Habits of Healthy Eaters: Pack Snacks When You Travel

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By the time you read this, I'll be somewhere between Cincinnati and Istanbul, reuniting with a dear friend and starting an adventure two years in the making.

I love to travel. What I don't love is airplane food. If you're "lucky" enough to be served a meal, it's usually not very healthy or tasty.*

I always travel on a pretty tight budget, so shelling out $10 for a watery salad or fast food in the airport isn't something I like to do. The "snacks" that airlines sell now are not any better: potato chips, candy, and other junk food is the norm. Yuck.

Flying already leaves me feeling dehydrated and tired, without adding excess sugar and salt to my body.

How do I avoid paying high prices and eat right until I land--and beyond? I pack snacks.

Last year, I went to Guatemala as the guest of a local nonprofit. The breakfasts and dinners at our hotels offered delicious Guatemalan cuisine with plenty of vegetarian options, but lunch was often a boxed lunch on the bus as we traveled between schools. As a vegetarian who's allergic to peanuts, my options were limited in rural Guatemala. I planned ahead: I bought a loaf a whole-wheat bread, a jar of all-fruit preserves, and a jar of almond butter. I packed a bag of whole-grain pretzels, a box of granola bars, and a jar of almonds. During long bus rides, unexpected layovers, and less-than-healthy lunches, those snacks were a lifesaver. When I didn't really have the option of heading to the local grocery store there (though I did buy some avocados at a farmers market one day and received some local fruit from some students another day), it was nice to know that I had healthy snacks to tide me over until my next meal. (I loaded up on fruits and veggies at mealtime, not to worry!)

On this trip, I'll be staying with a friend and thus will have access to a kitchen, grocery store, and the glorious markets of Istanbul. But to get there, I have a long trip. I've packed 100-calorie packs of nuts, a box of granola bars, and a canister of sports drink mix. (We'll be heading to the beach and the desert, and I dehydrate easily in the heat!). Every little bit counts, whether it's nutrition or money.

Some of my favorite travel snacks:

For the plane:

  • Small containers of hummus and a bag of fresh vegetables

  • A homemade veggie and hummus or almond butter and jelly sandwich

  • A piece of fruit (note: I only do this on domestic flights. I don't want to end up paying a fine like Hilary Swank did, after forgetting to declare fruit!)

  • Nut butter and whole-grain crackers

  • Dried fruit and nuts

  • Homemade granola

  • High-fiber cereals

Throughout the trip:

  • Nuts

  • Granola bars/energy bars

  • Bananas and apples (purchased at supermarkets)

  • Candied ginger (great for calming queasy bellies, easing motion sickness, and satisfying a sweet tooth)

I keep a couple of servings in my purse, a couple more in my carry-on, then store the rest in my luggage. This is also the only time I buy prepackaged foods (100-calorie packs of nuts rather than a bulk amount), but it is easier when you're in the go.

*Side note: I've found that foreign airlines serve better food, more often. Air India (flight from Paris to New York) served an excellent vegetarian curry; Asiana and All Nippon Airways from Japan to Korea served finger sandwiches and curry on a 3-hour flight… KLM, Turkish Airways, Lufthansa are all generous with food and drink, from my experience.

By spending a little bit of money upfront (I spent maybe $10), I am able to ensure I have a healthy snack no matter what travel situation I encounter.

Do you pack your own snacks on airplanes an when you travel? What are your favorites?

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ELRIDDICK 3/30/2020
Thanks for sharing Report
PATRICIAANN46 3/20/2020
Thank You...……….. Report
Great ideas! Report
Great article. Thanks. Report
Great ideas Report
thanks Report
When you fly anything goes. Airline terminal has more variety of selection and are frequented often by passengers. Report
Good suggestions! Report
I have been consistently packing my own treats, I always feel more comfortable doing this. Report
Thanks for sharing so good things to think about and do. Report
mixed nuts are my favorite travel snack Report
I travel 2 times a year, 12 + 13 hour non-stop, alcohol free flights. We ALWAYS get 3 meals-2 main meals and a snack. I ALWAYS order diabetic meals. Used to order low fat, or low cholesterol or low sodium or Vegetarian meals and they were fine. The airline always has sandwiches and water available throughout the flight, it's a red eye flight both ways. Report
I have also noticed the foreign airlines have better food options. Our first year to fly to Ireland, part of that trip we were on AirFrance because of their code share with Delta, and we had a nice meal. We have also found on longer flights, requesting Kosher meals 24-48 hours before usually results in better foods (not always!). And I find I do better when I am traveling from our home in the suburbs onto the "Big City" for shopping, errands, whatever - it pays to have healthy snacks on hand.). Report
I like to bring string cheese and wheat crackers, and my all time favorite, wasabi peas!! Also, the empty water bottle to fill past security. No way am I paying their prices for a bottle ( and a flimsy one, at that!). Report
I love the comment about bringing along an empty water bottle and filling it from the fountain after clearing security. Thank you!

Also, the 100 calorie treats aren't often on my shopping list. I can see where they will be perfect for my trip. Report
I haven't flown on a flight longer than 90min since 1998 so I don't pack any healthy snacks, but I do use these short flights to eat some of my fav chewy candies for take-off and landings. I sorta re-thinking that.
But I plan to fly to Hawaii this summer. This has given more ideas of what to pack.

On a different note, to save money I do pack most of my breakfasts, lunches, and daily snacks for
the entire trip. It takes up a lot of room in my suitcase, so I make sure we eat them. That way I usually have plenty of room coming home since my clothes always seem to take up more room than when I leave, and we generally pick up some souvenirs too. Also after a full day, we can sit back and enjoy dinner then head to the resort and enjoy the pool and hot tub, ahh. I am sad I didn't take any trips last year. Report
I travel abroad often since I have family everywhere (and lucky you! I cannot wait to go back to Turkey!!). I usually have no problems through customs. They just don't like glass containers, as long as your snackys are in the factory packaging or in a snacky baggie, they don't care. Especially for those trans-Atlantic 10+ hour flights, I bring a whole baggie of baby carrots, portion sized (I do it at home) nuts, homemade granola and a sandwich. And they give you more than enough water so i do not even need to bring my own (but i always take a refillable container - you can fill it after TSA clearance). I may not eat all of it but since I have some blood sugar issues, I make sure i keep on munching throughout the flight. Also, since i have used quite a few airlines, i already know what foods I am offered on the flights. The snackies are more for the layover between airports! :) Report
It is great to plan and pack snacks in advance but you also need to check in advance as to whether or not that food is allowed into a particular country. Some countries are very particular about allowing seeds and nuts into them and you may risk losing them as you go through customs. Just something to remember when planning your snack.s Report
When I travel I pack dried fruits, fiber & protein bars for the flight. Report
I travel a lot and I don't care how short a flight is in a foreign country, they ALWAYS serve you SOMETHING to eat, even if they have to "throw" it at you due to time constraints! I'm not saying it's always good food, but the thought is there! Airlines have no problem with you bringing food aboard. Water bottles, after you clear TSA, can easily be filled at fountains and brought aboard as well. Someone asked about a website that had the current regulations. Go to www.tsatraveltips.us for the current regulations. Someone also commented that at her airport food from home was confiscated. I've not run into that problem at Raleigh/Durham airport. Report
I only flew 1 time dc to denver, had to change planes in ohio, got sick and threw up as we were landing in ohio....... had to get a different flight in ohio due to mechanical failure in plane I was to take and had lay over of 6 hours!!! jammed into plane from ohio to denver....... swore if I could have walked from denver to dc to get home I would have so that I never had to fly again! eating was the LAST thing on my mind! Report
I have been a business traveler for many years and I learned my lesson pretty early on. I always pack a couple of granola bars in my purse, and sometimes dried fruit or trail mix. I tried doing fresh fruit, but it tends to get too beat up through the process of getting to the airport and through security. This has saved me from starving on many a flight. I pack even more stuff when I go with my family on trips. I have three kids and having healthy snacks on the plane (plus some games, puzzles & books) keeps them from getting grumpy. Report
I don't normally pack a snack, but after reading this article I will. I would normally eat in the airport and get a bottle of water to take on the plane with me. Report
I always carry food and drink. I am traveling to London, so I hope that I will be able to bring food on. Like the enpty water bottle idea also, but I still might buy one for the plane ride. We are getting food too times but who knows what. Also want to have some food for the London end, so I don't have to buy so much. Report
The TSA website lists what is and isn't allowed through security. I used to travel regularly, though only domestically so I won't pretend to tell you what would be allowed on international flights. A sandwich with a nut butter and jelly on it would probably make it through, but a container of either would not. I've never had trouble with fruit, though I have had friends who had to fish it out for the security personnel and show that it was a piece of fruit. Water won't get through security but you can carry and empty bottle and fill it once you're through. Anything that is not liquid or semi liquid (gel like consistency, as others have said) is generally fine. Report
Great ideas, I do travel frequently and it would be great if the airlines would support healthier choices. I mean bananas are range 20-25 cents a piece and would be an excellent alternative for the cookies or chips, for those of us who are seated in non-first class :) Report
I always pack snacks when traveling, like the article, I favor the 100 calorie packs of nuts, pretzels, granola or Fiber One bars. I even like the small boxes of raisins. Report
The first time I flew- no meal. The second time I flew, this past March, I had a DELICIOUS burrito on the flight there. I'm sure it wasn't healthy, but it was so good! I was so happy and couldn't wait to find out what my meal would be on the trip home. Well, it was a sandwich. A terrible sandwich. I did pack almonds and granola bars for the long stay in the airport. I did cave and buy a coffee and a slice of pizza from a place called "New York's Best Pizza" which ironically was the worst pizza I ever ate. I also packed a ton of apples and ate them as snacks and we also bought a bunch of bagels from a local store once we arrived to eat with peanut butter instead of eating out. Report
I try to pack bars.. but this gave me some great ideas. Also, I may try the empty bottle next time and some flavors for water. I know it is ridiculous the money you spend for so little. I have never tried carrying fruit or anything like that to the airport, but I paid about $6 for a fruit cup just the other day in the airport. I about croaked! Thanks for the ideas. Report
I had the same problem with the airlines taking away my crackers, juice etc. I do carry an empty water bottle through security and fill it inside the airport. It irritates me to have to spend huge amounts on bottled water plus the plastic bottles are bad for the environment. Report
Not sure what airports you guys are flying in and out of, but security takes all food brought in from the outside. Only foods that are bought after the security checkpoint are authorized on the plane. At least that has been my experience. Report
This past month I have been traveling a lot by car. I di not pack snacks ahead of time and I paid for it. At first I started out trying to make the healthiest choice possible when I had to but soon gave in to cheap $1.00 menu items. A dress that I was so proud to fit weeks ago became tight in just a few short weeks. I will use this advice for my next trip. Report
Snack-sized bags are fantastic. I premeasure 1 ounce portions of unsalted peanuts, which came in handy on a recent trip, and I'm not worried that I will eat too much. It takes almost no time to repackage the peanuts like this. Report
I fly often and usually bring snacks like granola, nuts, Larabars or Lunabars, etc. I would love to have hummus or almond butter on the plane, as Stepfanie suggested, but I don't think these would get through American airport security. I have brought fresh fruit through (domestic) security, but yogurt and other "gel"-like substances are strictly forbidden. Report
Yup, I take my snacks with, too. I like to buy mixed nuts and fruits from Trader Joe's in their " by the handful" single packs. I also like Special K protein bars or South Beach protein bars. then, if there is nothing available, I'm not bottoming out on blood sugar. When I get where I'm going, I try to find a local to tell me how to (safely) get fresh food to add to what I have. Report
I always make certain I have packed small bottles of Ginger Ale ~ often they consider this a "bar drink" & it really saves on having them with me. I too pack dried fruit, crackers, turkey jerky and anything that will fit into carry-on.

International flights - I tend to stay away from fresh fruits. Have had them taken away & don't need to waste that expense! Report
I haven't flown in a several years, but these are great suggestions. I will keep them in mind for future travels. Report
I agree...bring your own snacks and you'll always be happy. I always carry ginger with me and a homemade fruit/nut trail mix. One of the 1st things I do upon arrival, especially internationally, is find a good farmers market or health food store to buy more of the similar foods to eat. If I'm really lucky I can create the same type of snack for the trip home. I also agree that foreign carriers have better and more frequent food service than US carriers. Report
I haven't flown for many years. We've holidayed in UK or just taken day trips when our children were small. I always had picnics, snacks and drinks packed - frequently had the bottles of water or diluted fruit juice in the freezer overnight (saved on ice-packs).
Now, just hubby and me, usually - but still need to pack a snack as he's type 2 diabetic, and doesn't usually bother to look out for himself.
And I always have to make sure to have plenty of water available.
On a long international flight, I usually take peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, apples, grapes or bananas, baby carrots, nuts, granola and/or protein bars and anything else that travels easily. You've given me some great ideas for my next trip! Report
Just today I read an article about really gross stuff going on in the kitchens of the companies that provide airplane food. Rats, roaches, etc. EEEEEW!

I agree that international airlines serve better food. And I hope their kitchen are more sanitary than ours - LOL.
Have fun on your trip, Stepfanie! Report
I carry packs of oatmeal (apple cinnamon is my fav), and can always get hot water on a flight. I usually have triscuits or wheat thins (low fat versions that I have repackaged myself in zip locks), and a lowfat babybel cheese or two. For long domestic flights, I'll make a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with mustard and lettuce, etc.. Even if I don't eat it, I am much less tempted by bad snacks because I have an option available already, and I can't waste food!! Report
I pack snacks everyday (especially for the bus ride home) but the empty water bottle at the airport is a fantastic idea! Thanks!! Report
I would love to know if there is a place or a list somewhere that gives you a complete breakdown of what you can and cannot pack in your carry on luggage in the line of snack foods. I am so tired of pretzels and cookies, soft drinks that end up drying me out, and PRICES OF UNREASONABLE SIZE! Three dollars for a bottle of water?! Report
I bring powdered protein shakes - like Weight Watchers- they are single serve packets so they are easy to carry and can be combined with either milk or water- whatever is available. They taste good too. Report
Trail mix is always a good thing to pack. I also like to bring a little bag of prewashed snap peas and/or baby carrots. They keep pretty well without refrigeration for a couple days, as long as its not too hot. Turkey jerky is good, too. Report
I travel alot with my sister and brotherin law who travel all the time. THey brought me as a treat to the skyclub at the airport where they have really comfortable chairs, a free buffet,juices, muffins, rolls, dried fruit, alcohol,etc. I was in my glory and I hope they take me again. I didn't even know this place existed before. Report
Dry cereal, and a baggie of powdered milk to mix with water in the bag. Someone said hummus. I don't know how you'd keep that cold without a heavy ice bag. Report
Always. I bring a bag (or two) of dry cereal (whatever kind), fruit, chocolate, and gum. Report