The results are in, and when it comes to healthy travel fare, not all airlines are created equal. Nutrition and public health advocate Charles Platkin’s yearly assessment of food options on various airlines found that you may find healthy options, or you may find yourself out of luck at 35,000 feet. It all depends on which airline you’re flying. Keep reading for tips to keep your trip from ruining your diet.
Virgin America was Platkin’s top choice for 2015. However, he notes they offer “strong choices in all categories except for individual snacks. In fact, all the airlines could do better with their snack choices—there is no clear leader.” JetBlue and Delta were also listed as having healthier fare than other airlines, with Alaska, Spirit, and Frontier bringing up the rear.
The number of calories per menu choice has increased, on average, from 360 in 2012 to 400 in the 2015 assessment. Additionally, the number of options is decreased overall. While Platkin’s site provides specific recommendations depending on which airline you’re flying, it may be a better bet to use some space in your carry-on to pack a snack or light meal.
The following in-flight treats are bound to suit a healthy eating plan better than what’s available on the plane. If you’re planning to stick it out and eat once you’ve reached your destination, keep in mind that airport security and lines can add hours to your flight time. Stash these snacks in your carry-on to stave off the nibbles.
- Water: The human body tends to confuse thirst for hunger, particularly if you’re dehydrated. Drinking enough water will help keep you full and keep jet lag at bay.
- Protein: Protein will give you lasting energy. Pick easy-to-transport options like nuts (keep portions to one ounce per serving), hummus, energy bars, string cheese, jerky, or nut butters.
- Fruit or vegetables: Stash some oranges or apples in your bag, bring along a container of grapes, or pack some baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and spicy radishes.
- Raid the airport: If you find yourself on a last-minute trip, you can often find a big salad, whole fresh produce, or get a sandwich packed with veggies before you board. Look for gourmet food stands for fancy treats, such as hummus, natural nut butters, olives, or other healthy snacks. Refrigerated offerings at food stands can provide healthy protein like hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, or edamame.
Be sure to check TSA flight regulations to be sure what you’re packing and the container it’s held in are allowed.
- Liquids (like salad dressings) or gels (like yogurt and Jell-O) should abide by the 3-1-1 liquids rule, which means containers must be 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or smaller and fit inside one quart-sized, resealable bag. (Medications, foods for babies and children, and liquids purchased in the last 48 hours with receipt present are exempt from this rule.)
- Beverages and other liquids bought after passing through security may be brought on board without regard to the 3-1-1 liquids rule, or passengers can bring empty drink containers through security and fill them in the airport before boarding.
- Pre-packed food items need to be packed securely so they will not spill during screening or travel.
- It’s best to stick with plastic silverware to avoid forks or knives that may fall under the policy that bans sharp objects from carry-on luggage.