How to Eat Better While Traveling

Make Your Own Oatmeal Packets for Healthy Travel

with LENTINE ALEXIS, cyclist and professional chef

I wish someone would have helped me eat better when I travel. Whether it is traveling for bike races, or traveling to visit family over the holidays, my body still craves whole, healthy foods… not pre-packaged airport sandwiches. I’ve found that packing my own food for flights helps me feel better during travel and once I arrive at my destination. Quell the airport fast-food temptations and nourish your body and soul with my favorite travel oatmeal. Recipe below.

My flight to Vittoria, Spain for the ITU Long-Course World Championships landed at 1 o’clock in the morning. By the time I picked up my bike from the baggage claim, caught the shuttle from the airport and pulled into the empty street in front of my hotel, it was nearly 3 a.m. And so, it was not surprising that I woke at 3 p.m., hungry for breakfast in the heart of Basque Country. This region of the country is well-known for its culinary history, so I was excited to get out and taste some new flavors. Little did I know, I would need to wait until nearly 9 p.m. that night before I tasted any of them; the Spanish observe aperitivo, and enjoy bar food and drinks exclusively after proper lunchtime.

I was miserable. And cranky. And really just wanted a bowl of cereal but recall settling for something with anchovies instead. Having my good, comfy and familiar eating habits derailed on account of travel really messed with my head for the first days of my trip and I worried about what it would mean for my racing. Luckily, I managed to find some foods that spoke to me before lining up on race day. But if I would have had a few travel snack hacks in my back pocket, my time in Spain and my preparation for this big race would have been much more smooth (and delicious.)

These days, I don’t have any race day goals on the line, but I still need to be on my A-game when I arrive. So I have a few favorite snack hacks I use to keep my healthy eating habits on track. My best tips for traveling and eating well?

Do your research:

As you’re preparing for your trip, scope out restaurants that speak to your nutrition needs near your destination and local accommodations. Find a grocery store to stock up on the items you can’t live without, maybe a quick hotel breakfast, and healthy snacks you can have on hand for between meals (and to avoid finding yourself ducking into a fast food joint to keep your hunger at bay).

Stay hydrated:

While it may seem counter-intuitive, staying hydrated as you travel will help ease digestion, moderate blood sugar and cravings, and soothe the stress of moving around in a new place allowing you to listen more closely to your body’s cravings and helping you to make healthier choices at mealtimes. Carry a bottle with you and choose water first, of course, but bring your favorite electrolyte drink as well (for when you forget to drink and end up feeling dehydrated).

Pack snacks:

Whether you pack your suitcase with favorite snacks or stock up in your destination, packing snacks that you love and that make you feel good and grounded is the best way to keep your nutrition on track when you’re on the go. I love sprouted almonds, bananas, kale chips, rice crackers - all things that don’t need refrigeration and can be enjoyed anytime. My all-time favorite snack hack for travel is a little gourmet kit I like to call “airport oatmeal.” Here’s how it works:

Almond Butter + Chia Airport Oatmeal

Before you leave the house, pull together:

  • A couple snack or quart size Ziploc baggies (I usually have 3 gourmet oatmeal packs ready at all times.)
  • Quick-cooking rolled oats
  • Chia seeds
  • Your favorite crunchy accouterments. I like cacao nibs, hemp seeds, whole almonds etc.
  • Flaky sea salt (just a few pinches – better yet, carry a little tin of Jacobsen’s Sea Salt.)
  • A couple of packets of almond butter (I love Justin’s.)
  • A couple of packets of Untapped Maple Syrup OR Bee Local Honey Sticks
  • A banana (or, you can buy one at any airport kiosk)

In each of the Ziploc baggies, combine about 1/2 cup oats, a few tablespoons of chia seeds, and a couple of tablespoons of your favorite crunchy toppings. Add a pinch of sea salt, and close the baggie tight. Pack in your carry-on in a place where you can find it, along with the almond butter and maple packets and the banana if you’re packing one from home.

When you get to the airport, find a coffee shop, restaurant or even a First-Class lounge:

  1. Ask your kind server for two hot cups – one empty, and one filled with hot water. Also, ask for a spoon. On your way out, grab one lid and a couple of napkins too.
  2. Find yourself a reasonable place to sit and assemble your oatmeal. Pour the contents of one of the oatmeal baggies into the cup, and add water just until the oats are plumping. Add maple syrup and almond butter to your liking, then top with the lid. You can also add the banana here if you like.
  3. Discard the cup of water (along with any water you didn’t use, any maple or almond butter you didn’t use.) Let your oatmeal sit, covered with the lid, for the amount of time it takes you to walk to your gate, check Instagram, whatever, and when you remove the lid, your way-better-than-airport-kiosk-oatmeal will be ready to enjoy.
  4. Don’t neglect to realize that, if you ask for a cup tray for your water (and probably coffee) from the coffee shop, you can carry your oatmeal fixings all the way to your gate and enjoy making a gawk-worthy bowl of oatmeal right in your seat. Trust me, someone will look at you and know you’re smart as a whip.
  5. Arrive at your destination full of yummy, whole foods that fuel whatever you’re up to when you get there. Enjoy!