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On the Go: Traveling by Plane

By Ashley Carpenter, RD


One of the challenges we face when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle is what to eat when we are taking a trip by plane. There are numerous food challenges that present themselves at the airport terminal and when onboard. Planning will help you make the best choices. Without a plan you are more likely to grab whatever is around, which opens the door to junk food and poor choices. If you want to eat healthy – the following tips will ensure your success.


Packing Your Carry-on Bag
Stick with non-perishable foods that you can pack in your carry-on bag such as protein bars, whole grain crackers with peanut butter, homemade trail mix in snack size seal tight bags, peanut butter sandwich, protein powder (you can add to milk on the plane), instant oatmeal (just ask for hot water), and fresh fruit such as bananas, apples, or oranges.  You can take food through security, but not liquids.


Make sure to pack enough food to cover potential layovers. Packing your own healthy sandwiches and snacks means you don’t have to rely on what the airport offers. Also, your connecting flight could arrive late, leaving you without enough time to grab anything to eat before boarding your next flight.


The Airport Terminal
Once you’ve passed through security, anything that you buy at the airport may be brought onto your flight.


Layovers: Your Workout Opportunity to Avoid Tempting Foods
If you have a layover or a long wait before boarding your flight, take the opportunity to walk the terminal to get some exercise. You’ll be sitting for a long time during your flight so this is the time to move.  Remember, if you planned ahead, you should have packed enough healthy snacks to avoid the tempting overindulgences.


Selecting Foods from the Airport Concessions

And finally, if you must eat at the airport, try to make the best choice possible – there are always healthier options, you just have to look for them!  Explore as much as time will allow – don’t resign yourself to that greasy slice of pizza without first checking out all of your options. Examples of healthier airport choices include:

  • salads with low-fat dressing and lean meat such as turkey or chicken (avoid high calorie toppings such as bacon and croutons)
  • turkey, ham, or roast beef deli wraps (without mayonnaise)
  • grilled chicken sandwich without mayonnaise and half of the bun (try dipping in BBQ sauce or low-fat ranch dressing)
  • sushi (select brown rice and instead of all sushi, ask for sashimi to avoid eating too much rice)
  • low-fat yogurt
  • fresh fruit 

So check your flight information, remember to plan enough time to pack that carry-on bag and still get to the airport with plenty of time to make the plane.  And if you have extra time, a brisk walk may calm the travel tension and get you started on your trip, the healthy way.