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Healthy Tip: Traveling Food for Planes and Trains

By Alana Sugar, December 20, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
Are you traveling this holiday season? Before you head out over the hills and through the woods, we’ve pulled together our best tips for a 3-part “Eating on the Holiday Go” series. Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile, we’ve got suggestions to help you eat well along the way. We’ve even got some tricks to help you once you’re at your final destination. It’s a darn shame, but most airports, train stations and roadside stops offer little more than the standard American junk food fare. The good news is you can bring your own food, and it doesn’t have to be complicated! Today we’re tackling plane and train travel, tomorrow is for car food travel tips and finally we’re covering tips for when you are at your destination. Enjoy and please share your favorite tips too! Foods for Planes and Trains With so many specific security rules about what you can and can’t take on board an aircraft these days, it’s always a good idea to check the TSA website for food and liquid restrictions. Once you’re clear about that, there are foods that you can pack to help you and your family eat well, which will keep you feeling better on your trip. Remember, too, that you can purchase food and water at the airport, after clearing security. Train travel is less restrictive – at least for now!
  • If you have an early morning flight or train, you can’t beat packets of instant organic plain oatmeal along with a baggie filled with nuts and raisins! The attendants will have hot water and cups for mixing.
  • Trail mix is perfect. Nuts, dried fruits, unsweetened coconut flakes and whole grain cereals make a filling, no-mess snack. This Popcorn Trail Mix is fun to take along.
  • Mini cracker sandwiches made from cream cheese or hummus and sliced tomatoes and bell peppers make a refreshing, crunchy snack.
  • Fruit bars, nut bars, protein bars and other shelf-stable goodies are a must. If you want to make your own, here is a recipe for Cherry Orange Oatmeal Outdoor Bars and here is a recipe for Chocolate Earth Balls.
  • Individual packages of yogurt, applesauce, fruit cups, organic corn chips and vegetarian bean dip are great. (Some of these aren’t allowed through airport security, but good for the train.) Add some sliced carrots, celery, cucumber, radish and bell peppers.
  • For a meal, pack some sandwiches. Peanut or almond butter with fruit-sweetened jam or bananas; hummus or guacamole with veggies, cheese and tomato; or a turkey, tuna or egg salad sandwich that you know you can keep cold and eat within a couple of hours. These Apple Tahini Sandwiches are easy to make and travel well.
  • Take or purchase a bottle of cold water after you get through security and pack it in an insulated bag next to stuff you want to keep fresh and cold.
  • Many airports have restaurants where you can order a sandwich on whole grain to take with you on your trip. Best bets: Turkey, grilled chicken, hummus (if they have it), and plenty of raw veggies even if all they have is lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.
  • Remember to stay well hydrated, especially while flying. Get water on the plane or carry some on.
  • If eating a meal provided by the airline, call ahead and see what special diet options they have (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.). These meals may have more vegetables, fruits and whole grains than their standard fare.
Remember, travel delays are not uncommon at holiday time and throughout the winter. Pack some extra shelf stable food to help see you through just in case. Got a healthy travel snack you pack for planes or trains? What do you take along? I’d love to know.




Amber Kindle says ...
I fill travel size shampoo bottles with water and freeze them the night before a flight. This make a great airport friendly ice pack to keep my food cold. I just bring a regular lunch box. I usually pack almond butter and jelly on whole grain bread with apples and carrots. Cheese sticks, veggies, hummus, and wheat crackers travel nicely as well! Airport food is usually such low quality and expensive! I always bring my own food.
12/21/2010 2:31:23 PM CST
Kati says ...
If your worried about bacteria getting into your waterbottle from the Fountian, try organic lemon oil... I was told it disinfects water just as well as anything. Your water will taste good but be clean as well!
12/28/2010 8:39:54 PM CST
Maddy says ...
@karel t: You might want to reconsider the water fountain as a supply. I read that they have a high bacterial content - the spigot never gets cleaned!
12/21/2010 2:38:47 PM CST
Liz says ...
As a person with a nut allergy I hate to see them recommended for airplane/train travel as the reaction can be severe and it is such tight quarters and no hospital nearby. You can always pack them and eat them when you are collecting your baggage or in the taxi instead.
12/21/2010 3:32:35 PM CST
Emilia says ...
Clemetines or Mandarines are a great snack to bring along while traveling. They're easy to peel, hydrating, and full of vitamin C to keep you healthy. And they're delicious.
12/21/2010 11:38:57 AM CST
Miriam says ...
Dry miso soup is a great snack on long flights! Just ask for hot water and mix.
12/21/2010 11:08:10 AM CST
Jennifer is Always Sick says ...
I agree with Liz. It's not a good idea to bring nuts onto a flight, although many flights still serve nuts and peanuts to their passengers. The best thing to do is to check and make sure that your flight isn't peanut/tree nut free. The airline will usually let you know if this is the case, but it's best to double check. Also, if you have the allergies and you're extremely sensitive, request that your flight be nut free.
12/21/2010 5:14:10 PM CST
Jennifer is Always Sick says ...
@Laura - I agree. There's a toss up here. You can buy bottled water, which is super expensive inside the airport and the plastic has been shown to leach into the water (Dr. Mercola), or take your chances with germs. If you want to spend the money on bottled water, go for it. But I think I will do this next time. I can bring on my empty bottles, plastic free, and fill 'em up inside. Perfect idea!
12/23/2010 5:00:02 PM CST
Jonathan says ...
Please set up a Whole Foods Store featuring healthy food, snacks and drinks in an airport, preferably Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. That would help to improve choices available in US Airports.
12/27/2010 10:26:09 PM CST
Nancy Waterous says ...
Laptop Lunches bento boxes and bento buddies, which are sold at Whole Foods, make good containers for packing travel snacks and meals. www.laptoplunches.com if not available at your WF store.
12/20/2010 5:31:20 PM CST
Katie Thompson says ...
I found these great almond butter snack packs from Barney Butter. They are so convenient, delicious and healthy!! They are also peanut free so safe to take on planes. They are great on an apple, cracker or just eaten right out of the packet. www.barneybutter.com
12/21/2010 1:00:16 PM CST
Maxine Lorence says ...
I'll often get a quarter pound of good ham (black forest) or roast beef (rare) and a quarter pound of swiss cheese and make roll ups on the train or plane. They're easy and filling and, if you plan it right, don't take much space or make a mess.
12/21/2010 1:31:36 PM CST
Laura says ...
@ Maddy: Even if a water fountain spigot is gross, just don't put your mouth on it and don't let your bottle touch it when filling it. The germs should stay put and you'll be fine. Good suggestions on snacks. I second the clementines and also suggest bringing a little something sweet if you like sweets. Eating 2 squares of your own chocolate is way healthier than buying a candy bar at the airport and just as convenient.
12/22/2010 4:54:16 PM CST
Bertha Montgomery says ...
12/20/2010 12:03:31 PM CST
jasleen says ...
my husband and i don't eat restaurant food, so when we travel, we always pack something from home. thanks for the suggestions. one of our favorites is chilled aloo gobi (spiced potatoes and cauliflour) wrapped in a roti (grilled whole grain flatbread), kind of an indian burrito. it's very filling and travels well too.
12/20/2010 12:05:44 PM CST
karel t says ...
This is great! To save money on sometimes expensive bottled water sold at the airport, I pack an empty water bottle in my carry-on bag. Once I'm through security, I fill it up at a water fountian. Also, any of the airport coffee shops will usually give you hot water at no charge (if you have your own cup), which works great with the instant oatmeal. To keep sandwiches cold: freeze 2 small 4 oz juiceboxes the night before you travel. Throw them in an insulated lunch bag, and they keep you sandwich nice and chilly!
12/20/2010 12:18:10 PM CST
Aisak says ...
Wow a whole series on Holiday eating on the go? I love it. There is rarely anything you can do while traveling other than just eating whatever is around. Now I see a host of different and fun ideas for take along snacks. Thanks so much. I might even make them when I am just hanging out at home. After all a tasty snack is a tasty snack.
12/23/2010 5:23:23 AM CST
charlie soliz says ...
I've been a vegetarian for three years, so I welcome, all of this kind of information. I'm looking forward to the car travel tips because that's my main source of transportation. My wife needs it too, she's an RN that commutes 64 miles, one way, to work every day. Thank you and Merry Chrismas
12/23/2010 8:29:36 PM CST
Beth says ...
About the water: any restaurant in an airport is required by law to give you their filtered water. Less germs and you can still bring a bottle. Happy medium for everyone!
08/02/2012 7:53:55 PM CDT
Alex Mercedes says ...
Thanks for the suggestions. My situation is special because it's 3 days on a train and I'm moving to a new home, i.e., no buying bulk and storing for when I return. You've pointed me in the right direction.
08/16/2012 5:07:05 PM CDT
rohrjulia says ...
great tips, very helpful.
04/23/2014 4:42:35 PM CDT