Columnist, Food

Ah, summer travel, out on the open road, windows rolled down, breeze in your hair. That’s the fantasy, anyway; in reality you’re probably sitting in snarled traffic with the A/C full blast, hoping the ride takes only twice as long as you had planned. All the more reason to pack some really good food for the trip. Having a stash of tasty, healthful food takes an oversize element of stress out of the picture, ensuring you have premium fuel for your body and eliminating the risk of having to choose between the often sad, low-quality options along the highway. For fresh summer road food ideas, I asked some of the country’s top nutrition-focused culinary professionals what they bring for travels by car, plane or train. Here is what they shared, edited for space and clarity.


Michel Nischan (Tom Hopkins)

Katie Morford (Erin Scott)

Michel Nischan

Four-time James Beard Award-winning chef; founder and chief executive of Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit that seeks to make fruits and vegetables affordable; and author, most recently, of “ Sustainably Delicious: Making the World a Better Place, One Recipe at a Time .

Before I hit the road, I split an avocado in half, then put it back together so it doesn’t brown. I throw some roasted salmon or some pulled chicken in a plastic bag, along with some roasted veggies and olive oil, some pickled onions, and some sea salt and cracked black pepper. If I have whole roasted almonds, I’ll throw those in, too. And I pack a spork! Then, when hunger strikes, I mash the bag a bit to mix things up, open the avocado, remove the pit, mound some of my protein-and-veg salad in the avocado, and dig in. It hits the spot!

Katie ­Morford

Registered ­dietitian; blogger at Mom’s Kitchen Handbook; author of “Rise and Shine: Better Breakfasts for Busy Mornings.”

One of my standard travel meals is a colorful, crunchy salad. If you go with some of the heartier vegetables and sturdy greens, salads hold up well for several hours and can be made the night before, which is helpful when you’re scrambling to get out of town. Often it’s a cabbage slaw with an Asian-style dressing. I toss together shredded cabbage, sliced bell peppers, grated carrot, chopped mint and sliced scallions and then douse it with seasoned rice vinegar, a splash of sesame oil and a little Sriracha. If I have toasted peanuts or leftover noodles, I’ll toss those in, too.


Stefanie Sacks (Geir Magnusson)

Bryant Terry (Ruben Hughes)

Stefanie Sacks

Culinary ­nutritionist; founder of ­Reboot Food culinary retreats; author of “What the Fork Are You Eating.”

My older son’s ice hockey training translates into many long road trips in fairly rural areas, so this is what I do: 1. Call ahead to the hotel to ensure that we have a fridge in our room; ­2. Fill a cooler with healthful food including snacks and beverages; and 3. Pre-search our travel destination for grocery stores and healthier eateries that don’t break the bank, such as Panera (a family favorite on the road). Some of my go-tos to pack, outside of a lot of water, are fresh-cut vegetables, whole fruit, hummus, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, trail mix, Perfect Bars, fruit leathers and toasted nori sheets.

Bryant ­Terry

James Beard Award-winning chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco; ­author of “Afro-Vegan.”

Our two daughters have to have food, or they get “hangry.” For longer trips, I will bring a sandwich as a main substantial food item. I’ve been making a roasted vegetable sandwich with a pecan pesto. Our girls love Japanese food, so when we are flying I bring along packets of instant miso soup. You simply add hot water and you are good to go. I often make rice to go along with it and bring packets of nori for them to snack on. If I have time, I make them date, nut and cranberry balls. If we are in a rush, I simply make a snack mix with a nuts and dried fruits.


Jesse Price (Erica Allen)

Jackie Newgent (Clifton Parker)

Jessie Price

Editor in chief of EatingWell magazine; ­author of “The Simple Art of Eating Well.”

When I’m on a road trip, I struggle to get a good amount of fruits and vegetables, so I try to bring snacks to help with that. For fruit in the summer, I recommend cherries. They’re only really great this time of year, so you’ve got to eat them now. Plus, unlike some summer fruits, they travel exceptionally well. For vegetables, I want something that’s crunchy and can be handheld, but also something beyond basic carrots and celery. So, I bring along sticks of kohlrabi, radishes, baby zucchinis or cucumbers. Recently I discovered celtuce, which also makes a great crunchy snack. For any of these vegetables, bring along a seasoning blend such as Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt or Shapley’s ­Seasoning from Mississippi.

Jackie Newgent

Chef; registered dietitian nutritionist; and author, most recently, of “The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd Edition.”

I’m a big fan of nuts when traveling to help fill in nutrient gaps or squash hunger pangs. You’ll almost always see a little tin containing one ounce (exactly 23!) almonds — sometimes plain, sometimes flavored — in my purse or carry-on. Also, crunchy roasted chickpeas are an ideal travel food. You can buy them packaged in various flavors or bake up your own. Nibble on them as a snack or sprinkle them onto travel foods, such as a rather boring salad, to punch up enjoyment and nutrient richness.


Sam Kass (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

Michelle Dudash (Wade Carigan)

Sam Kass

Former White House chef and senior policy adviser for nutrition in the Obama administration; founder of Trove, a strategy firm focusing on improving health and food sustainability; author of “Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World.”

For us, it’s all about dried fruit including pineapple, mangoes, peaches, etc., and nuts such as almonds and cashews. We definitely throw in some Kind bars and jerky as well. I know it’s not that exciting but it’s the truth!

Michelle Dudash

Registered ­dietitian ­nutritionist; chef; creator of 4Real Food Reboot, an online healthy meal-planning program, and ­author of “Clean Eating for Busy Families.”

When I travel, I always bring nuts such as pistachios or almonds — especially the kinds in fun flavors. I pair flavored tuna pouches — I love the ones that include extra-virgin olive oil for heart-healthy fats with extra staying power — with whole-grain crackers made with lots of seeds. I also bring fresh, in-season fruit for the first day of travel (this time of year I bring cherries), and dried fruit with no added sugar for the rest of the trip. Dried fruit can be stored anywhere and helps keep digestion on track.


Sara Haas (Deborah Murphy)

Frank Mentesana (Peter Ross)

Sara Haas

Registered ­dietitian; chef; and author of “Taco! Taco! Taco!

I always pack the following: fresh fruit that isn’t easily smashed (apples and grapes are awesome; so are oranges and cherries), nuts (my favorites are lightly salted pistachios and almonds), popcorn (olive oil with light salt) and some variety of cut veggies, such as carrots, celery, cherry ­tomatoes and bell peppers.

Frank Mentesana

Restaurateur; food stylist and photographer; founder and director of EcoSpaces Education, a food-education program for children.

I’m a big fan of bean salads in the summer. They are easy to prepare, versatile and travel well in most any type of container — Mason jars, plasticware or an insulated bottle. I combine my favorite beans/legumes (French lentils might be at the top of my list) with a combination of chopped fresh vegetables (I will often add diced red onions, chives, spring onions, etc. for a little bite) and a toss of my favorite homemade vinaigrette. One of my go-to combinations is lentils, carrots, scallions and ­curry-citrus vinaigrette.


Nora Pouillon (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Nora Pouillon

Former owner of the District’s Restaurant Nora , the first certified organic restaurant in the United States; author of “My Organic Life: How a Pioneering Chef Helped Shape the Way We Eat Today.”

When I was growing up, my mother used to pack food to keep us children quiet and happy on long trips in our small car. It was Wiener schnitzel sandwiches on dark rye, hard-boiled eggs, apples and pickles. When I go on road trips now, I like to pack egg salad sandwiches on rye bread with cucumbers and sweet red peppers, or I make a “Pan bagnat” by hollowing out a baguette and filling it with a type of Nicoise salad.