Flying can be exhausting, but the proper fuel goes a long way in keeping you happy, comfortable, and free from the guilt that impulse chocolate bar purchase leaves you with (you only meant to grab a water and a magazine!). Here are 11 nutritious and packable snacks to munch on before takeoff.
1. FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
No surprise here: Fresh fruit and veggies are good options anywhere and anytime, but especially before a flight. Fresh, unprocessed foods are low in sodium and sugar, which helps in avoiding the all-too-common phenomena of “plane bloat.” Things like carrot sticks, pea pods, pepper slices, grapes, apples, or bananas also pack vitamins and nutrients that airport prepackaged snacks just can’t compete with, plus they often have anti-inflammatory properties which further fight that puffed-up flying feeling. As with everything though, keep portions small; too much of any food before a flight could leave you feeling queasy.
2. A SMOOTHIE
You won’t be able to get a smoothie through security, but sipping one before you walk out the door or grabbing one near the gate is a great way to stay hydrated and reap all the benefits of the aforementioned fruits and vegetables. Just be sure to choose your drink carefully. Smoothies can pack a lot of extra sugar and calories if they contain, say, syrups or ice cream. Go for ones with fresh ingredients and yogurt or low-fat milk and if you must splurge, opt for healthy high-fat options that also contain protein, like peanut butter.
Plane cabins—and the close proximity to other passengers they engender—have a reputation for harboring germs, so it’s smart to eat a snack that’ll help your immune system before boarding. Oats, sweet potatoes, berries, acai berry, watermelon, grapefruit, and spinach are just a few flight-friendly options that are believed to help make you impervious to the elements.
4. LEAN PROTEIN
This one’s a must for anyone who describes him or herself as “never not hungry.” Flying can be a struggle when hunger pangs are never far away, but including lean protein in your pre-boarding snack will do wonders in keeping those “hangry” feelings at bay. Eggs, chicken, turkey, beans, fish, tofu, hummus, and edamame (which is also high in fiber) are all great options for a small bite that will satiate without dragging you down.
Low- or nonfat dairy yogurt is another good source of lean protein (think low-fat Greek yogurt) and it also packs an extra punch: probiotics. The bacteria are good for your digestive health—a common source of traveling woes—and help protect from any nasty bacteria that may come your way. Although be warned, the TSA considers yogurt a gel, so to ensure your snack isn't confiscated, it may be safest to purchase your yogurt once you pass security. Ginger is also great for an upset stomach if you want to double-up on your tummy protection.
6. SMART BEVERAGES
It can be all-too-tempting to guzzle a glass of wine or two at the airport bar before you hop a plane (especially if you’re hoping to nap), but your body and future self will be grateful if you opt for more hydrating options like water—bonus points for adding lemon—or tea. Moderate coffee intake works, too, as do drinks like coconut water and sports drinks, as long as you choose one without too much added sugar. Hydration will help with keeping you feeling energized and less bloated, so you can arrive at your destination feeling fresh and ready for action.
7. UNSALTED NUTS AND SEEDS
We’re not talking about those tiny punch line peanut bags, though those will do in a pinch. Nuts are full of omega-3s, healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Pack raw or dry almonds, cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds, and avoid anything packaged or roasted in oil. These are also among the easiest snacks to pack, so go nuts.
8. DEHYDRATED FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Eaten alone or as part of a trail mix, dried fruit makes for a tasty and natural treat, and dried vegetables are increasingly becoming part of the dehydration conversation. While you can make your own with the right equipment, good options are readily available on grocery shelves if you keep an eye out for no additives, preservatives, or additional sweeteners. It’s an easy way to pop some fiber, antioxidants, and nutrition in between queues at the airport.
9. CRUNCH FACTOR
Sometimes the desire for something crispy or crunchy is too much to overcome, so if you must, opt for things like popcorn, pretzels, kale chips, or dried edamame, which are often lower in fat and higher in fiber. Cereal is another good way to satisfy the same desire; but again, be portion-sensitive and read the labels to make sure you’re not stepping on a sugar mine.
10. MINI MEALS
Wraps, sandwiches, a grain salad, peanut butter or string cheese with crackers, mini-quiche, or even spring rolls can be great if you want a pre-flight snack to feel more like a small meal. Airport picnics are an up-and-coming trend.
11. Nothing at all
The thought of going for several hours with only a bag of peanuts to sustain you might not be to everyone’s taste, but recent research has indicated that if you’re prone to jet lag, you should fast for a window of 16 hours before and during your flight, and then start eating again at the first local mealtime in your destination. The study says that people have a “food based clock” and forcing your body to the new dining plan might just help you start enjoying your destination sooner.