Custom Food Bars and Cooking in the Airport


Twice a month I stray from my superlatively healthy diet and eat anything, no holds barred. A week or two ago I ate a couple slices of deep dish Chicago pizza with bacon and all sorts of nonsense on it. The idea behind this is that once in a while, usually while travelling, I find myself in a situation where eating healthy just isn’t an option. Morocco was a place like that. Everything had butter in it. If I never voluntarily ate “dirty”, I might feel sick when left with no other options. Also, the harm in eating normal food for two out of my 90 or so meals per month is negligible.

I try to use these cheat meals to try interesting foods or highly rated non-vegan restaurants, but the reality is that they often end up being meals at airports. I’ll find myself on a three hour layover, starving, saying to my self, “Well… I guess I can have my cheat day now.” One turkey sandwich later and I’m thinking, “There must be some solution to this problem.”

After a bit of experimentation, I have found some pretty cool methods to have really healthy and delicious food anywhere I go.


First up is an amazing company that makes custom food bars, called Youbar. I used to eat things like Larabars, which are okay, but not ideal. Too much (natural) sugar, not enough real substance. The problem is that the kind of bar I want to eat may not be particularly commercially successful — it would be packed full superfoods, nuts, and seeds, and have no sweeteners in it. Luckily, thanks to Youbar, I can finally get these.

They’re a bit on the expensive side ($3.19 for a large bar, which is around 50% bigger than a Larabar), but the ingredients are high quality and the bars are made to your exact specifications. Beyond choosing every single ingredient, you also control the portion of each one. You can make the bars a bit cheaper by using coupon code TYNAN (11% off) and by ordering with friends or in quantity to minimize shipping, which is expensive for one box, but reasonable for multiple boxes.

I was apprehensive about ordering bars without sweetener at first, but the flavor is excellent. For the base I use half almond butter, half YouBar base (which is half almond butter and half dates). That puts enough dates in to have the bar slightly sweet, but not enough to add too much sugar. To see exactly how I make my bars, put in reorder code “7f8um” and to see how Todd makes them, use reorder code “w6ucr”. Mine taste better, if you want my expert opinion.

The way I make the bars they have a perfect carb/fat/protein ratio and nearly 300 calories. Two of them make a decent meal in a pinch.

Cooking in the Airport

This is a convoluted plan method I’ve been thinking about for around a year, but haven’t actually put into practice until recently. The results are awesome, though… it’s a great way to cook healthy meals anywhere you can get water and electricity.

The first thing you need is a Zojirushi Ms. Bento lunch jar. I’m not thrilled that it’s powder blue and the feminine Ms. Bento rather than Mr. Bento, but it’s the perfect size and configuration. In case you aren’t familiar with these things, it’s a vacuum insulated container intended to keep food warm for hours. You’re supposed to make food in it in the morning and the jar will keep it warm until lunch.

Being highly insulating, it’s also good for cooking in. To do so, you need an Immersion heater. These little things are tiny enough to stash in a corner of your bag, but can get a reasonable size vessel of water boiling in a short amount of time.

The Ms. Bento itself is made of steel, and has two compartments in it. I fill the top one full of dehydrated food. If you want awesome gourmet options, check out Packlite foods. I really like their stuff. It’s vey healthy, has no weird ingredients, and rehydrates to a great consistency. Another option, which I do more often, is to check out the bulk section of Whole Foods. I like to mix quinoa, the dehydrated lentil soup, and the dehydrated vegetables. I also throw some spices in there to really make a great flavor.

Dehydrated foods, when combined with hot water, expand several times over. This means that filling the top with dehydrated foods allows you to store several meals in the Ms. Bento, instead of just the one it’s intended for.

When you’re ready to cook, take everything out of the Ms. Bento and pour water directly in the metal shell. Put the immersion heater in and wait for it to boil. While you’re waiting, fill up the (now removed) bottom container about 1/3 of the way with your dehydrated mix. When the water is boiled, pour it on top of the food, stir it up, and quickly put the contraption back together for maximum insulation.

The cool thing about this is that you can make it as soon as you get into the airport, put the Ms. Bento back in your bag, and the food will still be steaming hot a couple hours into your flight. If you’re traveling in the morning, you can use oatmeal and dehydrated fruit or raisins (protip: put one serving of oatmeal in the bottom container and keep the top container full of lentils and vegetables. Then you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

Viola! The perfect way to have healthy and delicious meals wherever you go. It’s also great for hotels, of course.

Unrelated Updates

  • First, the Life Nomadic books are FINALLY ready. I’ll be shipping signed copies to people who bought them for Haiti a while ago and will make them available to everyone else shortly after. Sorry for the delay — it took me a few tries to get the printing exactly right.
  • If you’re in the Bay Area, I’ll be hosting a Technomad event at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View on March 2, and will have copies of the book there. There’s no obligation whatsoever to buy the book, and the event is free. As a special treat, I’ll bring my RV and my fully packed 28 liter backpack so that you can see everything I own and how I put it all together. I’m also happy to let you play with any of the gear in my bag. To get a free ticket, go to Eventbrite. I’d love to meet some readers. Todd will also be there, and we might show an unreleased Life Nomadic video or two.
  • I haven’t been writing much because I’ve been working 12 hours a day on two projects (don’t worry… both are related to the site). The first is a new book which will be released within a month or so, and the second is a web site that I think you’ll find extremely useful (I made it for Todd and I and we’ve been using it for a week now and loving it).






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