Quinn on Nutrition: Travel snacks

Credit: Jiannan Feng

Credit: Jiannan Feng

On our peanut flight to a family wedding in Oregon, my six year-old granddaughter chattered, “Guess what my brother (age 4) can make in his mouth out of peanuts?”

What? I asked.

“Peanut butter.”

Not a bad snack either way, I thought.

When we landed at our destination, she watched out the window as workers for this particular airline maneuvered a loading dock with one of its trademark statements on display.

“I can read that sign,” she told me proudly. “It says, ‘Everybody loves snakes.”

“Snacks,” I corrected her.

Perhaps she was right, though. Depending on what we choose, our between meal treats can be charming. Or they can poison our nutrition goals … especially when we travel away from our usual habits.

Sure, most of us know the obvious: Avoid fried Oreos at the street fair. Ask for orange juice instead of vodka when you catch the early flight. Yet it can still be easy to justify poor food choices when we are out and about.

Peanuts and other nuts are ideal travel snacks. They don’t get smashed in our carry-on. They contain protein and valuable fiber which bodies need when we travel. And they provide a healthful dose of essential fat to keep junk food cravings under control.

Popcorn is another good choice. It’s a whole grain, meaning we eat the entire seed kernel of the grain which includes the nutrient and antioxidant-rich germ, the fiber-containing bran and the energy-producing endosperm (the fluffy white part). Yes, we can load down this simple treat with salt and butter and sugar. Or we can choose not to.

Fruit is such an obvious choice that we sometimes forget how special this snack can be. It’s a natural source of major vitamins and minerals. It comes in its own compostable package. And it gives us just enough energy and pep to get to the next meal without overindulging. I was pleasantly surprised to see a beautiful bowl of fresh seasonal fruit served alongside our breakfast order in one airport. Thank you, Denver.

More challenges were ahead, however. My nephew’s wedding feast was rich with tasty lean pork, fresh salads and vegetables. Yet I still ate more dessert than I needed. And I might have had just a tad more wine than the recommended healthful dose for women of 4 to 5 ounces a day. (Blame it on my niece who works for a well-known winery.)

All in all, we didn’t get too crazy with food on this trip, my older daughter and I remarked as we headed back to the airport for an early flight home.

Then my grandson piped up from the back seat. “Can we have a donut for breakfast, Mommie?” Auntie Erin said we can have donuts every day!”

Always good to get back home.


(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of "Quinn-Essential Nutrition" (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to barbara@quinnessentialnutrition.com.)

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