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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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I not only pack my own snacks for the plane, but I'll also pack them if I don't know what to expect at my destination (lack of a grocery store, ect.). My last business trip was to a 2-day training class where they typically have an abundance of food.

It's hard for me to resist pastries in the mornings and frisbee-sized chocolate chip cookies in the afternoon, so I packed Weight Watcher chocolate muffins and various 100 calorie packs. I ate a muffin in the morning in my hotel room so when I got to the class, I was able to pass on everything but the fresh fruit and ice water. During breaks, I either snacked on Cheez-Its (if I wanted something salty) or 100 calories of cookies or Hostess cupcakes (if I wanted something sweet).

In the evening after dinner, I hit the hotel gym for an hour on a treadmill. It was the first time I ever lost weight during a week that included a business trip. It was a huge victory for me! Report
I fly several times per month. I usually get upgraded, but the food in first class is deplorable -- I pack Fullbars in my carry on -- they taste great and are full of fiber, 160 calories -- They are not available everywhere (Walgreens has them), so I take 5-6 with me on each trip. Report
We'll miss you Stepf, I know you will love Turkey. It is a beautiful place from my long ago memory. And I know you will keep on Sparking. I used to travel a lot and you were absolutely right on all points. Depending on airlines to provide decent food is chancy at best. I particularly like the hummus idea.
Have a great time! Report
Oranges - nice and juicy, and less destructable than most fruit. I love bananas and peaches, but they get banged around too badly.

An empty water bottle - fill it from the drinking fountain during layovers to avoid buying soft drinks. On long flights ask a stewardess if they can fill it. Report
i have learned to pack snacks as a mom! no matter where we go, by plane or car, i'd make sure we had something to pick on, in order to not spend unnecessary excessive dollars for something better i could bring. i'm just more conscious to pack even healthier snacks now :-) thanks for your addt'l ideas too. Report
I have to say its a good idea taking snacks on a plane, ever since my son and I got stuck in New York in bad weather and the airport was crammed with people trying to get on flights which were grounded, and guess what, no snacks, we waited for at least 4 hours before we got something to eat!!!! never again.
So now I make sure I have lots of snacks so the situation doesnt happen again!! Report
I've been packing my own treats for travel for a while now. One, it means I have my own healthy treats. Two, I don't have to pay an arm and a leg at the airport if I end up with the munchies. That's what really gets me about buying food when I'm traveling. It's not the calories, it's the cost ! The prices of food at airports is absolutely outrageous. I'm not paying it. I'll bring my own stuff to eat and save the money.

Thank you for the great ideas. They can certainly be adapted for use by anyone. A few years ago I traveled for a week in Southern California after weightloss surgery. Before leaving I special ordered a a box of Ostrim ostrich snacks. They come in several flavors. They are a very low fat version of the Slim Jim. They require no refrigeration, have one gram of fat and contain protein. They slip into pockets, purses, backpacks or other places so that one is never without a high protein low fat snack! Report
Excellent suggestions. I never thought about the candied ginger but what a good idea. I'll add it to my snacks next time I travel. Report
Usually Lara bars, apple. Something that fits easily in the purse. Doesn't hummus require refrigeration? Report
unfortunately, the EU is really strict on taking food on the plane. I never fly domestig (within Germany), so I always have to declare fruit, veggies, meat and cheese. No liquids (and toothpaste e.g. is counted here as liquid.. so no humus etc.) Report
I travel enough and didn't know that you could take some of the food listed on the plane. Thanks for sharing... Report
Always have a granola bar or two with me when I fly. Actually, I almost always have a granola bar with me period. Report
I never rely on airlines to give me any kind of a meal. I have food allergies, so their small packs of nuts are no good to me----I bring small packs of raisins--packs of dry cereal, low cal biscuits--packs of tuna and crackers--fruit--- Because you can't carry too much on board at one time, when I change flights , I try to re-fill my baggies with a simple food I can buy in the airport.I never reely on the Airplane people to feed me-- Report
i am glad i do not fly much anymore - it has become such a hassle and inconvenience it is not enjoyable. it never used to be a problem to have your own water, snacks, and sundries with your carry on - but since the years following 9/11 the security borders between caution and paranoia. i have been asked to either drink an entire 1.5 ltre of water before boarding the plane or throw it out. i had a box of bread sticks and a regular emery board in my tote and they took them. how many people have been killed by emery board???? my husband is diabetic and i always had the appropriate amount of snacks for the duration of the flights we took - but diabetes did not cut it with
the authorities and they were discarded. so now, if i can't get there by car - well - que sera sera ! BB Report
I have seen the small containers of hummus with pretzel chips - can someone please tell me, would these need to be in my plastic baggie of "liquids" to be carried on, or can I just leave them in my carry on bag?

I'm doing a long haul flight (Florida to Australia) in August and I appreciate all the great snack ideas! Report
Sounds like you were perpared to continue a healthy lifestyle during your trip. A lesson for the rest of us. Hope your trip was enjoyable. Report
we have two plastic lunch boxes, and pile salad leaves and whatever is in the fridge (cheese, smoked salmon, tomatoes, other veg) into them. We usually decline airline food, and other passengers look enviously at our fresh food.

But if you go for airline food, it's really worth saying you're vegetarian - the food is invariably better. Best airline food - Malaysian Airlines.
excellent idea, but can not take food in plane, still travel tips carrying food is best. Report
Find out how they make eggplant puree while you're there. I had it last year in Instabul and it was the first time I ever found eggplant to be delicious. I haven't figured out how to get it right since I've been home. Report
You guys can take food on a plane? We have to follow the rules that are established in the USA and last time I travelled, no food, no water, nothing edible or drinking was allowed on the plane. I suppose if its sealed and in the right size containers, passes all rules of customs official it would be allowed. But I sure would be checking into that first before I assumed that I could just bring it on the plane. I usually drive long distances for my trips where there is very little in terms of towns between destinations. I have a travel cooler that I put in the car and stuff full of snacks/meal. It works great. Report
Great idea...I will incorporate this on my future travels Report
Thanks for the great ideas and have an awesome time in Istanbul. Report
Always. We were stuck on the plane 6 extra hours once, 3 hrs circling the airport then flying to a different airport and sitting on their tarmac almost 3 hrs b4 being able to finally land at Chicago OHare. We were so glad we had our own food with us, and the people with children behind us appreciated our sharing cheesesticks and crackers with their howling kids. Report
I always make sure I've water bottle because sometimes the flights delay and I'll be very thirsty and the airport stores sell very expensive water bottles! Some airlines do provide tasty healthy snacks, especially if you pre-order for the flight reservations. I once got nyummy yogurt :D Report
i pretty much always carry snacks like almonds or fruit, In a pinch I will run into 7-11 and grab a piece of fruit and a cheese single or hard boiled eggs. when I know I will be on the run and miss a full meal I go with probars.
Travelling or not they are good to keep you on track. Report
I always have meal replacement/protein bars, raw almonds and Fruji bars with me when I travel. Report
MY husband and I travel a great deal and I hate airport and airplane "food" It is totally garbage.
I pack protein bars, apples, carrot and celery sticks and low fat cheese and crackers. I do this on national flights as well as international flights but I make sure not to take fruit on international trips unless I know I will eat it before I land. Report
I always pack my own snacks that way I don't get too hungry or cranky. My travel companions are always thankful!! Nuts, fruit, whole grain crackers, green tea bags and protein bars and I'm good to go. Report
We have just returned from a 6 week tour of Europe. We both had a suitcase of 12kgs and a small back pack. We had to take clothing for 2 seasons.
We take our own coffee and tea making with us as most european hotels don't do it, that does save us a lot of money. We were able to purchase small containers of UDH milk and sachets of coffee as well as the Spenda tabs I packed from home. It was cool enough for the yogurt and milk to stay out on the window ledge over night. That allowed us to have Muslie and yogurt for breakfast where Hotels wanted 12 Euros for breakfast.

Our long distance flights of 24 hrs on Singapore airlines were very good as far as food and drinks go they always look after their customers.
In Eurpoe we were catching trains everywhere so we had bananas and apples as well as biscuits for the man and a bottle of water, with us.
You can take your bottle of water from Australia, but at Sinapore you cannot take that through security, even though you have been in the airport all the time. We take an empty bottle with us and fill it up in the Gate waiting area from a water fountain.
In some places we had an apartment for a few days, there we shopped and cooked our own meals. When that was not available we ate at resturants.
Most days we had a bread roll/ bagette with ham and salad . We noticed it was called an Americano; as well as fruit for lunch Report
I also recommend small packs of oatmeal.

Someone asked if fruit was allowed - it's fine if you are flying domestically, and it is if you are flying internationally too, as long as you eat it / throw it away and don't try and take it through customs at the other end.

I also make provisions for the fact that if you order a special meal, they may well forget or give you the wrong one. This has happened to me more than once, and once when I pointed out their mistake they took it away and wouldn't even let me pick out the things I could eat, so I would have been left with basically nothing for 10 hours had I not packed oatmeal. Report
We recently returned from a "holiday" to Australia. I took some nutrigrain and other low fat bars and some apples on the plain. Qantas also provides decent meals and snacks. They also have an open area so you can get water or other drinks any time. I also took instant oatmeal. Almost all hotels have a way to heat water. A little fruit with the oatmeal, with or without milk makes a great, healthy breakfast. We also purchased whole wheat bread, peanut rather than almond butter and a fruit spread and fruit for lunch. I only had to worry dinner both calorie wise and in the pocketbook. I didn't gain any weight while we were gone! Report
i always bring a ton of granola bars when i travel. i spent a month in belize and those were a lifesaver. a recent week in el salvador was saved by a pile of clif bars.

also, i always bring at least one water bottle - just make sure it's empty as you go through security, then fill up after before you get on the plane. when i go to countries where i can't drink the water, it's reassuring to know i'll be exiting the plane with some good old fashioned american water. Report
Thank you for this blog- a real eye opener! I am traveling at the end of the month and I think this will help me get past Starbucks! I never really checked on food after they tightened down the restrictions. Report
If you want to take yogurt on the plane, you can buy the kid-sized Yoplait Gogurt. They are less than 3 oz and pack nicely. Personally, I haven't been one to pack a lot of snacks. I used to travel so much internationally where the snacks and foods were included on flights and were actually pretty good. And they make sure you stay hydrated on those planes - you can always get water!

Also, you can pack fruit for international trips so long as you consume or toss it on the plane before landing. So if you're taking a long flight and want some fruit, you absolutely can bring it. Air-popped popcorn also makes a nice treat and doesn't weigh much, as do rice cakes (I know, some people don't like this, but i think they're good with peanut butter or hummus).

In the airports, if you don't pack snacks in advance, Starbucks is a great place to go. They usually have fruit cups or veggie boxes you can pick up. I also go into the bookstores and buy a bag of pretzels. I actually find that United has pretty good snack options domestically. Might not be worth the money you pay for them, but they do have some pretty healthy wraps and salads that I have found to be better than most airplane food. Of course, in the end, packing your own is still the best way to go! Report
I have never flown, but when we go out for anywhere longer than an hour and we aren't planning a meal, I usually have some sort of snack with us! my three boys are constantly hungry. Report
Last summer when I went to Thailand and India I took unsalted nuts as well as protein snack bars. It was a great to be able to have something ready in case I have no other vegetarian options. Report
you can bring yogurt if it is 4 ounces or smaller! I had to toss my Stonyfield once (they are 6 ounces) but the security guard told me if it was 4 ounces i could have kept it! Not necessarily one you would want to bring a lot of, but to have as a snack before you board the plane or once you get on is a good fix! Report
Thanks for the ideas. I rarely fly but still need snacks for auto trips Report
Yes, I always pack nutritious snacks when I travel. In May we went to the Middle East, and brought several snack-size bags of my custom-made dried fuit & nut trail mix, a few granola bars, mixed nuts, and carrot sticks (the latter for the plane ride). While the airline's snacks were not nutritious, their meals weren't bad -- salmon and veggies, even. Tosca Reno advises bringing baggies of quick oats (not sweetened or instant) and then you can usually get some hot water to make oatmeal. If you have your dried fruits and nuts with you, it can be almost a gourmet meal! Report
I used to travel a lot when I worked for an airline (back in the day when most flights had a meal) but haven't traveled much in recent years. I am flying at the end of July and will definitely pack my own snacks and meal. Thank you. Report
Thanks for the reminder - I'm going to plan ahead myself! Report
Packing snacks is crucial when you have kids. One time I forgot and the $5 "snack box" I bought on the plane was a joke! Now my carry along is pretty much filled with snacks from home and I've never had a problem. Thanks so much for the new ideas. Report
I rarely fly but this is good to know. Report
I bring a large bag of veggies cut up (red peppers, carrots, celery), PBJ (travel well), nuts, fiber 1 bar, apple/banana. I also take the empty water bottle through security, then refill after. The one thing I have tried that doesn't work is yogurt. They consider it a liquid. Report
This is fantastic information! Thank you so much! Report
Thank you for all the geat ideas!! :-) Report
I pack my own snacks when I travel too. When I went on a cruise recently, I would go to the fruit bar and take a couple of apples and bananas to keep for later. This kept me on track when I got hungry at different times. Report
I've gotten comments from flight attendents on how yummy my food from home looked (my dad packed me strawberries w/ a little sugar to dip them in once on my way back to school), and they said it's pretty rare for people to bring real food with them - but it is certainly allowed!! You just can't bring LIQUIDS/gels/etc over 3 ounces - all the fruit and other food items you want to carry are fine, just don't try to make a smoothie! I ALWAYS bring an empty water bottle through security (ok, sometimes it is mostly full until I down it in the security line :-)), and then fill it on the other side. If you're lucky, a fast-food place will have a fill-it-yourself soda station where you can dispense water into the bottle easily - if you're unlucky, you have to struggle with the drinking fountain (this varies from airport to airport and even terminal to terminal). On longer flights, usually a flight attendent will kindly refill the bottle for you - the only problem I have is drinking too much and then having to bother the passengers next to me to get out for the bathroom - but staying hydrated is important!! As for airline snacks, if you are caught without your own, usually they offer a fruit-and-cheese assortment that is healthier than some of the other options. Report
RU SURE you can take that stuff on board from a super market? I mean , that apple might be hiding a bomb!!! I don't travel via planes much anymore at all, too crazy with all the NO's, and extra costs they come up with these days. Report
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