It’s tough to find nutritious food options when traveling — especially when you're overwhelmed, in a rush and downright hangry! But since spring travel season has officially arrived, Jackie London, Registered Dietician and Nutrition Director at Good Housekeeping is sharing better-for-you swaps to help you make smarter, healthier choices — without totally starving or sacrificing your favorite foods.
Here, your top picks to make eating while traveling that much easier:
Grab-and-go Sandwich: Whole-Wheat Wrap vs. Whole-Wheat Sandwich
Sammies on 100 percent whole-grain bread are lower in calories and higher in fiber wraps; even "wheat," "kale," or "spinach" — are often made with refined grains and shortening, which lowers their nutritional value.
Fast-Food Meal: Pizza vs. Hot Dog
Both hover around 300 calories, and while neither are great-for-you-choices, a slice of pizza can be loaded up with extra veggies (mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, olives and peppers, plus a side salad). A plain hot dog will set you back about 800 milligrams of sodium (more than 30 percent of what you need in a day) without much nutritional upside. Since diets high in processed meat have been linked to adverse health effects, including lifestyle-related cancers, heart disease and diabetes, you’re better off skipping the 'dogs in favor of a more filling slice (and limit the more processed stuff to occasions when you're really craving it).
Sweet Treats: Vanilla Milkshake vs. Vanilla Soft-Serve Cone
Sometimes a long layover just calls for dessert! But while a vanilla milkshake will set you back about 500 calories, 60 grams of sugar (about double your whole day’s worth!) and 9 grams of saturated fat (half of your daily value). A small soft-serve cone will still feel like an indulgence, but since it’s made from mostly ice milk, it’s lower in at fat (3.5 grams) and will help to keep you satisfied from 5 grams of protein. Bonus: One vanilla cone is about 15 percent of your daily value for calcium.
In-flight Nosh: Salted Nuts vs. Salted Pretzels
WINNER: SALTED NUTS
Nuts are the more satisfying option, with up to 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber per 70 calorie mini-pack (ask for two!). Nuts have been linked to a slew of health benefits, largely due to their plant-based antioxidants, which can help boost brain, immune and heart health. Plus, while nuts provide mostly surface salt (meaning they taste saltier for just 95 milligrams a pop), pretzels are more processed, setting you back about 150 milligrams per bag.
Beverage Cart Sips: Tomato Juice vs. Orange Juice
WINNER: TOMATO JUICE
While both choices are concentrated (and therefore less nutritious than eating the whole fruit), opt for a can of "low-sodium" or "no salt added" tomato juice, which is a great source of vitamin C (120 percent of your daily value per 8-ounce cup) and potassium — for just 6 grams of naturally occurring sugar. (By comparison: OJ’s got about 20 grams per 8-ounce cup!). Look for tomato juice labels with 140 milligrams or less of sodium, and skip Bloody Mary mix entirely — it’s sodium-packed (about 30 percent of your whole day’s worth of salt!). Since the dry environment at 30,000 feet is often dehydrating, aim for about 16 ounces (two cups) for every hour that you're in flight.