Backpacking Food – Cheap & Healthy Options

Spending money on food while traveling in Europe is probably one of the most difficult things to handle when it comes to budgeting.

You always spend more than you had planned, and yet, it’s hard to cut down since you need it to live.

However, just because you need to cut down on your food budget, doesn’t mean you should have to cut down on your health.

Cooking your own food is the cheapest way to get around when traveling, especially in western countries.

It’s easy to just fall back on the typical student food with pasta and tomato sauce, which is fine, but if you want to eat a little healthier and have a more varied diet, check out these alternatives:

1. Lentils

Lentils are my favorite food. I used to absolutely hate them, but once I found out their possibilities I’ve made some amazing meals with them.

A very simple and cheap meal to make is Faki Lentil Soup.

Lentils are high in fiber and helps to prevent heart disease. The magnesium content found in lentils contributes to blood flow and the passage of oxygen through the body.

But best of all, lentils are high in iron, and are also suprisingly filling.

2. Canned Corn

Fry it, boil it or eat it raw, no matter how you eat it it’s always tasty. Corn is high in Vitamin B, which gives you some good energy – mix in with rice and tuna, or have it in your bean wrap, tortilla or couscous salad.

3. Chick peas

Chick peas (also known as Garbanzo beans) are fat free and packed with protein. Since they’re so high in fiber they help your digestion, which can be very helpful when traveling.

They also keep blood sugar levels stabilized making you feel full longer.

One of my favorite snacks is hummous (an Arabic dip), great as a spread, in hot meals, to the salad or as a side dish, where the main ingredient is chickpeas.

They’re also great in salads, pots and curries.

4. Black Beans

I’ve already talked about couscous and all the amazing recipes you can make with it. Well, couscous (or Quinoa, quite similar type of food), can make a great meal with black beans.

And why not add some of that canned corn to it as well. Spice it with some cayenne pepper, garlic, onion and vegetable broth – and you have a hearty meal in front of you.

Health in a can, black beans contain a compound that significantly reduce pre-cancerous cells.

Black beans are also loaded with anthocyanins, specifically ten times more when compared to other dark colored fruits and vegetables.

You can also use the black beans in the bean wrap recipe, it works great.

5. Oatmeal

It’s filling, cheap and among other minerals and vitamins it’s a very good source of fiber.

It’s a great food to have for breakfast, either dry, soaked (together with raisins in hot water) or cooked as porridge.

Oats helps to relieve constipation, a pretty common problem for travelers. Add some prunes in the breakfast and you double the effect!

6. Canned Tuna

Tuna is also a food that easily can be mixed in countless of variations; On the sandwich, in the rice, in the salad etc.

Protein, omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, potassium, selenium, vitamin B12, niacin and phosphorus – the list of the great nutrients you get from canned Tuna is long.

Plus, it’s easy to carry along for a backpacker since it doesn’t need to be in a cool environment, and it’s in a good packanble size.

What are your favorite healthy budget foods you cook a lot with when traveling?

( photo credits: perspicaciousstep1networkveganfeast wordriddenroland )

19 Responses to Backpacking Food – Cheap & Healthy Options

  1. Kris December 3, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    great list of cheap food options. really helpful to find the right kinds of food when backpacking in Europe, since eating out is so expensive!

    • Nathan Schacherer December 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

      thanks Kris – yeah I personally think all these taste great as well, and better than eating out or fast food while traveling…

  2. Clara December 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Good list! I like all of those foods, so I’m looking forward to trying them on the road!

    • Sofia December 5, 2010 at 6:41 am #

      Hi Clara!
      Good you like it, you can make some really yummy meals with them even when you’re backpacking.

  3. Joshua Johnson December 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    Chick peas are so tasty an can be used for so many dishes. All of these foods are good choices for travelers, a can of tuna goes a long way ( although that stuff can be dry! ) but for a protein/sodium fix that is easy to carry ( and eat with your grubbing fingers! ) it is great.

    • Sofiavonporat December 5, 2010 at 6:44 am #

      Hey Joshua!
      Yeah Tuna can be dry, but if you buy the ones in oil it’s usually fine I think :)
      Thanks for sharing your tips!

  4. Theodora December 5, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    I tend to buy a lot of fruit from street markets in terms of keeping up the “five a day” easily (in the UK, there’s a rule that you should eat five portions of different fruit and veg each day).

    Easy at this time of year in Europe? Leek and potato soup. Baked potatoes. Bean salad. In areas where there’s a Turkish community, look for the flatbreads and other dips as well as hummus, and eat picnic style…

    But street markets are great for food shopping, as it’s an insight into how the locals live, too.

    • Sofia December 5, 2010 at 6:40 am #

      Hi Theodora!
      I love those Turkish flat breads, they’re so tasty, not to mention hummus!

      Yes, street markets are often a great place to get your veggies a little cheaper, and there are also quite a few budget supermarkets to look out for in Europe, like Lidl and Netto.

  5. enrolled agent cpe December 6, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    Chick peas and canned tuna can possibly keep me full for at least a week. I really tried and forced myself to like lentils but no I don’t why it just doesn’t go well with me.

  6. Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] December 6, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    I am still looking for black beans in France…

  7. Randy Kalp December 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    For years I had been a spaghetti-o addict, but I am proud to say that after traveling for only a few months in Europe I have kicked the habit by switching to many of the food options you have listed above. Aside from being great budget options, the thing I love most about your list is the versatility of each food.

  8. Travel Turkey December 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    Very nice text, thank you.

  9. Sarah Wu December 9, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    I love Black beans!~ Yumm.

  10. Gemma January 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    I love all these options you listed! And most of them are easy to find cross-culturally when traveling. They’re very inexpensive, too!

  11. New York City Hotels March 18, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    Hummus is very tasty and can use a lot of dishes to do so. All these foods are good choices for travelers, and can of tuna go a long way (although things that can be dry!), but to reform the protein sodium / that are easy to carry (and eat with fingers grubbing your!) It’s great.

  12. Anonymous March 29, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    I personally think all these taste great as well, and better than eating out or quick food while traveling.

    NYC Restaurants


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