One of the greatest convention hurdles in my life is snacks. When you are on your feet for an ungodly number of hours rushing from one panel to the next you get hungry and waiting in the food court lines is not usually a great option. We will always be grateful it is an option, but planning ahead can save some time and money in the food department for hungry con-goers.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite go-to snacks for conventions and everyday life. They’re broken up into three categories: snacks, lunches, and “stuff you can buy at the store” for those who don’t want to prep the snacks themselves.
I hope they will help you as much as they’ve helped me and some of them may be familiar as I have pulled pieces from my New York Comic Con snack piece here.
When I say snacks, I’m talking about big punches in small packages. I look for snacks that have solid nutritional value while remaining portable. If I can’t shove it in a small ziplock bag and into one of the smaller pouches in my bag, it is probably too big to be a viable snack.
This is still one of my all-time favorite recipes because it is tasty, easy to make, and simple to customize. You can also make a lot of them at one time and they keep because all the ingredients in them are relatively stable. One batch will probably get you through an entire convention weekend and the plane trip home. They are oatmeal based but you can use any similar substitute, which holds true for the majority of the ingredients.
Add what you like, leave out what you don’t, but the combination of oats, peanut butter, and protein powder provide a nice kick of energy in the middle of the day. They also will leave you feeling fuller than you might expect thanks to all the fiber you can pack into them. They’re easy to eat whether you’re rushing from one place to another, sitting in a panel, or standing in line, and they do not leave a mess. They’re literally perfect.
The protein ball’s close cousin, the protein cookie, is another staple of on-the-go life. I have not personally tried any of these yet, but since they’re related to protein balls I thought they were worth a mention. These recipes should also be relatively shelf stable so you can toss them in your carry-on and then into your backpack on the day of the convention.
Again, I would encourage everyone to customize them to taste. It is really hard to mess up a protein cookie, but definitely don’t lose sight of what the cookie is supposed to do for you: provide a quick kick of protein to sustain you through panels, lines, and a lot of general waiting. You’ll want to minimize sugar, which is more likely to give you a quick energy burst followed by a hard fall.
Cheese, Nuts, and Trail Mixes
I will once again group these things together because they are all related. You can find a lot of trail mix recipes online but it ultimately comes down to a few key ingredients: nuts (dealer’s choice), dried fruit (think raisins, cranberries, bananas), and usually something sweet like peanut butter chips or chocolate chips.
Like the protein balls, trail mix is easy to customize to your taste. Nuts provide some good long-term energy, the dried fruits give a kick of sweetness and natural sugars, and then what’s trail mix without something unhealthy thrown in?
You can also keep baggies of roasted or raw nuts of your preferred type in your bag. I prefer almonds, but peanuts, cashews, pine nuts, or any others work just fine too. Pair them with a cheese stick and feel like a king as you snack on cheese and nuts in the Funko Pop line.
Another quick and easy snack I’ve started carrying is baggies of dried cereal. I tend to stick with something like honey nut cheerios, but just about any cereal will do. It might not be the healthiest depending on the type of cereal but I can’t tell you how many times a bag of cheerios has saved someone from my hangry wrath.
The food courts in the convention center do have decent lunch options and there are endless restaurants out in the Gaslamp District that can fill your belly. However, if you have a day planned with back-to-back entertainment, getting to either of those places might be out of the question.
We’ve prepared a few quick lunch options you can have stashed in your bag for those days you’re not going to be able to get away.
Go back to second grade and enjoy the basics. As an adult, there’s little else I enjoy as much as a robust sandwich in the middle of a crazy day. Pack on the meat, cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce, and chow down.Not a fan of meat? There are plenty of veggie sandwich options.
Give yourself a side of chips, maybe some carrot sticks or an apple, and you’ve got a well-rounded lunch that’ll get you through the day. There’s a reason sandwiches are the quintessential lunch item in this country.
Taking healthy eating to the next level, you could try out this rice patty recipe. Nutrient-wise it is relatively well rounded, especially compared to other snacks you might be tempted to bring with you. Eyeballing it, I would say they’re pretty shelf stable, especially if you can keep them in the fridge at your hotel and polish them off at least halfway through the day. They might not last until 5 pm, but eat them for lunch and you won’t have to worry about that.
Fruit, for lunch? Yeah, fruit for lunch! One of the best meals you can have on the go that will last you longer than you might think is going to be a banana. Packed with potassium and a bunch of other good stuff, bananas are really the ultimate superfood. If you don’t like bananas, bring along an apple and a packet of peanut butter for a stable lunch on the go.
If you prefer sliced apples, then you may want to look into the various ways to keep them from browning throughout their time in your bag. My personal favorite is soaking them in a little bit of lemon juice because it has the double punch of added tang.
I have not personally tried this yet but saw it on a convention forum and was absolutely enchanted. If you are worried about some of your lunch items getting too warm then I have the ultimate solution: pop a container of yogurt into the freezer overnight and keep it with whatever you want to be kept cold. The yogurt will act as an ice pack through the first part of the day and by the time it has started to defrost, it will be a lovely snack.
Throw some berries or granola into it to round out the protein and you’ll be ready and rearing to get through the long days at the convention.
From the Store
I recognize that not everyone enjoys cooking, feels comfortable putting together items themselves, or has access to somewhere they can do these things during San Diego Comic-Con. Sometimes it is simpler and easier to run to the store and pick out a few key items and use those instead. I’ve certainly done it before. These are the items I’ve found that have saved me during long days at conventions.
These were made for outdoorsy types who like to do things like backpacking and camping. Thankfully that also means they will work for hungry convention attendees, too. Cliff Bars are great because they’re essentially a meal in a single bar. They are oat based, similar to the protein balls above, and have more flavors than you can shake a stick at. There is something for everyone and of the different meal bars in the world, these are the most palatable.
You can usually pick them up pretty cheaply, too. A lot of stores will have an open stock where you can mix and match, but there are also options to buy entire boxes of one flavor. Live your dream.
Peanut Butter Crackers
Ritz or Keebler, the choice is yours but peanut butter crackers are one of the most shelf stable snacks I know of. They taste good and offer a quick boost of protein in the middle of the day.
Once at the end of a long press day, I found a package buried in my bag from a different outing and it was like manna from heaven. I really don’t have anything else to say about them. You’ll understand one day.
This is far from a comprehensive list and I am sure there are items I have missed out on. It should hopefully get comic con attendees started, though. Planning snacks and food is almost as important as the convention schedule itself.
If you are going to make it through the entire convention without biting someone’s head off or fainting, food is a necessity. Take care of yourself and do yourself a favor by planning ahead.
Also, pack a lot of water. Each of these options should have “add water” next to them because you should be drinking hearty amounts throughout the convention weekend to keep yourself in fit and fighting shape for whatever comes next.