Nutrition On The Fly

by Brooke on March 18, 2014

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Airports are always packed with people, but are often not packed with the healthiest food options.  The stress and anxiety that could come from running late for a flight, sitting long hours during a layover, or plane changes may lead you towards grabbing unhealthy food choices in an airport terminal.  However, if you prepare for the worst when traveling and always pack some healthy snacks for the journey you can fly with ease.

Healthy Snacks To Carry-On

Packing healthy snacks for the flight, airport, or an unexpected layover is a great way to make sure your body always has healthy options available.  Relying on snacks for purchase on the plane is not a great option, for they are often high in sugar, sodium and/or calories.  Also, most airlines don’t pack enough snacks for purchase for one-third of the passengers on each flight.  Therefore, if you’re in row 21 and most of the passengers before you bought an in-flight snack box the chances that one will be left for you is slim. 

For your next flight, pre-pack snacks like this in your carry-on:

  • Fresh fruit (apples and bananas are best for travel)
  • Bag of baby carrots or another vegetable of your choice (*Note: purchase vegetables at the airport if not traveling within four hours instead of pre-packing them)
  • Homemade trail mix (1 cup whole grain cereal, 1/4 cup dried fruit, 1/4 cup unsalted nuts)
  • Dried fruit
  • Cheese stick with whole grain crackers
  • Whole grain pita chips with shelf-stable hummus
  • Travel-sized nut butters
  • Unsalted nuts (try walnuts or almonds)

Airport Food Carts

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There are numerous airport food carts like this in every terminal.  What would you choose off of this cart for a “healthy” snack?

The whole fruit displaced at the bottom of the cart would be a great choice.   For snacks that have a nutrition facts label, try choosing those that have:

  • Less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving
  • Less than two grams of saturated fat per serving
  • Less than ten grams of sugar per serving
  • *Bonus* Two or more grams of fiber per serving

To keep your energy level up and prevent your blood sugar from spiking skip the sweets, candy, and chips!

Finding Healthy Meals In Airport Terminals

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Searching for a quick bite to eat during a 45 minute layover (or less) is just one more reason why bringing snacks or a meal from home is easier and a better option.  Not all terminals have tasty food options let alone healthy ones.  Most food courts like the one shown above have slim pickings.  In this instance, I would recommend heading for Starbucks and choosing one of their yogurt parfaits, fruit cups, bistro boxes, or lighter sandwiches.   

When more options are available, there is a priority list of food and beverages (just like boarding) that every traveler should keep in mind:

  1. Water!  Dehydration leads to fatigue and jet lag.  Skip the alcohol and caffeinated beverages and grab a water bottle.  I normally purchase a liter water bottle for the flight and/or layover to help prevent dehydration.
  2. Vegetables.  Most fast food restaurants in the airport don’t sell vegetables or at least quality ones.  Head to a place that offers salads, steamed vegetables, or vegetarian dishes. Not only are vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals, but they also contain fiber which is very beneficial in preventing travel constipation.
  3. Avoid greasy, fried, and high sugary foods pre-flight!  The last thing anyone wants is digestive issues or heartburn 30,000 feet in the air.  Those bathrooms are gross enough already.



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