The Truth About Airplane Snacking: What to Eat

I could tell you it’s easy to make healthy choices while traveling because ‘healthy’ is a lifestyle choice I committed myself to quite some time ago. But let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s difficult enough to sit through a 2-hour movie without needing something sweet to nibble on. Put me on a plane for triple+ that amount of time and forget about it! However, by prioritizing your health and putting in slightly more effort, there are simple methods to combat that bottomless airplane hunger.

I have done my fair share of research and a common ‘tip’  (if it even qualifies as such) is to ‘evaluate: Are you actually hungry, or are you just bored?’ Yes, these are great questions to ask yourself every other day, but today I am on a 6-hour flight to LA and my hunger is REAL!!

Let me (not) be the first to say that no amount of research trumps real life experience, so I’m going to put aside all my unique blogger efforts because cliches are cliche for a reason…

PREPARATION IS KEY

I’m changing the standard methods of thinking and daring to recommend that you don’t think about how much you eat; instead, think about what you eat. I’m not saying to go buy the family-sized bag of popcorn at Sam’s Club to devour throughout the flight. What I’m saying is that, if you plan ahead and pack the right foods, portion control won’t be a problem.

Smart snacking is packing a variety of goodies portioned in 1 or 2-sized servings, making sure your options are plentiful, pack in the protein, NOT the salt, while still satisfying your cravings.

Here is a list of the snacks I pack on flights to keep my hunger under control without ruining my fitness goals:

1. Raw Almonds

These bad boys are great, because they are high in protein and monosaturated fat, which means that your body feels full off of a small amount.

Craving something sweet? Pack them dark chocolate-covered! You will get all the benefits of the almond AND the chocolate. Yes, when consumed in moderation, dark chocolate’s decent amount of fiber and moderate amount of sugar, unlike its milk counterpart, can be a great snacking option! The antioxidants in dark chocolate (made of at least 75% cacao) have proven to reduce stress and improve mood!

2. Protein Bar

This can be tricky because most bars that are advertised as ‘healthy’ are hiding artificial sweeteners and other fake additives. Be sure you are familiar with, and can pronounce, the ingredients in your bar. Put a mental red flag next to anything that contains Stevia or Sorbitol, the artificial sweetener most commonly associated with digestive problems.

With so many options, shopping for protein bars can be overwhelming. Aside from looking for a short ingredient list, I like to check the fiber. For me, as someone who has a sensitive stomach, I only buy a bar with at least 3g of fiber. And typically, the more fiber a bar has, the more whole and nutritious its ingredients are. Fiber is your friend in the sky! Well, it should be your friend all the time, but the less work your digestive system has to do while airborne, the better off you’ll be when you land.

My personal favorite bar is an Rx Bar, because the ingredient list is short enough that they can blow up the text and put it right on the front of the package. The ingredients are whole and simple. Rx also carries chocolate flavors, so buying the Chocolate Coconut or Chocolate PB flavors is another option to satisfy sweet cravings.

 

3. Homemade Trail Mix

 

I want to emphasize the homemade on this one because store-bought trail mixes are not only expensive, but also have loads of salt, added sugars, and candies that become too
irresistible to pick around. Oh, and they also come in bags portioned with 8-10 servings, racking up to more than 1,000 calories per bag.

 

Use raw nuts and seeds, coconut shreds, and raisins or golden/yogurt raisins to make your own mix! By using unsweetened coconut and raisins as opposed to dried cranberries and other fruits (which have added sugars), you can make a much healthier snack for yourself! While the ingredient list may be costly, once you mix it all together, your homemade trail mix stretches your dollar much more than a store-bought mix would.

4. Greek Yogurt 

If you are not lactose-intolerant, plain Greek yogurt is a great source of protein! It is one of the easiest options to make — simply buy a single-serving cup! Add raisins, or even a handful of your homemade trail mix, to sweeten the yogurt naturally. Pro tip: you could also ask the coffee stand in the airport for a honey packet! 😉

5. Pear & PB Packet

Yes, I’m straying from the very classic apple and peanut butter pairing to recommend a pear and peanut butter combination.

There are two types of fibers in fresh fruits: soluble and insoluble. While they are both equally good for you, soluble fiber requires more digestive energy, and can therefore cause gas and bloating once it reaches the large intestine. Pectin is the soluble fiber found in many fresh fruit skins. Aside from the fact that the alliteration makes it sound more appealing, pears don’t have the large amounts of pectin that apple skin has, making it the better in-flight option for your digestive system.

If pears aren’t your thing, pick up a banana. The more brown spots, the happier the digestive tract!

Justin’s brand sells single-serving packets of peanut and almond butter. Skippy and Jif also sell single-serving containers, but look out for the natural options to avoid added sugars, salt, and unhealthy oils and corn starch.

If you’re looking for other fresh fruits to carry onto the plane, here’s what will and won’t make your digestive system happy:

Easy to Digest: very ripe banana, melons, papaya, nectarine, pear, mango, avocado (Yes it’s a fruit!)

Difficult to Digest: acidic fruits (oranges, pineapple, grapefruit, etc.), apples, prunes, peaches, dried fruits

6. Instant Oatmeal Packets

This is not a typical snack many people think of while packing. But it is much simpler to pull off a satisfying and delicious bowl of oatmeal on the plane than you may initially think! Simply ask a flight attendant for a cup of hot water, stir in your oatmeal, and enjoy!

Check ingredient lists and pack an instant oatmeal packet that all together low in sugar and sodium, has whole ingredients, and packs in the protein. Plain flavors are your best bet, and you can sweeten it up by adding raisins, honey (see pro tip under #5 on how to score yourself free honey at the airport), or even a handful of your homemade granola!

7. Superfood Salads

I’m not talking about a kale salad here…Although buying raw kale topped with other raw veggies seems like a bright, healthy idea at first, raw veggies contain cellulose, a high-fiber chemical in plants that is poorly digested by humans. While I’m not undermining the nutritional value of raw vegetables, there are other salad-type options that don’t cause unwanted gas pains and bloating in- and post-flight.

Here are some of my favorites from Trader Joe’s:

  • Apple Cranberry Quinoa Salad – I’m not contradicting myself by recommending a salad containing both apples and dried cranberries, which are two foods I originally recommended one stays away from while on a plane. However, in such small doses, and paired with chopped walnuts and quinoa, it is not likely they will do much harm! But if your digestive system is as sensitive than mine, they have a Curry Cauliflower version you can opt for, with similar benefits and a more savory taste!

  • Almond Grain Medley – Barley, wheatberries, wild rice, and quinoa make up a tasty whole grain combo that keeps you feeling fuller for longer periods of your flight. With a delicious taste, and high fiber and protein contents, it’s a triple win!
  • Honey Glazed Miso Salmon Salad – All the nutrition your body needs packed into a salad that you can easily throw into your carry-on! Carbohydrates from lo mein rice noodles, healthy fats from the almonds, protein from the salmon, and small amounts of leafy greens and raw sliced carrots for a moderate dose of fiber make for the best airplane food you’ll ever eat.

I’m lucky to live in a city where there are Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Food Emporium (the lists goes on), on every block. But, no matter where in the world your supermarket is, I am sure that there’s a healthy pre-made meal option for you! And if not, use the list above to gather inspiration and make it yourself!

By preparing the right foods, it will be a lot easier to say ‘no’ to the flight attendants when offered a Stroopwafel or bag of pretzels in order to make the healthier and more satisfying choice. Save the airport purchases for the beverages! These choices are just as, if not more, important! Remind yourself to drink at least 8 oz., if not the entire 16 oz. bottle of water before munching on anything. Not only will it prevent the common case of dehydration, but it will also help you feel fuller faster by taking up space in your stomach.

The truth is: there are endless options to keep you healthy while traveling. Put yourself first. Put in the extra effort to plan ahead. Your digestive system and future self will thank you!

Safe travels,

the Cutie Foodie

 

 

 

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