When you’re rushing to work in the morning or dashing from the office to your favorite boxing class, you might be jonesing for avocado toast or an elaborate brunch, but they’re not exactly the easiest things to eat during a commute. It doesn’t matter if you’re wolfing something down in your parked car (since you’re obviously keeping your hands on 10 and 2 while you’re moving) or trying to grab a bite on the train, cereal bars crushed at the bottom of your bag can get old quickly.
No matter what you choose to tote along, there are a few simple guidelines to follow for healthy on the go meals and snacks, Dr. Rob Silverman, author of Inside Out Health: A Revolutionary Approach to Your Body, says. “Food should be easy to eat, fairly quickly consumed, of minimal disturbance to other passengers and healthy.” To ensure you always have a good bite to eat on hand, you’re going to have to put a bit of work in advance, though. “Planning and doing a little prepping makes healthy eating on the go much easier to adhere to, not to mention more cost effective,” he adds.
To bring along your favorite foods, experts say it’s best to invest in good to-go containers or bento boxes that allow you to eat foods that have healthy portions. A portable cooler can also make sure your meals stay fresh while you’re getting through your hectic day. Here are some expert-approved foods to pack the next time you head out.
No more zipping through the drive-through line for your breakfast before you get to work. With a little bit of preparation, you can have a delicious and dairy-free first meal of the day that fits in your cupholder. Dr. Silverman recommends topping coconut milk yogurt with berries, which have antioxidants and a low glycemic index, plus a teaspoon of flaxseed. “These can be made ahead and stored in single-serve containers until ready to eat,” he says. Just don’t forget a spoon!
For moments when you literally just have one hand free, you can’t go wrong with squeeze packs, according to Laura Cipullo of Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services in New York City. “Peanut butter in the squeeze packs are great to squeeze right into your mouth while commuting,” she explains. “You can follow it up with an apple to clean your mouth and add fiber. Frozen yogurt squeezers are awesome to leave the house with. You can get on the train and have a couple of frozen yogurt squeezers without a mess or the need for a spoon.”
If you’re searching for a protein-packed snack, look no further than hardboiled eggs, Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, N.J., says. “I often use aluminum foil to pack hardboiled eggs, which are super commuter-friendly,” she says. “If I know I’m going to eat them in the next hour or so, I’ll slice, put a dash of black pepper on them and wrap in foil.”
No time for an omelette? Dr. Silverman recommends making egg muffins in advance with spinach, kale, and meat. (You can also make vegetarian ones.) Scroll through Pinterest for hundreds of recipe options.
Convenience store snacks
If you’re caught unprepared, don’t think you automatically have to go for a slice of pizza or some fries. “You can find a lot of good choices at convenience stores,” Gorin says. “I like to pick up single-serve containers of Greek yogurt, cheese sticks and fruit. You can usually find a decent selection of fruit, including pre-cut melon, as well as bananas and apples.” Fill up your tank, get some breakfast and get on your way.
DIY trail mix
The very name of the food indicates that it’s meant to be eaten while you’re on the move. “Stock your pantry with a variety of dried fruit, nuts and seeds so you can easily put together trail mixes with different ingredients based on what you are in the mood for that day,” Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, good food consultant, educator and advocate, says. “Making it yourself requires almost no time and puts the ingredients in your control, enabling you to avoid added sugars, oils and preservatives. Plus, a mix of dried fruit, nuts and seeds gives you healthy protein, fat, carbs and fiber all together.” Even if they ask, remember, you are under no obligation to share with anyone else in your carpool.
Just because you’re in transit doesn’t mean you can’t satisfy your sweet tooth with something healthy. “Hard fruits, such as bananas, apples, peaches, apricots, figs, cherries and berries, are awesome because you can get in a serving of fruit without any preparation required,” Begun says. “Best of all, your choices change along with the seasons so you never get bored.”
Dtr. Silverman recommends mixing kale, cucumber, lettuce, green apple and rice/pea protein powder with either almond milk or water. You can blend it in a Magic Bullet and use that as the container, he adds. If you’re a straphanger, you can use one hand to stay balanced during your commute while you sip on your smoothie.
No one wants to be dealing with an unwieldy large package during your daily travels. That’s why single-serving bites are ideals for eating on the go, nutritional experts say. Reach for single-serve hummus to get a hit of protein and fiber, Gorin says. Or grab a small package of single-serving nuts like pistachios or almonds, Dr. Silverman recommends. Boom—now you’re ready to crush the rest of your day.