Many people walk through the airport under the assumption that they have no control when it comes to healthy eating. Here’s your guide to staying ready and prepared so you can keep your health in check!
We’ve all been there. We rush through security as fast as possible, and immediately scramble for food, grabbing whatever we can get our hands on before we board our plane. Or, when we are really crunched for time, we hop onto a plane with no food at all, and we are forced to choose between a mini bag of pretzels or honey-roasted peanuts. Those choices are the perfect storm of heavily processed, nutrient-depleted junk food that are guaranteed to spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling “hangrier” (hungry+angry) than ever. For longer flights, we may score a “meal”, but it’s nothing close to the type of nourishing real food your body deserves. It’s these types of “food emergency” moments that force us to sacrifice our health and choose the most convenient option rather than the most nourishing option.
The good news is that we actually DO have a choice. With a little pre-travel planning, you can bring a home-packed meal or stash of snacks that will get you through your flight. By having healthy options conveniently packed in your carry-on, the nourishing option also becomes the convenient.
To get you started for your next trip, here are some of my go-to plane-friendly foods that will take the health-sacrificing gamble out of traveling and guarantee an enjoyable and well-fueled flight:
Hydration when flying is HUGE! Being at higher altitudes is super dehydrating. So, BYO! Make sure your water bottle is empty going through security, and once you’re in the clear, go on the hunt for the nearest drinking fountain and fill er’ up. Or, ask the friendly barista at Starbucks for some water (they haven’t turned me down yet).
PACK A MEAL
Did you know you can actually put a home-packed meal through security? Salads, sandwiches, wraps, rice bowls – they are all passable. Just be careful with salad dressings, sauces, salsa, hummus, or anything that appears as a liquid, sauce, paste, or dip. If it’s already incorporated into your meal and your meal is securely wrapped, you should be fine. But if you plan to keep these items separate, be sure to abide by the TSA guideline for fluids and pack them in 3.4 oz containers and in a quart size ziplock bag. (3.4 oz is about ¼ cup) Consider investing in portable meal containers — they will save you money in the long run and work wonders on your overall health.
PLAN YOUR SNACKS
There are healthy snacks out there, you just have to do some digging and label reading to identify the winners from the losers. Here are some of my winning go-to snacks that use simple, whole-food based ingredients:
Think fresh cut or freeze-dried fruits and veggies. Cut-up carrots and celery are durable, making them great options for veggies on-the-go. Whole pieces of fruit like apples and easy-to-peel mandarin oranges such as Clementines are great for travel because they are resistant to bruising. In the freeze-dried department, Just Tomatoes and Nature’s All are two companies that offer a variety or freeze-dried produce. I am a fan of freeze-dried peas as they are the perfect combo of protein and carbs!
Healthy whole grain crackers and rice cakes provide a fiber-rich crunch without the crap! Low-salt popcorn is another great option as a fiber-rich whole grain snack; just aim for options that use high quality oil. Lastly, turn to oatmeal. If you’re on a plane, just ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water. On a day to day basis, just pop into a coffee shop to do the same.
Grab a handful of nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pumpkin seeds (opt for the raw and unsalted variety). You can also munch on nut/seed butters (look for no added oil, no sugar added options). Artisana makes individual squeeze packs that are great for traveling. Each packet is just over 1.0 oz, TSA-approved!
- I am on a serious roasted chickpea kick. They are easy to make yourself, or you can purchase them: The Good Bean or 2 Armadillos are both great choices. Hard-boiled eggs are an egg-cellent portable source of protein. You have 4 hours outside of refrigeration, so plan to eat them towards the earlier portion of your flight.
- How about jerky? I thought I would never say those words back to back, but thanks to EPIC, Healthy Jerky is no longer an oxymoron! They also carry “meat bars” (no, seriously). Bison Bacon Cranberry, Beef Habanero Cherry, Lamb Currant Mint, Turkey Almond Cranberry to name a few, all of which feature 100 percent organic grass-fed meats. Their products average 10-15 grams of high quality protein per bar and much lower in sodium than other jerky and shelf-stable meat products on the market.
- Canned tuna is another option. Wild Planet offers single serving pouches of no-salt added wild albacore tuna in a BPA-free, shelf-stable packaging. (Bonus: Their product is Non-GMO Project verified.) One pouch delivers one 3 oz serving of tuna, delivering 20 grams of protein and a solid dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Nutrition bars can be tricky. Most bars are full of refined sugars and heavily processed isolated proteins. Scan the ingredient list, and opt for bars that feature simple, whole-food based ingredients, such as LARABAR, Kit Bars, or Kind Bars with less than 5 grams of sugar.
Have a square of dark chocolate. Aim for 80% cacao or more and learn to love the bitter beauty of chocolate – this is what chocolate is supposed to taste like! Go Raw Super Cookies are available in a variety of flavors, these good-for-you, crunchy, sweet treats are made with dates, seeds, coconut, and spices. Or nosh on some dried fruit like dates, figs, apricots (unsulphured), mangoes, even raisins! But steer clear of cranberries, cherries, and pineapple, which are often sweetened with cane sugar.
Whether you are flying to see family over the holidays, somewhere exciting for a fun getaway, or simply traveling for business, use these simple guidelines to include some healthy snacks in your carry-on the next time you pack your suitcase. Instead of playing the passive victim and allowing your environment to dictate your health, I encourage you to grab the steering wheel and take an active role in your own health.
Let the pilot drive the plane, but you should be the driver of your wellbeing.
Adapted from the original article.
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Lindsey Kane, MS, RD, LDN is a San Francisco-based Registered Dietitian helping others live a stress-free, balanced, and thriving life. By getting to know her clients inside and out, Lindsey identifies the opportunities within their everyday lifestyle to integrate subtle changes that create lasting, impactful results. Learn more at Bite For Change!