So you’re going to be away from home all day, driving to some meetings or checking some work sites, and your usual lunch plans just won’t cut it. How to stay well-fed? You could try to stop by a coffee shop or fast food place in the morning to order coffee and some food. Maybe there will be a gas station along the way too. But you know that the type of food available at these convenience stops will leave you feeling drained instead of re-energized.

So if you have a little time the night before, you might do what I did recently, and pack easy meals and snacks to get you all the way to 5pm.

Early Breakfast

I’ll admit it, this looks a little different than the typical breakfast. But for one-handed eating while driving, it works. Start with the milk. I downed just before heading out the door, so that there was something in my stomach before I started driving. Tea – or coffee – helps hydrate you, and also get that morning boost of alertness from the caffeine. Try it black to get the full flavour without any downsides. In the containers, roasted chickpeas for something munchable that’s high in fiber (plus protein), since I skipped toast or oatmeal this morning. Sliced tomato, seasoned with a little salt and black pepper, is ready to pop into your mouth & start the day with some easy-to-eat veggies. Last, a couple hard boiled eggs (peel ahead if you can) add more protein and some fat for lasting fullness.

Mid-Morning Snack

Even if you only have a few minutes later in the morning, it’s good to be prepared with something easy like a sliced apple and a mini greek yogurt. If you’re not sure you’ll get around to eating it, leave the apple whole. But chances are, you’ll want something 3-5 hours after breakfast. And if breakfast was at 6am…well, it’s not lunchtime yet.

Leftovers for Lunch

If you’ll have access to a microwave, packing an extra serving of whatever tasty thing you had for dinner earlier in the week is a good call. For me, that was whole grain rotini topped with a spinach-tomato-meat sauce, plus some parmesan cheese. I’d served it with a green salad, but for better portability switched that for some frozen green beans topped with a little margarine and sliced almonds. Tip: If using frozen vegetables for a packed lunch, pack them cold! They’ll help keep the rest of your lunch chilled, and there’s no need to cook, then reheat. You can just cook them once when you’re ready to eat.

No microwave? Then a wrap or some sort of power bowl might be a good bet.

Lunch provided at the meeting? Cool. No need to pack a full meal, then. But having a few extra snacks along is good practice so you have a few things you know you like and will energize you.

Driving Snacks

When it’s time to head home, you’re tired, maybe bored, certainly not that interested in the drive. And it can be a problematic time for cravings. In case you’re actually hungry and in need of hydration, having some snacks and water along for the drive home can help. And again, just like the morning, it’s probably been hours since your last meal, so a snack makes sense. This time, I picked fresh & delicious strawberries, crunchy baby carrots (no prep required!), and a little container 1/2 full of salt & pepper peanuts. If you’re thinking about being “good”, you might pack only the fruit and vegetables. But that would be a mistake, since they’re not very filling or satisfying on their own. Just like having the greek yogurt in the morning, including something with a little protein and fat, like the peanuts here, adds interest as well as satisfaction. With a snack like this, I’m far less tempted to buy the convenience store snacks if I need to stop for gas or a bathroom. And with a big water bottle along, it’s easier to skip more caffeinated beverages which might keep me up too late.

Breakfast to 5pm

There you have it… portable meals and snacks to get you through a long workday with travel. It’s never ideal to eat while driving, but it can be done as well as possible.