Q: My husband and I regularly eat nutrient-dense, low-carb meals, but we sometimes blow our diet when we’re traveling. What kinds of emergency snacks should we have on hand to help sustain us when we’re on the go—or when we’re time-pressured and under stress?
—Tanya W., Madison, Wis.
A: Most people experience sustained energy boosts from snacks that provide some protein, healthful fat, and unrefined, slow-burning carbohydrates—think nuts and an apple, sugar-free beef jerky and celery sticks, or a protein-rich food bar. But we each have unique biochemistries. Some people are bolstered more from higher-protein snacks, and others do best with high-fat snacks. So do a little bit of experimenting to see which types of snacks hold you over best until your next meal.
If you know in advance that you are going to travel or enter a time-pressured period, plan ahead and buy easy-to-carry, healthy foods. A far better plan is to have grab-and-go, nutritious foods on hand to take at a moment’s notice or to regularly carry with you to help you through life’s unexpected events—like these 10 energy-lifting, on-the-go foods:
1. Sugar-free Jerky
Protein is a long-lasting fuel that can stabilize energy levels and increase mental focus quickly for most people. For portable protein, look for sugar-free brands of meat-based jerky such as The New Primal Beef Thins made with grass-fed beef and organic coconut aminos (a soy-free substitute for soy sauce). Also try Paleo Valley 100% Grass Fed Beef Sticks, Chomps Snack Sticks, made with just seasonings, no sugar, and some varieties of Epic Bars, including Lamb, Venison, and Sriracha Chicken. If you need something more, try combining these snacks with celery sticks or a small apple for a quick mini-meal.
2. Meat & Veggie Bars
For an all-in-one meat-and-veggie combo with a healthy balance of protein, fat, and carbs, try Wild Zora Original Meat & Veggie Bars. Different types of meat are combined with organic vegetables, dried fruits, and spices. All but one of the bars is Paleo, and a few of the varieties are nightshade-free and acceptable for people on autoimmune-protective diets.
DNX Bars combine grass-fed beef, bison, or free-range chicken with organic superfoods. Take note: the total amount of carbohydrates ranges from 1 to 11 grams, depending on the flavor of the bar, so choose varieties with carb counts that work best for you.
3. Grain-Free Crackers
For crackers with crunch and a great savory taste, try Jilz Original Gluten-Free Crackerz. Made with organic seeds, seed flours, almond flour, and tapioca flour, these savory snacks provide nutrient-packed fuel that gives you far longer staying power than white flour-based crackers.
4. Cheese Sticks
Individually wrapped cheese sticks, such as Organic Valley Stringles Organic String Cheese Mozzarella, offer a combination of protein and fat in a handy form. One caveat: If they’re unrefrigerated, eat the sticks within the first hour of a trip, or carry them in a small cooler so they can stay cool.
5. Nuts & Seeds
Concentrated in nutrients with a mix of protein, carbs, and fat, nuts or seeds make easy-to-carry traveling foods. Eden Foods makes 4-oz. packs and 1-oz. Pocket Snack sizes of Pistachios, Tamari Almonds, and Pumpkin Seeds. The Pocket Snacks are perfect for slipping into a zippered pouch in a fanny pack, purse, or backpack.
6. Nut Butter Packets
These handy products are great when you’re on the go and want to spread nut butter on celery sticks or an apple, or just eat it by the spoonful. Try Justin’s Classic Almond Butter in 1.15-oz. packets. Or, for extra protein and a touch of sweetness in your almond butter, try RX Nut Butter Almond Butter, which is made with one egg white, 18 almonds, half a date, and some coconut oil and sea salt in each packet. Bring along a small spoon or knife to get every bit of the nut butter out of the pouch!
7. Coconut Oil Packets
Kelapo 0.5-oz. pouches of cold pressed, 100% organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil are versatile items to carry when traveling. Bring these products with you to eat coconut oil right out of the packet for immune-boosting benefits. Use the fat as a cooking oil if you’re away from home, or mix into hot coffee or tea. You can also use the oil as a moisturizer for lips, legs, face, and hair.
8. Hard-Boiled Eggs
For a hit of concentrated protein, a hard-boiled egg is the tried-and-true choice. To keep yourself safe from harmful bacteria that could grow on unrefrigerated hard-boiled eggs, eat them quickly—within 60–90 minutes of packing them—or carry eggs in a cooler so they stay refrigerated. If you don’t have time to boil the eggs, buy packaged hard-boiled eggs, such as Wilcox Organic Hard-Boiled Organic Eggs, which come in convenient two-egg packs.
9. Collagen Bars
Eating bars that contain collagen is a convenient way to boost your diet with collagen protein, which helps support healthy bones, tendons, ligaments, connective tissues, gut, hair, and nails. Some people who take collagen report less stiff and achy joints or improved wound or injury healing. Brands of collagen bars to look for include Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars with an organic cashew butter base, and Perfect KETO Keto Bar with an organic almond butter base. Both are sweetened with stevia.
10. Fat-Rich Bars
As the name implies, Love Good Fats Bars are loaded with a healthy fat blend of nut or seed butter and coconut oil. They also contain protein from milk-based whey protein or brown rice protein (in the plant-based varieties). These creamy textured bars won’t work for everyone—they have a touch of sweetening and should be thought of as treats. But the high fat content does make many people feel full longer for an extended period of time.