorite place to shop is a Farmer’s Market, and every state has them. I’ve even gone to a Farmer’s Market in Winchester, England, so they’re not only in America. Most are listed online, just search and you’ll find them. They’re fun and they have good food if you’re staying in a place with a little kitchenette.

  3. I found out that raw asparagus is almost like a crunchy salad food. I do trim it to remove the stringy parts and rarely find more strings. Cut up it makes a quick & easy munchy snack.

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