As fun as traveling to a new place is, the mad dash through airports can be incredibly stressful. While many airports are doing a much better job about offering healthy food options and some that cater to food allergies/sensitivities, trying to track these options down is usually harder than trying to figure out where your terminal is and sometimes you just won’t have the time to get over to the other side of the airport. I’ve spent many late nights in airports, desperate for anything to eat, and found myself making some not so smart choices. I learned my lesson and started planning ahead so I’d stay fueled both at the airport and once I arrived at my destination.
Carry-on snacks or future meals can be tricky because of TSA rules, but think about some of your favorite treats and how you can repackage them. Here’s my go-to list for snacks and small meals that I might need.
- WATER BOTTLE – This seems like common sense but can easily slip your mind when packing. Most airports now have water fountains with a spigot for water bottles once you get through security. Both the altitude and pressurized cabin make you more dehydrated, which can sometimes feel like hunger. Take a full water bottle on the plane so you stay hydrated. Choose beverages that are low in sugar and caffeine on the flight as well. I stick with seltzer and a lemon or hot tea.
- FRESH FRUIT + VEGGIES – Save yourself at least $2 and pack fruit like apples or clementines. Pick firm apples, such as Granny Smith, to avoid bruising. Clementines are also a great option because they are easy to peel and make less mess than oranges. Cut up veggies like carrots, celery, or broccoli and bring them along in a sandwich bag (just make sure you pick something that will stay at room temperature and doesn’t have a high water content like cherry tomatoes or cucumbers).
- BABY FOOD POUCHES– I know this sounds strange, but these little pouches can be lifesavers. Ella’s Kitchen has many varieties in 3.5 ounce packages that can be back in a carry-on if you’re flying. The “Red One” and “Green One” smoothies are my two favorites. Think of it as a small smoothie and a great way to get in a serving of fruit. Bonus points if you find one that includes vegetables.
- PRE-MEASURED OATMEAL PACKS – This is one of my favorite tricks. Measure out your normal serving of quick cooking oats and any mix-ins like nuts, flax seed, spices or dried fruit into sandwich bags. I do this for every breakfast while I’m away. This is much more cost efficient than buying individual servings and definitely cheaper than anything served at a restaurant. Once you get into the terminal go to a coffee shop or kiosk and just ask for a small cup of hot water. Grab a spoon, mix in your oats and let sit for a few minutes. You can even pop a lid on the cup and take it on the plane until you’re ready to eat. Not in the mood for hot cereal? Grab a cup with a little cool water (find a water fountain) and mix in the oats and one of the baby food pouches. This will have to sit a little longer, but the oats will still become soft and you’ll have an awesome combo of whole grains and fruit.
- KNOW YOUR PORTION SIZE – Grabbing a bag of trail mix or a few granola bars to throw in your carryon before heading out is an easy choice, but it is just as easy to graze on a big bag of food throughout the day without realizing how much you’ve had to eat. If you have a long flight or want a higher protein snack, pre-portion any trail mix. Aim for 1/4 to 1/3 cup serving sizes to keep calories and fat in control. Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fat, but handful after handful will add up when most of the day is spent sitting. Purely Elizabeth’s 2oz bags of granola are also a great option to keep portion sizes in control while getting plenty of whole grains to keep you full!
Alex London-Gross, MPH, CHES spends her day managing childhood obesity prevention programs with the Virginia Alliance of YMCAs. She became interested in public health, and specifically obesity prevention, after living in Philadelphia and witnessing how the environment shapes our food choices. Alex has a B.S. in Biology from Drexel University and a Masters of Public Health from the George Washington University. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist and volunteers time by teaching cooking classes for local youth. She is passionate about helping people achieve their full potential by staying healthy. In her free time, Alex is a Pure Barre teacher, an avid half-marathoner, and a gluten-free baker. She write the blog Quarter Life Cupcake, which chronicles her life as a 20-something and features many gluten-free and often vegan recipes. You can follow Alex on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.