I’ve traveled a lot lately, and have even set a new personal record with over a dozen plane rides thus far this year. I’ve been in airports with lots of options, and in others with surprisingly few — and figured out what’s worth buying and what’s a must-pack snack. Plan ahead by using my tips to BYO and make smart on-the-fly buys.
Pack small liquid-y snacks. Creamy snacks like yogurt and applesauce count as liquids or gels when you’re going through security, so buy them in snack-size containers smaller than 3.4 ounces, or pack your own in leakproof containers.
Scout a healthy breakfast. Omelets and oatmeal are good go-tos. Many terminals have Starbucks, which offers an oatmeal with little added-sugar — that is, if you skip the brown sugar packet that comes with it (the dried cranberries and cherries are already sweetened with a little sugar). Mix in the packet of nuts, then add a sprinkle of cinnamon. If you prefer fresh fruit, swap the dried fruit for a side of blueberries or a banana.
Pack your own munchies. By bringing a snack bag of healthy foods, you’ll be prepared and likely to save money. Good go-tos are fruit-and-nut bars (or your own homemade energy bites, like my Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites). You can also tote along snack-size favorites.
Hydrate! You might be parched if you wait for beverage service to roll through the aisles. So consider carrying an empty water bottle in your travel bag that you can fill once you’ve passed through security. And remember: Tea hydrates too. While most airlines serve only black tea, expand your options by packing your own tea bags (such as soothing peppermint tea) and asking for hot water on board. Fruits like pears, oranges and strawberries are also hydrating. Delicate berries hold their shape if you pack them in a hard-sided container, versus a plastic bag.
Bring your own mix-ins. Love hemp hearts, cinnamon or almond butter as a topping for Greek yogurt or oatmeal? Instead of leaving it to chance that you’ll find your favorites in an airport shop, plan ahead and bring them with you.
Skip the salt. Airplanes tend to have lower humidity, which can lead to dehydration. Salty processed snacks like chips, as well as salted nuts, only help speed along that parched feeling while you’re on board.
Buy lunch or dinner before you board the plane. Chances are, options in the terminal will be healthier than the ones on the plane. And they’ll definitely be more customizable. At Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport, for instance, you can build a Mediterranean bowl at Cava Mezze Grill. And you can order a custom-built vegan veggie burger at The Counter at Miami International Airport.
Amy Gorin, M.S., RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City. She’s a regular contributor to many publications, including ReadersDigest.com, Shape.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Dr. Oz the Good Life and Runner’s World — as well as WeightWatchers.com, where she was a longtime editor. She also pens a recipe-focused blog, Amy’s Eat List.