If you know me, you know I love to travel, but there’s one thing about travel that gets me worked up every time. There are millions of people coming in and out of the airports across the world thinking they have no choice. They think they have to eat airport and airplane food because it’s the only thing available. They let their surroundings control their lives, their health, and the health of their families. I used to be one of these people. For years, I traveled for work, consulting at major financial institutions all over the United States going from city to city. I didn’t know anything about the food I was eating and I felt terrible about myself – I was overweight, felt tired all of the time, my skin was a mess, and I was generally less productive. This is why I feel obligated to share the information I learned that changed my life forever. I can’t just sit back and let this happen for so many people. This madness needs to stop. We have a choice! We are in control of everything we put in our mouths! Our bodies are not trashcans for the industrial food system!
Bring food with you to the airport & on airplanes!
I’m happy to say that I haven’t had to eat airport and airplane food in a long time. Airplane food is often heavily processed with tons of controversial additives and preservatives that don’t fit into my healthy lifestyle. On my last flight, I posted some pictures of what I was eating and drinking on my Facebook page, and got a lot of questions. Many of you are wondering how I was able to bring my own food on board and wanted details. It’s easy to do, but it does take a bit of prep time and you have to make sure that what you bring won’t get confiscated by the TSA at the security checkpoint.
TSA lets you bring food through security.
In the United States and in most countries, the transit authorities allows you to bring food through the security screening and onboard. Here are some items that work well and don’t get confiscated:
- Homemade sandwiches wrapped in parchment paper stored in a quart-sized plastic bag. Keep in mind that all food that you carry on will need to go through the x-ray machine at the checkpoint. So, never use any foil. They will want to search your bag and delay your travels.
- Dips and sauces, such as hummus, salsa and almond butter, as long as it is in a 3.4 oz (or smaller) container, and put into a quart-sized plastic bag.
- Fresh fruits and veggies, such as apples, bananas and avocados. Just wash them at home or in your hotel room before you put them in your bag. If you cut or peel them ahead of time, of course they need to be wrapped in a plastic bag or put in a glass container. Keep in mind that you can also bring a butter knife to slice ripe avocados and bananas on the plane.
- Crunchy snacks such as crackers, popcorn, kale chips, etc.
- Dried fruit and raw nuts make a great snack on the plane. I like to make my own mix – 1/2 cup each of raw almonds, coconut flakes, dried cherries or raisins, and raw walnuts. The airport usually has trail mix, but it comes loaded with inflammatory oils, other additives and are usually not raw or organic.
- Pre-made salads in glass containers or BPA-free plastic. Salad dressing can be packed separately as long as it’s in a 3.4 oz. or smaller container. However, I find that it’s easier to bring it already mixed into a salad or at the bottom of the bowl for mixing in later. (Just don’t forget to bring a fork!)
- Empty thermos and empty water bottles – any size. These are great for filling up after you get through security.
- Tea bags for making hot tea in the airport before you board. Don’t use the hot water on the airplane. It’s not as clean as you would like, try to get it from a cafe in the airport before boarding.
- If you are traveling with your child: baby food, breast milk and formula are exempt from the 3.4 oz. rule and you can bring those on the plane in any quantity needed.
- Green juice in mini ball jar containers packed in a cooler to stay fresh.
In addition to this list – Check out this app on the TSA website to search for what items may (or may not be) currently allowed in your carry-on.
Tips for packing your carry-on bag:
- Most people don’t think about this, but you can pack a cooler as one of your carry-on bags. There are some great travel coolers available, and even some that are on wheels that easily go through security for long flights or if you are traveling with family. Just make sure that it meets the size requirements for the airline that you are flying on. These are two of my favorites:
- eBags Crew Cooler – Designed to fit over your carry on luggage as your second bag and comes in many different colors. Perfect for in-flight food. Available on Amazon for ~$49 here.
- Coleman Wheeled Travel Cooler – This cooler has a hard plastic liner, which is good for either taking as your carry-on bag or checking in with your luggage at the airport. Available on Amazon for ~$41.23 here.
- I drink a lot of water, especially when traveling. Try packing a large empty water bottle and fill it up after going through security. Make sure you fill it up before you get on the plane, because I’ve found that some airlines won’t do it for you.
- Pack an extra empty plastic bag and fill it with ice from a restaurant after you get through security to keep your cooler cold. I’ve never had a problem asking for free ice, they will gladly provide it. Some airports have food courts, where you can just help yourself too.
- I personally haven’t had any trouble bringing in frozen gel ice packs, so you can try it – but there is a possibility that they would be confiscated. So, an extra bag for ice is a good back up plan.
- For longer flights, pack some frozen food in your cooler. If you pack some frozen berries or yogurt in small containers, it will help to keep your cooler cool and slowly defrost during your flight.
- If you find yourself in a bind or didn’t have time to pack food, don’t worry. There is fresh food available if you look for it. Many airports have a Jamba Juice, where you can pick up wheatgrass shots and some juice bars even offer fresh squeezed green juice or cold pressed juice in bottles (Yeah! San Fran airport!). You can always find fresh fruits (bananas, apples) and raw unsalted almonds in a store or restaurant at the airport. Check out this “Farmers Market” stand with plenty of real food options I found in terminal E of the Charlotte Airport:
- I have an extensive list here of easy to pack snack foods that you can easily toss in your bag and take through security.
- If you are traveling internationally, only bring enough food for your flight in your carry-on because you will likely need to throw away any leftover food when you arrive at customs in your destination country. Before you leave, review the customs restrictions for your destination, to see what you may be able to bring into the country you are visiting.
- I like to fill my thermos with about 3 inches of sliced raw ginger before packing it in my carry-on bag. After you go through security, fill it up with hot water from a restaurant and you’ve got hot ginger tea for your flight! Ginger tea improves circulation, reduces inflammation, and is antibacterial – everything you need on a flight. I’ve been using the Think Sport insulated bottles – which come in two sizes for my tea. They are available here with 10% off affiliate code: FOODBABE10 if you’d like to get one!
- 3 inch piece of ginger root
- Empty insulated water bottle like ThinkSport
- Wash, peel and slice ginger root
- Place ginger root in an empty insulated bottle
- Fill with hot water after going through security - any cafe will gladly do this for free or sometimes for a dollar. (If you get it free, don't forget to leave a tip).
- Enjoy hot ginger tea while you travel, on flight or anywhere!
Recipes that travel well for your flight:
Salads – These pack well, especially if they have some grains in them such as quinoa to help keep the greens from getting wilted. When packing a basic salad, layer the salad in a glass container with the dressing on the bottom, followed by the grains, and then layer the greens on top. Just stir it up on the plane right before eating. Of course, this will need to be packed in a cooler with some ice to keep it from going bad if you don’t eat it right away.
Wraps – My absolute favorite thing to pack for a flight is a wrap, filled with lots of fresh veggies and greens. This keeps well for an hour with no cooler and is easy to eat on the plane. Stay tuned – I’ll post the recipe for my favorite travel wrap soon. For now, this one is great to try:
Some other great recipes for food that’s easy to pack in your carry-on cooler:
- Orange Poppy Seed Cranberry Hemp Muffins Recipe - These can be frozen for long flights to help keep your cooler cold
- Sushi Triangles (Onigiri) Recipe
- Raw Cacao Candy Crunch Recipe
If you start from a destination with no kitchen – remember to hit up a natural food store or a Whole Foods to stock up for your flight or have the hotel make you some raw fruits and veggies or a healthy real food meal to take with you. And when all else fails – check this dedicated section for healthy travel to learn about my past experiences and best travel tips.
Don’t get caught with your Food Babe pants down and always have food with you!
If you know someone who is traveling soon, needs these tips and/or eats unhealthy airplane and airport food, please share this post with them! I’m sure they will thank you later for it – let’s change the lives of people around us together!
P.S. I’m visiting with Anheuser-Busch today. On my way to St. Louis, I brought some gazpacho on the plane – it was delicious and so hydrating. I practice what I preach! The eco-friendly green “Preserve Food Storage” bowl I am using comes with a screw top lid – perfect for traveling!