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What To Bring On Your Flight, So You Never Get Stuck Eating Airport Food Ever Again!

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:
        1. 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.
        2. 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! 
Food Babe's In Flight Ginger Tea
Prep time
Total time
Serves: 1
  • 3 inch piece of ginger root
  • Empty insulated water bottle like ThinkSport
  1. Wash, peel and slice ginger root
  2. Place ginger root in an empty insulated bottle
  3. 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).
  4. Enjoy hot ginger tea while you travel, on flight or anywhere!
You can refill your bottle again with hot water after you land - the ginger will last for another serving! Please choose organic ingredients when possible.


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:

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!




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176 responses to “What To Bring On Your Flight, So You Never Get Stuck Eating Airport Food Ever Again!

  1. Ahh! This is great! I’ll be flying back out east in a few weeks so see my family and, though I LOVE traveling, I’ve always hated the food part (especially in the US) cause it’s SO expensive and SO unhealthy.

    Thank you so much for giving me so many ideas on different things to pack up to eat. I’ll definitely be planning ahead this time so I’m eating healthy and it’s much more cost effective! 🙂

    1. That’s a great point, Jennifer. The expense of eating in an airport is right up there with a ballgame or amusement park in the States. These tips can save a lot of money.

  2. This is a Great Idea. When I recently Traveled Internationally , Food was Allowed even in UK. I packed Indian Bread with Veggies and Salad and some Grapes. At the security I mentioned that we are Vegetarians ,they allowed us to take the food, which helped us in the transit of 4 Hours in the Airport. The only thing I needed to buy was Water , as UK do not allow any liquids over 8 Oz , i guess.

  3. Being on a glutenfree organic sugarfree diet makes you prepare for everything , Calling ahead to restaurants , packing snaks on trips and taking food when you go on trips . Things have gotten better through the years but it still floors me when a waitress doesn’t know ( Whats Glutenfree) ? A tid bit a head nurse was working in a psych hospital years ago and put all the patients on a gultenfree diet All the patients became well the drs fired her … sorry I can’t remember where I read this story . KEEP CHIPPING AWAY mike

  4. These are all wonderful tips! Of course, I wouldn’t expect any less from you. Here’s the thing. Sometimes I just do not have the time to shop and prepare like this, and then I basically starve or eat my bag of almonds, whatever I can find in the house to throw in my bag. I wish, oh how I wish, that all airports would start mirroring the San Francisco airport where they have juice bars and clean healthy food available. Along with compost bins, and recycling. SF is way ahead of the rest of the country overall. I’m surprised by now that someone in the “biz” has not created a juice bar organic “stop” that can be a chain in all airports. They’d make a fortune! You should do it Vani. 🙂

    1. Mary – if you are short on time check this out.

      It’s a map of each concourse, terminal, airport in the U.S with all the healthy spots highlighted. So you don’t have to go looking for the healthy spots when you’re already in a rush.

      Hope FoodBabe doesn’t mind me sharing but I agree SFO is a good airport and I’m trying to highlight the healthy food desert in the other airports/bring the issue to the spotlight.

      More airports on being put up weekly.


  5. Great advice! I already do a lot of these when I travel but certainly learned a few more fabulous tips to keep me inspired. Keep up the awesome work Food Babe!

  6. Where can you get filtered water after security? I hate to be drinking nasty chlorinated water.

  7. Always love your tips! I’m a Flight Attendant and have been bringing my food for years in the e-bags crew cooler. Love that cooler! I still learn new things to bring. Glad you mentioned not to ask for hot water on board. I do not drink the water on board! (Coffee, tea). It’s filled with bacteria. Plus glad you also suggested to get water after security but before getting on the plane. Because we don’t get many bottles of water for all the passengers. We can’t fill everyone’s bottles. When someone asks me I give two glasses. That’s all I can spare. Love your ginger idea. I too get my hot water from the vendors at the airport. Oh and I now take oatmeal with dates and nuts for breakfast because of you! Thank you!

  8. Although I agree that most airport food consists of the same old fast food options, there are a generally a few excellent places to eat at every airport. When I fly out of Minneapolis, for example, I often go to the French Meadow Cafe (Concourse F), which serves organic breakfasts, teas, coffee and fresh bread. All the meals are made to order, the staff is very accommodating, and you can also take fresh organic salads and sandwiches on the plane.

  9. These are great tips! We recently traveled with both kids on an airplane. We had a whole carry-on bag of food and we brought empty water bottles to fill after security. It is kind of funny that even at that Farmer’s Market stand at the Charlotte airport, there are Gatorades and soda for drink options.

    1. I know! There were some not so “real” snacks too but at least they had a bunch of options for whole fruit 🙂

  10. Great advice, Vani!
    I like to take a bowl of granola (either Purely Elizabeth or Nature’s Path) in an air-tight container that doubles as a bowl, as well as a Go Macro PB+Chocolate Chip bar (which is Organic and Fair Trade). That keeps me satisfied for about 5-6 hours, and it all fits easily in my carry-on backpack.

  11. I have had glass containers confiscated at the airport.. How did you manage to get through with them? It was even and un-opened jar of salsa.

    1. It probably wasn’t because of the glass jar. It was probably because of the contents – salsa. Any liquids over 3.4oz get confiscated.

  12. I always bring an avocado or two. Store them in a deli plastic container hard enough to keep them from being crushed in your bag. Pick up plastic knifes and spoon at foodstands near departure area, or bring with you. I never had a problem with plastic knifes, forks, or spoons going through security.
    I like raw or lightly steamed crunchy green beans to dip in hummus, tahini, tapenade or a pesto mix. Endive leafs are also good for this. Endive leafs are delicate, but last longer if layered with paper towel pieces between them in a zip loc.
    For many years I have brought food when traveling. The ony issue has been soups, if they are not thick enough. TSA does not like liquids, any food must be able to hold its shape when not in a container. A thin soup does not pass this test.

  13. Be aware if there is a nut allergy on your flight as the airline will make an announcement and you will be discouraged from eating your trail mix/raw nuts.

    1. I don’t fly too much but I have never heard of this. Most flights serve peanuts with beverages from the in-flight cart. In fact, Delta Airlines served peanuts on both my flights to Charleston, SC.

  14. I always brought food on planes , especially when traveling cross country with kids! Recently though, I have been appalled by the food on state turnpike rest stops. The best ones have a seasonal farmers market stand outside their building, and the worst , well , I don’t have to mention any names! I can’t wait to show my husband your blog!

  15. How do you pack for the return trip? I recently went to India for two weeks and while planning my meals and snacks for the plane ride there, I found myself wondering how to pack for my long return flight.
    Thank you for the tips!

  16. Thank you for sharing such a informative and useful post. I like to travel as and when I can and hated the idea of succumbing to that awful plane food. I felt as if refusing their food would draw suspicious. I’m going to muster up the courage to follow many of your suggestions for my next trip.

  17. Great advice! I just came out with my travel guide that is completely FREE and offers similar tips 🙂 Looks like I am on the right path!!

  18. Make sure you check with each state and airline. We just started a radical diet to help with a serious health issue. I brought lots of food in a cooler. They stopped me and took all of my apples, sliced lemon, oranges, etc. My husband had nothing to eat on a ten hour flight. I was so upset!

    1. Cindy, If you are going to Hawaii or if you are travelling internationally then you can’t take certain fruits, veggies or some meats. TSA doesn’t care about the fruits and veggies but Customs does. Sorry this happened to you.

  19. One thing to note about travelling overseas. Most fresh fruits/veggies cannot be take whole for fear of bugs inside. They will confiscate them. I had a whole bunch of fresh fruit/tomatoes/etc…and they took them. They said if I cut everything up and had it in a bowl it would have been fine. Ironically, they said pineapple was too acidic for bugs and is fine for travel. I was coming from Hawaii to the US…not sure where else this would be a problem . I am sure anywhere they check agricultural items.

  20. Homemade protein shakes are good too: Pack a Blender Bottle with equal parts hemp, brown rice, pea protein, and raw cacao powder along with a tiny bit of coconut sugar. When you get through security, just add some water and ice and shake it up.

  21. Couple things:

    1. Question — can you bring glass containers onto the plane? Maybe someone already asked, but I don’t think so? would love clarification.

    2. In certain international airports, you cannot even bring an empty water container or thermos. Seriously I don’t know why. You can check it into your luggage but not in carryon. I fly in and out of Panama City airport a few times a year and each time — even after I go through security and am at the gate — they check your bags again before boarding and throw any containers away. Even if you purchased a water bottle at the airport! This behooves me. I have no clue why it is and I get super angry each time this happens to me.

    1. I agree! I have been packing my meals for years, though there are many gems in this article – thank you FoodBabe! But I was appalled at Heathrow to have had my children’s yogurt containers thrown away (ages 5 & 2) because the attendant felt that 2 children’s sized yogurts per child was excessive (on a connecting flight from Athens to JFK, yeah!). Another attendant had me discard their water when I was flying over (though it happened only once and we do fly a lot). Bottom line is that you can be VERY prepared and have to deal with a silly exception or someone who just enjoys their job a little too much. I always triple check what I have packed to be sure I can back it up if I call for the manager. And though it’s a hassle, it has worked. (They had to apologize for the water incident.) Also, I would wrap everything in clear plastic and ask them to change gloves if they are going through food bag. One guy didn’t change gloves and handled my fruit with his dirty gloves despite my request for him to change gloves. I have had gel cooler packs confiscated so I avoid them.

  22. I always bring my own food on the way to my destination, but always run into problems on the way home, since it’s more difficult to prepare food at hotels. In those cases, I try to hit up a health food store to pick up something healthy. Great suggestion on the ginger tea. I get nauseous sometimes while flying, so something else the ginger can help with!

    1. Great point, Natalie! Sometimes I get a bit nauseous too if we hit some air turbulence, so that ginger tea is definitely a good idea.

  23. Vani – Thanks so much for this post! This info is super-useful. I really like the tip about filling up with hot water after coming through security. Awesome – will put this to use for my next trip.

  24. If you go to Hawaii, be aware of the agricultural restrictions… None of these fruit or vegetables can be taken there. Maybe a salad, but probably not a whole avocado or banana.

      1. You’d be surprised at his many people have to throw out their oranges in Honolulu. They have these dogs trained to find agricultural items when you land.

  25. For flights that include meals, I preorder vegetarian, Indian or East Asian entrees. They are usually much better than the usual airplane meals, and I often find that other passengers look longingly at my tray!

    1. These meals are usually more full of salt and additives than the regular meals.

  26. I liked your article. I am a flight attendant and I bring all my food from home. I eat organic. You have good advice on traveling and bringing food. One small correction, though, security will confiscate even a butter knife if they find it. You could try bringing a plastic butter knife, that way, if they take it –no big deal!

  27. As a United 1K and Marriott lifetime platinum business traveller, I appreciate these suggestions and already do a lot of them.

    But this one stumped me: “Green juice in mini ball jar containers packed in a cooler to stay fresh” – How does this get past the TSA’s 3.5 ounce liquid rule that requires total liquids to fit in a one quart baggie?

    1. Ohhh… and I travel all the time with Artisana raw almond butter packets and I’ve never once had to put them in with the liquid quart baggie. I just throw a bunch in my computer bag and go…

    2. They make small 3 ounce jars – so it can work! And I agree, I through those packets in my bag no problem – but the “rules” state that it needs to be in a bag – however, I love breaking rules and they never catch me 🙂

      1. I can frequently, and I’ve never seen 3 oz Ball jars. The smallest I’ve seen are the 4 oz jars. Do you have a link to the jars?

      2. 3 ounce containers in a clear quart bag applies to cosmetics. You can take a “lunch” bag that has no rules except the no larger than 3 oz gel or liquid rule.

  28. I find that I am usually good with packing food on my outgoing flight, it’s the return that is killer. It’s usually not as easy to pack something good when I’m not at home. I usually have a bag of trail mix that I save for the return, but refrigerated items are a no-go.

  29. We just flew into to California from Chicago a couple days ago and just starved ourselves because I didn’t think ahead of time. Luckily, there is a Target in Anaheim with a few organic products, because there is basically nothing here either.

    1. Huh?
      Just Yelp for organic stores and restaurants in SoCal (or any city in the U.S.)……Huge health food movement here, going all the way back to hippy days.

      1. Well, the SoCal organic movement has not hit the Disney/Convention Center strip where we are staying lol, and no car to drive into the hills!

    2. Kathie,
      Go to http://www.yelp. com, search: organic food in: Anaheim, Ca. You’ll find 20 places no more then a 10-15 min taxi ride away. The beauty of Yelp is that it works all over the U.S., so no matter where you travel, you can find clean food. Good luck!

  30. I was travelling from Canada to USA and I had a sliced apple, sunflower butter, cinnamon sandwich on silver hills hemptation bread. Security took it because the apple was sliced. It had to be in its original shape and have a USA sticker on it (it would not have a USA sticker because I bought it in a bag, although it did come from the US). I was so mad and I still get annoyed when I think about it… it was over a year ago 🙂 I never did try that sandwich combo again, and it was my first time trying to try it.

    I at least had trail mix that they let me keep, but sounded as if I was only allowed to keep it because I had my young child with me.

  31. Awesome post! Was really in need of this information since I’ve got an upcoming flight and my stomach is still struggling from the last flights meal!

  32. I cut up apples and pour a little fresh lemon juice on them and put them in a plastic bag so the fruit does not turn brown. I have taken a number of the things you mention; works well.

  33. The one thing no one has mentioned are the handy ways to drink filtered water – I”ve found 2 ways – one is using a steripen which you can find on Amazon. Sterilizes any water just by holding it a few seconds in your cup. The other is a stainless steel thermos called Clearly Filtered. I have used these all over the world and have never gotten sick PLUS save a ton of money (& my health) by avoiding plastic water bottles.

  34. I like a smoothie juice every morning. Does anyone know if a nutra-bullit is allowed on? It’s got four small blades

    1. I’m thinking no on the Nutri Bullet with blades…..they took away my Greek Yogurt!!!!

    2. I am a FA and have had passengers ask me to take their blender and go make their shakes. (Please, don’t do that. We can’t plug in your blender.) So that tells me they are allowed through security. I carry my travel blender and have never had an issue.

  35. Flew back from an international flight over 36 hours ago and my stomach is STILL screwed up from the crap I ate – in flight and at airport was the absolute worst of it too. Great tips that I will absolutely keep I n mind for next time. Thanks Vani!

  36. I had my butter knife confiscated at Bozeman airport TSA, gee what a surprise!!!

  37. It is so refreshing to read all those comments. I always feel like I am the only who is “difficult” and bring my own food 🙂 We traveled to Europe with kids recently and
    prepared bags with fruits, carrots, mixed nuts -raisins-raw cocoa-coconuts and some easy to digest snacks for kids plus sandwiches.
    I am surprise about the hot water on airplane, so thank you very much for that info!

    1. I agree – LOVE all the comments and hearing about what everyone brings. The tea on flight really does get me in a good mood to fly 🙂

  38. As my wife is recovering from cancer / chemo, we also have to avoid all this dirty outside food, when traveling. Wife likes her Malaysian food, so usually a meal in a plastic container, consisting of brown rice, chicken or fish. Some sort of green veggie, and a dab of sambal. Sliced fruits in another container. Mixed nuts in another plastic jar. All organic and so easy to prepare. Al the containers reused from previous things bought at the store, so can be washed and re-used. For me, a couple of organic burritos, wrapped in wax paper and thrown into a zip lock bag, and we’re good to go.. I’ve seen people carry on trays of sushi, pizzas and foot long sub’s. Anyways, thank for the tips everybody

  39. Delta Airlines will not serve or allow passengers to eat nuts when
    a passenger declares a nut allergy. Read it on their website.

  40. I always travel with my own food, pretty much exactly as you have suggested. Its amazing how much and nothing is available to us as we travel.

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