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Have food, will travel.

Warmer weather and kids getting out of school often means the season of good ol' all-American road trips is upon us. I think the part of travel I get most anxious about is finding food to meet my dietary needs in unfamiliar places. Part of the reason I much prefer a road trip is because I can pack plenty of provisions and no TSA agent is going to give me the stink eye over it.

Here's how I select my most precious cargo.

1. Invest in a cooler or insulated lunch bag and a couple of ice packs. This way you can safely bring cold stuff on the road.

2. Include protein. A lot of convenience foods are carb-heavy (pretzels, crackers, etc.) but we need to balance that carb with some slower-digesting protein. My favorite protein picks to tote around are nuts, seeds, and nut butters (all kinds, natural), bean-based foods (I've recently found Bada Bean Bada Boom snacks - the sweet sriracha is delish. Also, Wegmans recently came out with bean-based cereals that I munch on dry in a pinch, and you can always toast your own garbanzo beans with whatever flavorings you like), certain protein bars (more on that later), hummus, hard-boiled eggs, and natural jerky.

3. Rely on whole foods as much as possible. Pre-cut fruits and veggies travel well in a cooler. Nuts and seeds are relatively unprocessed. It's harder to do on the go, but as much as possible, try to steer away (no pun intended) from heavily processed convenience foods. To gauge how processed a food is, think about whether it (literally) grows on trees (or in the ground, in an animal, etc.) and how far it has to come from its original state to get to the point where you eat it. Something like a carrot comes from nature and ends up on our plate in relatively the same state. Something like a pretzel starts off as wheat, which has to be milled and processed, a bunch of stuff gets added to it, it's baked and preserved and packaged and THEN we eat it - a far cry from its original form. I'm not saying we can't EVER have these processed foods (this mostly German girl loves herself a good pretzel once in a while), but the more we can rely on unprocessed or minimally processed, whole foods, the better.

4. About protein bars. Let's get this straight - they are PROCESSED foods. All of them. Until I find a protein bar tree, we need to establish that even the best bars are still highly processed foods. A lot of times these bars are also loaded with sugar and poor quality protein ingredients. That being said, there are usually one or two stashed in my purse for emergencies. My favorites are Vega, Wegmans Wholesum and Rx Bars. It should also be noted that I'm dairy-free, so I avoid anything with milk products like whey or casein, which also limits my personal selection of bars.

5. Don't forget plenty of water! Making sure we have proper hydration through our travels is just as important, if not more important than the food we bring. I have a collection of 32-oz. BPA-free water bottles and I almost never leave home without one.

Happy travels!

For more nutrition help, reach out to Jess at

Jess is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist offering individual nutrition counseling and group classes/presentations in the Buffalo, NY area.

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