I’ve officially succumbed to the reality that my new normal is flying on an airplane at least once a month, but usually twice. This means at least 4 different trips to various airports, 4 different security lines, waiting at 4 different gates, and of course, a minimum of 4 flights that average about 5 hours each leg. If your first thought is “yikes,” we’re on the same page. If your second thought is, “that sounds miserable,” I completely agree. If any part of you is thinking, “how much airport food does she eat!?” you’re in the right place.
Whether you fly once in a blue moon, or you have enough miles to send you to the moon (note: donations are accepted in the form of miles or points), it’s important to be wise about the foods you choose to fuel your on-the-go self. I’m also going to be realistic here. I’d love to tell you all to remember to bring your BPA-free water bottles and your crust-cut sandwiches packed in lunch boxes, but if you’re airport-bound straight from the office or you’re like me and already have 100 bags to hold, that’s probably not the most realistic approach to traveling healthfully. So before we dive into some healthy travel tips, please make sure your seat-backs and tray tables are in their upright position and that your seatbelts are securely fastened… or something like that.
Eat before the airport
If you can. Obviously this depends on the time of day your flight is, but if you have an afternoon or evening flight, try not to save your meal for the airport. If you’re ravenous while you’re walking to your gate, you’re obviously going to stop at the newsstand and buy the chips.. and the candy. Probably the chicken caesar wrap too. If you’re even just a 5 on the hunger scale (that means neutral), you’ll think with your brain and not your stomach when making food choices.
Your PB & J
If you do have the time to pack some food before the airport, that’s best case scenario. You’ll have control of what you’re eating and you won’t have to pay triple the price for it. But be realistic about what you can bring with you. AKA, don’t make yourself a turkey sandwich if you may not be eating it for another 4 hours. When I have the time, I usually play it safe with a whole wheat PB&J and banana sandwich, because I don’t feel pressured to eat it as soon as I get on the plane. Let me tell you, airplane bathrooms are not conducive to the post-consumption symptoms of 4-hour-room-temperature turkey...
The bloat is real
And hydration is key! At 35,000 feet up, we need to drink more than we normally do at sea level. I always buy a 1 liter water bottle and place it in my seat pocket to remind myself to drink throughout the flight. If you’re typically more of a seltzer person, this isn’t exactly the best time to be picky about your liquids (sorry). Reduce the risk of bloat by ditching the fizz, or any sugary/salty/alcoholic beverages before or after takeoff. Remember, salty foods and beverages will make you retain water and thus feel bloated. I promise, you can go back to seltzer or have a bloody mary as soon as you land.
Give me some easy airport snacks already!!
Okay, okay! You want me to cut to the chase and tell you what to buy before you board. Will do. Note, these are just some of my go-to packaged airport snacks, and no, not every single terminal is guaranteed to have them. But if you happen to find them, you have the green light. (PS: you may click below for links).
- Eat enlightened 100 calorie bags of roasted bean crisps
- Seapoint farms dry roasted edamame
- Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt + apple
- Superseedz pumpkin seeds
- Nuts.com nut mix + piece of fruit
- Apple + individual packet justin's nut butter
- Individual bags of Mary’s gone “pretzels”
Are you prepared for an emergency?
...is something you never want to hear on an airplane. But when all else fails and you have to eat the airplane food for one reason or another, there’s still strategy involved. This actually happened to me on my most recent flight from LAX to JFK. I was so excited about a quinoa greek salad bowl that I found from one of the shops at LAX - but the ingredients turned out to be pretty gross. I’m talking wilted lettuce and sour tomatoes type of gross. So not surprisingly, I found myself super hungry 2 hours in and had no other choice but to order from the sky menu. Here is how I navigated, and here is how I recommend you do the same:
- Assess your level of hunger. Is this your dinner? Do you plan on eating when you land? If this is going to be your complete meal, you want something that's really going to fill you so you don’t end up being that person with 20 stacks of mini airline pretzel packets on their tray table. This means you should opt for something with a decent amount of protein. Ie. the turkey sandwich. If you just need a quick holdover before you land, the veggie and hummus option may be better for you.
- You don’t have to eat it all. And you shouldn’t if it’s blatantly unhealthy! My turkey sandwich came on one of those giant white bread rolls with some kind of aioli sauce. So I ditched the bread and ate the turkey, cheese, tomatoes, and arugula.... and honestly, it wasn’t bad. (but apologies to my seatmate who watched me tear apart my sandwich).
- Resist the junk. This can be the hardest part. After all, you’re stuck on an airplane and your only activity options are to watch a movie, read a book, or eat. My sandwich came with a bag of chips and a brownie. I decided after picking out the insides of my turkey sandwich, that I wanted a bite of one or the other. I read both nutrition labels and surprisingly they were comparable in calories and fat. The major difference was that the brownie had 17 grams of sugar (cringe) and the chips had close to none - but the chips were fried and salted, and the brownie of course was not. I went for half of the brownie, and immediately discarded the other half. *Warning* do not leave opened bags of food temptation in your vicinity! Get out of your seat and bring it to the flight attendant to toss. You’re welcome.