Food and drink choices can change travel experience

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Soy nuts, pine nuts, almonds and peanuts are all great sources of protein. (Photo by Ellen Westenhaver.)
Soy nuts, pine nuts, almonds and peanuts are all great sources of protein. (Photo by Ellen Westenhaver.)

Making healthy food choices may not be the first priority for most travelers, but consuming greasy fast food and skipping on essential nutrients can add stress and fatigue to the body, making the travel experience less enjoyable.

“It can be hard to avoid junk food on trips,” said Kaleb Jensen, a sophomore from Idaho Falls. “It’s something you think about after you get home and realize how crappy you feel.”

Eating healthy shouldn’t be an afterthought for travelers, but it isn’t always easy at the airport or on the road. Snack stores and fast food restaurants are popular along travel routes, and healthy food can be hard to come by.

For many travelers, spending money to get a more well-rounded or healthy meal can seem like a much bigger deal than it would be if they were not traveling. Airplane tickets, gas prices and hotel charges can add up, making cheap food more appealing.

To combat the “crappy feeling” after a long car ride or flight, there are two very important things people need: protein and hydration.

Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient that provides fuel for the body. It’s important to give your body what it needs to function properly while it sits in a car or on an airplane for extended periods of time. It’s also easy to find high-protein snacks on the go.

For some, the first source of protein that comes to mind is meat. Lean meats that are low in saturated fat are best. Meat options for travelers consist mostly of fast food meats that are high in saturated fat, and it is better to get protein from healthier sources.

“All I have to say is almonds,” said Alex Whipple, a Chicago native. “Almonds are a healthy, protein-rich snack that don’t make you feel guilty like most travel snacks.”

Nuts are a great source of protein, and they can be found in convenience stores at gas stations and in the airport. Peanuts are traditionally the complimentary snack given out on planes. Travelers can also buy their favorite kinds and pack them before leaving home.

Preparing hard boiled eggs at home and transporting them in a cooler gives a healthy source of protein. Beef or turkey jerky can also be found at most convenience stores. Protein bars, yogurt and peanut butter are also good options.

Hydration

For flight passengers, air pressure significantly decreases, which in turn decreases humidity. This change won’t lead to serious dehydration, but it can cause dry eyes, nose and mouth, and could make a person more prone to infections.

Drinking water is the best way to increase hydration. There are often drinking fountains by bathrooms where travelers can fill up water bottles to save money. Water bottles can be purchased at any store, and most fast food restaurants will give out water cups for free. As a bonus, water is calorie-free.

“Hydration from water is the best because you don’t end up drinking your calories like you would with a soda or fruit drink,” said Jeff Caldwell, an exercise and nutrition coach based in Springville, Utah.

A soft drink may seem harmless, but many are packed with various forms of sugars that can leave the body feeling wasted. Even diet sodas contain ingredients that can damage the body.

Luckily, there are other ways to get hydrated besides drinking plain water.

“Fruit is a great food source for water intake,” Caldwell said. “It contains super high percentages of water, and you get lots of vitamins as well.”

Citrus fruit such as oranges and grapefruit are packed with water and other important nutrients. Grapes, apples and nectarines are also good food sources for water that can be easily packed for travel.

Vegetables like cucumbers, celery and spinach are also great water sources. Buying veggies like these at the grocery store is super cheap. Prepare a few bags of water-packed vegetables the night before a trip for easy sources of hydration.

Many fast food restaurants offer healthy salad options that also include high-protein meat. To get the most out of the salad, avoid using all of the dressing, which can be high in unhealthy fats and sugars, and choose grilled over breaded meat.

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