Home > Uncategorized > Your Moveable Feast: A Guide to Eating Well On The Road

Your Moveable Feast: A Guide to Eating Well On The Road

This week’s post was written by guest blogger, Bonnie Shapley. Bonnie is a Martha Beck trained life coach emphasizing self reliance through self discovery.  Through her experiences as a flight attendant, she also knows quite a bit about eating and planning meals on the go.


It was a little before 6:00 in a large Midwestern airport, when a flight attendant jumped off the airplane to get dinner for the crew who had not eaten all day. “Hi, I’d like to order five hamburgers and three orders of french fries.” The cashier’s face showed alarm mixed with a tinge of horror. “Oh”, she said, ”the cook’s not going to like this.”. “But you don’t close for 10 more minutes?” The cashier looked at her, measuring whether she would insist on this outrageous request, and then walked to the kitchen as if it were a gas chamber. She was right, the cook didn’t like it, and the only thing that came out of that kitchen was a long string of expletives.

Later that night somewhere in Omaha, two business travelers get in late after a full day of work and a mad dash to the airport which didn’t allow time for dinner, only to find that the kitchen in their hotel closed 30 minutes ago, and there aren’t any open restaurants close by.

A family of 6 with 3 small children had book the early nonstop flight from Oakland to Kansas City. They left early, planning to eat breakfast at the airport, but the traffic was bumper to bumper and then they ran into problems at security, just making it to the gate in time to board. With no food. On a 3 hour flight. Oops.

Don’t let this happen to you. Any number of incidents can occur that will keep you from eating while traveling. And then, on the off chance you do find a place open that will actually serve you, you might end up with a white bread lunch meat sandwich with wilted lettuce that cost $7.00. I once paid $22.00 to have a sandwich delivered to my hotel room because it was my only thing available. $22.00!

Over the years, I have learned a few tricks to ensure I’m properly fed on the road. It requires, dare I say it, a little preplanning and creativity. But anyone can do it. And you will find it well worth the effort, especially when you run into those almost guaranteed bumps in your traveling road.

It’s a food bag and if packed properly, it will be your best buddy. Not only will a food bag keep you from starving, it saves money, provides for healthier eating and guarantees you’ll have meals you really like. And that’s the primary rule for packing a food bag, only put things in it you really like. I’ve tried coercing myself into eating vegetables by packing mostly that food group, only to find I’d really rather gnaw on my arm than to eat a celery stick.

Putting the food bag together: Basic equipment- soft sided cooler bag, they come in many sizes, shapes and colors. My ‘fav’ have separate compartments for cold stuff, utensils and other condiments and another for items that don’t need to be cold, like bread and protein bars. Find one that is leak proof and large enough to put ice in the compartment with the food. A hot water bag, found in the first aid section of any store, can be filled with ice to keep your bag cool. Finally, stock up on plastic freezer bags for storing and heating.


How to do it: If you are traveling by air, you can bring cold food. And liquid condiments can be brought in containers of 3 oz or less. Any size liquids that don’t need to be kept cold can be placed in a checked bag, just be sure to put it in a plastic bag in case of leakage. To keep food cold going through security, freeze some of your food, chicken breasts and pastas freeze beautifully and keep your other food cold until you get through security. Then, when you’ve gotten to “the other side”, ask for a large cup of ice from a vendor or from the flight attendants once you’ve boarded.

Food to bring: This is the fun part. As mentioned, chicken and pastas, no sauce or lightly coated, are travel friendly foods. Pack some tortillas and make a chicken wrap with lettuce, hot sauce and a few blue cheese crumbles. Tuna, hummus, peanut butter, cheese as well as edamame are excellent sources of protein. For breakfast, instant oatmeal with your favorite nuts and maybe some dried cranberries or raisins or cereal. You can pack low fat parmalat milk, vacuum sealed so it doesn’t need to be cold, in your checked bag or pick up a bottle ahead of time in the airport or hotel. Fruit, if you can find it, is expensive on the road. Pack bananas, apples, berries, pineapple anything you like. And yes, vegetables. Just cut them up ahead of time. Small servings of frozen vegetables like sugar snap peas, broccoli and spinach come in their own plastic bag for heating; take them out of the box and pack just in the bag.

How to store and heat: Every hotel has an ice machine so it’s easy to keep your food cold. Many hotels also have small fridges and or microwaves in the guest rooms. Some will put them in rooms on request so when making a reservation, check on availability. But if not, you can heat up food using the coffee pot and ice bucket. Brew enough hot water to fill the ice bucket ¾ of the way, plop in your food in a freezer plastic bag, these tend to be stronger, close the lid and let it do its thing. This method will not cook food, only heat so make sure the food you bring is fully cooked. This works for leftovers, too. Have the waiter pack up your meal and then when you get back to your room, put it in a plastic bag and put it on ice; ready to heat up again when you’re hungry.

Your food bag can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. I once came across flight attendants creating a full roast beef dinner with mash potatoes and gravy and green beans. I like to carry enough food for two meals and snacks per day so I purchase one meal a day. The purpose is to keep you happy, healthy and properly fed with your bank account in tact at the end of your trip. Bon Appetit!


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