One of my biggest ‘fears’ before our multi-month Asian adventure was finding vegan food. No joke. I just had no idea what to expect and I was anticipating a lot of fish sauce, tofu with meat, and who knows what. I will say that eating plant based turned out to be more of a challenge in some places and no issue whatsoever in other places. I like to compare it to places here in the US. For example, eating plant based in Louisiana is significantly different than Austin, TX. However, as any vegan/vegetarian knows (or really just anyone trying to eat healthy), snacks are an essential when traveling. So whether you’re gearing up for Asia, a road trip, or even a weekend away with relatives, these are very accessible and great shelf stable options to bring along (aka if you’re going international).
Initially, one third of my backpack was snacks. It seemed heavy and unnecessary to my husband at first, but he later agreed it was a good idea. Happy wife, happy life. 🙂 As space was created, it either kept my bag light or was filled with the few clothes or souvenirs I found along the way. There are lots of options when it comes to snacks, some healthy, some not so healthy but I’ve created this list of things I brought that made sense to me. I like to think of snacks as mini-meals, so most of my choices reflect foods that would help round out nutrient consumption. A large part of snack choices revolved around protein rich foods…however, I was also sure to bring some dark chocolate and a couple “comfort” foods being in a foreign place.
Snacks I brought to SE for 3 months:
- Chia Seeds – these small nuggets are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, protein, and soluble fiber to help bulk the stools (as we all know what likely happens in that department in Asia). I came with 2 snack sized baggies full and used them within the first month and a half. They are very expensive in Asia, but I managed to replenish my stock for a reasonable price in Indonesia after I ran out.
- Oatmeal packets – I love oatmeal! My husband wondered why I needed 24 packets of these “paperweights” in my bag, but I estimated well and used them all up. Even in the largest, most elaborate breakfast buffet, you won’t find oatmeal in Asia. You’ll find rice porridge, but nothing with the same heartiness like oats. Oatmeal is also one of the most comforting foods out there and I found myself noshing on oatmeal and fruit for a small lunch/dinner in not so vegetarian friendly destinations. I found any hotel/AirBnB will be happy to give you a bowl and spoon and the hotels all have a water boiler in them (although I always boiled drinking water vs tap water just in case). Just try to opt for the ones without as much added sugar/junk.
- Bare organic dried apples – organic apples (apples are part of the dirty dozen and if you can/desire, opt for organic more often) are a food I eat regularly stateside but quite the hot commodity in Asia. While there are lots of other fruit choices, it’s not uncommon for apples to be USD$3.00 each! I knew I’d be missing them as I typically have one every day. These dried variations helped kick the craving and don’t have any sugar or preservatives added.
- Applesauce packets with twist tops – again, I love apples and they are weirdly an anti-emetic for me, which is clutch considering I get motion sick pretty easily. These were heavy, so I only brought about 8 and used them sparingly aka in case of emergencies. I always had one on a boat/ferry ride, backpack for long trekking days, or in my liquid bag in case of a bumpy flight.
- Clif Builder Bars – getting enough starch (rice/fruit) is not a concern, but I wanted to make sure I had enough protein and these accidentally vegan (or at least I think) bars aren’t my favorite generally speaking but because they are so protein packed (20g/bar), it’s easy to have part of it at a time to keep hunger at bay, “catch up” on protein intake (there were a few days I hadn’t had any decent plant protein source and felt comforted by having these protein bombs). Plus, they are vitamin fortified helping to increase overall nutrient density.
- The Good Bean dried garbanzo beans – Again, I tried to focus on protein rich sources and these are lighter weight than peanut butter (also not considered a liquid like peanut butter!) They were super easy to add into oatmeal, cereal, those salads that leave you hungry in an hour… or just take a handful at a time. I brought a large Costco size bag and it was perfect.
- Almonds – I knew peanuts would be easily accessible after doing some research but bringing the individual packets of roasted, no salt almonds from Trader Joe’s was a huge help. These vitamin and mineral packed nuggets with protein and fiber makes them a perfect midday snack. The individual pack was nice to put in a backpack for a day trip without having to carry the weight of a large bag.
- Trader Joes’ giant corn – this was my salty, starchy, not as healthy snack of choice as it satisfies that salty crunch and won’t get crushed like traditional crackers in a packed bag. I also am very much a Midwest girl at heart and love corn.
- Assortment of granola type bars – when choosing a snack bar, make sure it has at least 3 grams of fiber and the least amount of added sugar as possible. We had some random ones like Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar, Trader Joes’ Raisin the Bar, and Seven Sundays Muesli Squares (my favorite!) that made the cut.
I thought I could live without peanut butter for a few months, and that was just silly. Peanut butter is my jam and made for a lot of small dinners with fruit. So, although we didn’t bring it, it was easy to find in the bigger city grocery stores. Interestingly, it was easier to find the versions without added sugar unlike the US! I would have brought a jar to start with, but we ended up buying 5 jars (different sizes) and even a Malaysian made almond butter! It made the packs heavy, but well worth it for any longer trip in my opinion. Nut butters have saved me on lots of occasions!
Also, it was easy to find soy milk in every country but there are a ton of varieties as it’s more of a popular snack drink with a lot of added sugar and flavorings. Our favorite was the HomeSoy Original with no added sugar (the blue label) and available in 1 liter containers. This was a staple in our travels and I had no problem taking to breakfast for coffee/tea/muesli/etc in any place. The soy milk in Asia was not fortified with Vitamin B12 or Vitamin D, so I would still recommend taking vitamins if going to be gone for any length of time.
Whatever your snack choice, think of your favorite foods and flavors that you love and revolve your choices around that along with increased nutrient density. A lot of “snack” choices are nothing more than fiberless sugar bombs and do not contribute to your wellbeing. If you have further questions about snacks or food options, let me know.
Love and Hugs!