Food might be an afterthought when you’re packing for a vacation or business trip, but it’s important to consider how you plan to maintain healthy habits when traveling by plane. While it may seem like an obstacle to eat well when fast food chains feel like the only option, consider the nutrition tips below to become a more health-conscious traveler.

Pack Snacks That Will Clear Security

Consider shelf-stable snacks that pack well and abide by TSA’s food regulations, including gels or liquids less than 3.4 oz (100 ml). Snacks are effective to bridge the gaps between meals when food availability or options are limited.

  • Unsalted nuts or trail mixes (pre-portioned into snack-size bags)
  • Dried fruit
  • Fresh fruit with peel or skin (apples, bananas, oranges, clementines)
  • Roasted chickpea or edamame snacks
  • Snack bars that contain more protein than sugar
  • Plain popcorn
  • Nut butter packs
  • Turkey jerky
  • Whole grain crackers or pretzels
  • Unsweetened instant oatmeal packets

Find Balanced Options on the Go

If you don’t have the carry-on space to pack snacks, look for nutritious options at convenience shops, airport lounges, or restaurants. If you want to skip the high-sodium foods served on the airplane, consider buying a packaged meal or snack to bring on the plane with you.

  • Plain Greek yogurt paired with a fruit cup
  • Unsweetened oatmeal with cinnamon and nuts or seeds
  • Pre-cut veggies with hummus or guacamole
  • Part-skim cheese stick
  • Veggie egg white bites
  • Starbuck's Protein Boxes
  • Whole-grain sandwich with lean turkey/chicken, vegetables, and mustard
  • Salad with lean protein (chicken, salmon, eggs, tofu, beans, or hummus)
  • Vegetable or lentil/bean broth-based soups

Just remember to eat it within 2 hours of removing it from refrigeration or heat to prevent foodborne illness.

Have a Plan for Restaurants

Scope out the options ahead of time. Go onto the airport website and find exactly what eatery options are in your terminal. Most restaurants also provide their menu online, some with nutrition information, so you can plan what you’ll order before you even arrive. Focus on items that are grilled, steamed, broiled, or baked instead of fried or sautéed. Commit to pairing a lean protein with a vegetable, such as a salad with grilled chicken and an oil-based dressing.

Be cautious around buffets. It can be easy to want to grab one of everything. But, before you grab a plate, walk around the buffet, and decide which foods you'll choose. Utilize the plate method, to help guide your selections.

Eat Consistently

Traveling through time zones may disrupt your circadian rhythms and typical meal timing. Rather than worrying about the clock or what meal you ate last, try paying closer attention to your body’s own rhythm of hunger and satiety and honor those signs of hunger in a timely manner. Eating every 3-5 hours while you’re awake helps to keep you satisfied and prevent the cycle of being starved which can then lead to eating too much when food is available at the next meal. Balanced snacking also helps maintain stable blood sugar and energy levels. 

Stay Hydrated

It’s especially important to maintain consistent fluid intake as flying can dehydrate you. Skip the alcohol which further dehydrates you on travel days. Also aim to avoid sodas, juices, or high sugar coffee beverages which can result in a blood sugar spike and crash leaving you feeling more fatigued. 

Stick to water and drink plenty of it to fight fatigue and keep your immune system optimized. It’s recommended that men drink 13 cups of fluids per day, while women drink 9 cups. If you enjoy adding flavor to your water, try traveling with herbal tea bags or crystalized fruit packets.

Consider traveling with an empty reusable water bottle or insulated mug that you can fill at a filtered water station once you get through security. This also prevents from having to constantly buy overpriced plastic water bottles.

At the end of the day, traveling can be unpredictable and not every situation can be anticipated. Don’t expect perfection but putting in some thought and effort ahead of time is the best way to build healthy nutrition habits even on the go.