CultureFood

The Weird Foods Travelers Rely on to Stay Healthy

Jimmy Chin, Kate Harris, and other road warriors share their secret potions for staying well on the road

Stay well (and well fed) when you travel this season. (Photo: RossHelen/iStock)
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Traveling is hard on the body. Air at 30,000 feet is drier than a mouthful of powdered Gatorade, which means you emerge dehydrated on the other side. Not to mention the bacteria and viruses lurking on armrests, in plane bathrooms, and emanating from your seatmate who won’t stop coughing.

Those of us who travel often for work have learned a thing or two about what to eat and drink to stay well. I always have seaweed snacks in my bag, which are full of iodine, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. Trader Joe’s chili-lime cashews are my go-to when I don’t have time for a meal and need healthy calories to keep me from getting hangry. And dried dates are how I (sometimes) resist eating a Snickers when I’m 16 hours into a 30-hour journey.

We asked athletes, photographers, and business owners what they always have on hand.

Road Warrior: Photographer and Filmmaker Jimmy Chin

Arsenal: Hanah One Daily Superfood

Made from 30 botanicals, including turmeric, sesame oil, and ashwagandha—a plant that may have the ability to help the body cope with stress—one tablespoon of Hanah One superfood is like an Ayurvedic health-food bomb. “I take Hanah One everywhere and use it for training, big days in the mountains, on long production days and during travel,” says Chin, who directed Free Solo. He searched a long time before finding an Ayurvedic supplement he trusted. (Chin is also sponsored by the company.) “Made from wildcrafted herbs in India and stringently tested for purity, it’s kept me healthy and provided a steady, reliable source of energy through an insane couple years of travel and work.”

Road Warrior: Author Kate Harris

Arsenal: Peanut Butter

Harris, whose most recent book Lands of Lost Borders was about biking Asia’s entire Silk Road, is a self-defined wanderer. Somewhere in her bag is always a tub of good old peanut butter. “It’s heavy but pretty much unbeatable as a source of protein for every meal,” she says. “I mix it in oatmeal for breakfast, spread it on crackers or bagels with jam for lunch, eat it by the spoonful for a snack, and stir it into spicy instant noodles for dinner.” To keep the TSA from banishing it, she usually puts it in her checked luggage. “Then I come home and rarely eat the stuff in real life, so as not to spoil my appetite for it on the next adventure,” she says.

Road Warrior: Exercise Physiologist Stacy Sims

Arsenal: Microfiltered Protein Powder, Starbucks Via Coffee, Berocca Tablets

“I am a bit pedantic with food, as I hate to be hungry and tired, and all of my trips are international,” says Sims, who just wrapped up six weeks on the road. Microfiltered protein powder can become a meal if she is stranded somewhere and needs calories. Starbucks Via packets are a must “because coffee on the road is never strong enough.” Berocca tablets, which are effervescent vitamin tabs, give her immune system a boost and “the sodium helps with hydration,” which is always useful on a plane.

Road Warrior: InsideTracker’s Jonathan Levitt 

Arsenal: Oatmega Bars, Probiotics, and Algae

As sales manager of the athlete blood-testing company InsideTracker, Levitt travels three times a month and has to shake a lot of hands at trade shows and races. Oatmega bars are his snack choice because they’re “high in protein and fiber”—14 grams and 7 grams, respectively—“both of which can be hard to get while traveling.” He also keeps a bottle of probiotics in his luggage. Yes, there’s some back and forth right now about whether probiotics really help your immune health, but even the placebo effect can be a glorious thing. Finally, he always has algae tablets on hand, in case he can’t get any fresh fruits or veggies. His go-to brand is Sunlit, which makes a blend of chlorella and spirulina. “It’s also a decent source of protein and easy to carry,” he says.

Road Warrior: Photographer and Filmmaker Erin Trieb

Arsenal: Collagen, RX Bars, Chlorella and Spirulina powder, and Starbucks Via Coffee

Trieb is a photojournalist often on assignment in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia. Based in Istanbul, she says that every trip home to the U.S. she stocks up on as many healthy snacks as she can to keep her going for months. While she always has RX bars and oatmeal packets for busy mornings, “My all-time go-tos are Starbucks Via single coffee packets,” which guarantee she’ll always have a decent cup. She also always has a supply of chlorella or spirulina powder made by HealthForce. “One spoonful is equivalent to eating one to two servings of veggies, nutrient-wise,” Trieb says, a lifesaver if you’re somewhere where salads aren’t on the menu. Finally, “drum roll please for the weirdest one: Great Lakes pure animal collagen protein powder, which I put in my coffee. It sounds gross but it’s not,” she says. Collagen helps with healthy skin and nails and may even protect your joints from premature aging. “Unlike most protein powders, this one is flavorless and dissolves instantly, so I can’t even tell it’s in there,” she says.   

Road Warrior: Mountain Guide Melissa Arnot Reid

Arsenal: Miso Soup Packets and Sahale Snacks

Reid guides and climbs the world’s highest peaks. In 2016, she was the first woman to complete a round-trip to the summit of Mount Everest and back down without oxygen. Instead of reaching for pretzels or chips on long flights to Nepal, when Reid craves salt, she pulls a packet of dried miso-soup mix from her bag. “I can usually find hot water,” she says. “I also always have a bag of Sahale Snacks to give me more calories and nutrition on long flights or if I have a bit of a sweet tooth.” The company’s pistachio options, like the pomegranate-glazed pistachios, are her go-to.

Road Warrior: Outside Deputy Editor Mary Turner

Arsenal: Emergen-C, 8 Greens, Justin’s Almond Butter, Kind Bars

Turner, who has logged thousands of miles for long-haul work trips, is always looking for travel food hacks. She starts pounding Emergen-C packets mixed in water a couple of times a day as soon as she gets on the plane, which gives her a slew of vitamins and encourages her to hydrate often. And because it can be hard to get enough vegetables while traveling in certain countries, she always brings along 8 Greens tablets, filled with spinach, kale, and a host of other nutrients. She avoids drinking alcohol on lengthy overnight flights—why get more dehydrated?—and always shows up with protein snacks she can turn to when needed, like Justin’s almond butter packets and Kind bars.

Road Warrior: Travel Writer Lauren Matison

Arsenal: Kuju Portable PourOver Coffee, and Trail Mix

Matison’s an avid cyclist, so when she gets back from a trip, she wants to train, not spend three days laid up with a cold. Sure, coffee won’t actively boost your immune system, but it will give you antioxidants and energy, and Kuju’s setup—with a single-use filter—is easy to brew anywhere. You’re going to need something to go with that coffee. That’s where the trail mix comes in. “I always have this ridiculously large bag of gorp—typically almonds, raisins, little chunks of dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, roasted unsalted cashews, pumpkin seeds, really whatever I have lying around,” she says. Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals like magnesium, selenium, iron, and calcium. Raisins and dried fruit bring antioxidants to the table.

Road Warrior: The Points Guy’s Zach Honig

Arsenal: Water and More Water

Editor at large Honig estimates that he’s on a flight about 50 times a year, and often those flights are long-haul routes. These days he’s got more than enough points to sit up front—where the tasty snacks are. Still, he has one habit left over from his coach days: “The flight attendants have those really large water bottles that they serve from,” he says. “Ask if you can have one.” Then down that puppy and refill it on your layover. The added benefit is you’ll be up and down to pee every 20 minutes, which will keep sore muscles and blood clots at bay.

Lead Photo: RossHelen/iStock
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