Top High Protein Snacks for Traveling Athletes
It can be helpful for athletes to have ideas for high protein snacks they can enjoy while traveling. By planning ahead, athletes can ensure they have healthy snacks available throughout the trip.
Nutrition for the Traveling Athlete
When planning snacks for travel, athletes should view snacks as an opportunity to help them meet their sports nutrition needs. Athletes can turn snacks into “mini-meals” by pairing foods that provide a lean source of protein with a carbohydrate-rich food item.
Consuming protein throughout the day with several meals and snacks is important for athletes (1). Protein provides the building blocks needed for athletes to build, repair, and maintain lean muscle mass. Packing high protein snacks for travel can help athletes with meeting their overall protein needs.
Top High Protein Snacks for Travel
Let’s now take a look at a variety of ideas for high protein snacks for traveling athletes.
Jerky: Portable High Protein Travel Snack
Beef or turkey jerky is an easy, high protein travel snack option for athletes. On average, 1-oz of beef or turkey jerky contains 9-12 grams of protein (depending on the brand). Jerky does not need refrigeration and is mess-free, making it a portable snack option for the road.
Athletes can pair beef or turkey jerky with a piece of fresh fruit, pita chips, or granola bars for a great snack combination to enjoy while traveling.
Nuts: Nutrient Dense Travel Snack
Nuts are a healthy nutrient dense travel snack option for athletes. In addition to protein, nuts provide healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Different types of nuts provide different nutritional benefits. Thus, athletes should pack a variety of nuts to take with them when traveling, such as:
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
Prior to the trip, take time to pack individual servings of nuts into containers to enjoy on the road. Athletes can also make their own mixed nut blend with their favorite nut varieties.
Single-serving containers or squeeze pouches of nut butters are a convenient way to add both protein and healthy fats to an athlete’s travel snack. When selecting a nut butter, choose a product that has limited added ingredients. Some nut butters contain added hydrogenated oils, making them less healthy choices.
In addition to sandwiches, try adding nut butter as a topping on whole grain crackers, graham crackers, mini bagels, crunchy granola bars, apple slices, or celery. Nut butters can be a perfect addition to breakfast on the road, a recovery nutrition meal, or a nutritious afternoon snack while traveling.
Trail mix is another high protein travel snack option for athletes. Athletes can make their own trail mix by combining a variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, pretzels, whole grain breakfast cereal, and snack crackers.
If you purchase prepackaged trail mix at the store, look for mixes that contain a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. You can further boost the carbohydrate content of the trail mix by adding in pretzels or snack crackers.
Individual containers of Greek yogurt are an excellent high protein snack option for traveling athletes. In addition to protein, Greek yogurt provides calcium and some varieties are also fortified with Vitamin D. An individual 5.3 oz serving of Greek yogurt provides ~13 grams of protein – depending on the brand purchased (2).
For added carbohydrates, athletes can enjoy their Greek yogurt with a piece of fresh fruit, graham crackers, animal crackers, or granola bars. Athletes can also pack individual servings of fresh berries and granola to make a fruit and yogurt parfait on the road.
Cottage Cheese: High Protein Travel Snack Option
In addition to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese is a great high protein travel snack for athletes. Cottage cheese is packed full of protein, containing ~28 grams of protein per cup (depending on the brand). It also contains riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and many brands are fortified with calcium (3).
Athletes can purchase cottage cheese in individual serving size cups, which are convenient for travel. Consider packing berries, dried fruit, seeds, or nuts to stir into the cottage cheese for added nutrition and flavor.
Hard-boiled eggs are a healthy, protein-rich travel snack for athletes. A large egg contains ~6 grams of protein. In addition to protein, eggs contain choline, a nutrient that is important for cognitive function (1). Eggs also provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants making them a nutritious snack option.
If athletes don’t want to boil the eggs on their own for the trip, they can purchase eggs that have already been hard-boiled at the grocery store. The premade hard-boiled eggs come peeled and ready-to-eat. So athletes can simply add them to their travel coolers and have them ready to enjoy on the road.
Cheese sticks are a convenient option for athletes looking for ways to add protein to their travel snacks. In general, cheese sticks provide ~6-7 grams of protein per stick (depending on brand). In addition to cheddar and mozzarella, many stores now offer a variety of types of cheese sticks such as Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, Havarti, and Gouda.
Tuna and Salmon Pouches: Nutritious High Protein Travel Snack
Single-serving pouches of tuna or salmon are a great way for athletes to add lean protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids to their travel snacks. Athletes can enjoy the tuna or salmon as a sandwich spread, or as a topping on whole grain crackers or pita chips.
When selecting tuna, albacore white tuna is a better source of omega-3s than chunk light tuna. In addition, choose tuna or salmon that is packed in water rather than oil. When the fish is packed in oil the product will be higher in saturated fat making it a less healthy option.
Protein Bars: Convenient High Protein Travel Snack
Protein bars can be a convenient option for athletes looking for a quick travel snack to help meet their protein needs. When purchasing protein bars, look for bars that are made with whole grains, provide a good source of protein, and have limited saturated fat.
Keeping some protein bars in your travel bag can help ensure athletes have a snack available when time is limited. When athletes have more time, they can focus on eating whole foods that provide vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Hummus: Plant-Based Travel Snack
Hummus is a nutritious, plant-based travel snack option that is made with chickpeas. In addition to protein, hummus provides carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Single-serving containers of hummus make a great dip for pretzels, pita chips, or fresh vegetables.
Another great plant-based snack option athletes can enjoy while traveling is roasted chickpeas. A 1-cup serving of cooked chickpeas provides ~10 grams of protein (4). In addition to protein, chickpeas contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Try out this Healthy Roasted Chickpeas with Seasoning recipe from Amy Gorin, Registered Dietitian. Once prepared, the roasted chickpeas can be enjoyed alone or tossed into trail mix for added flavor and crunch.
Edamame: Soy Protein Travel Snack Option
Edamame is an excellent plant-based, high-protein travel snack for athletes. A 1-cup serving of cooked edamame contains ~18 grams of soy protein (5).
Soy protein is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce. In addition to protein, edamame contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals making it a great snack option for traveling athletes.
Prior to the trip, prepare the edamame (roast or sauté) with sea salt, ginger, garlic, cumin, chili pepper, or any of your favorite spices. Package the cooked edamame in individual serving containers. Then store the edamame in your travel cooler for a nutritious, high protein snack to enjoy while traveling.
Food Safety Reminders for High Protein Travel Snacks
When planning your travel snacks, it is important to keep food safety in mind. Storing food at the appropriate temperature is a critical aspect of food safety.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F as the “Danger Zone” in which bacteria can rapidly grow. Perishable foods should not be left in the temperature danger zone for more than 2 hours. This time frame decreases to 1 hour if the temperature exceeds 90 °F, which can occur during summer travel.
Consuming food that has been left in the temperature danger zone for over the recommended time limit, increases one’s risk of getting a foodborne illness. Perishable food items that need to be held cold (below 40°F) include:
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese
- Fruits and vegetables that have been cut, sliced, or peeled (i.e., sliced melon)
- Mayonnaise or products containing mayonnaise (sandwiches, tuna, chicken, or egg salad)
- Deli meat, hard-boiled eggs
If you do not have a way to store food cold during travel, it is important to plan for snacks that do not require refrigeration.
If food is left out over the two-hour limit, throw it away, as you do not want to risk getting a foodborne illness.
Top High Protein Snacks for Travel
You are now set with a variety of high protein snack ideas for traveling athletes. Athletes should take time to stock up on their favorite high protein snacks prior to travel. By planning ahead, athletes can ensure they are equipped to meet their sports nutrition needs throughout their trip.
For additional sports nutrition tips for the traveling athlete, check out my blog: 7 Best Gas Station Drinks for Athletes.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.