Healthy Travels: What to Do When Flying

by in Dining Out, Healthy Tips, November 3, 2009

I’m no stranger to long-distance flying. Every summer I travel with my family on a 12-hour flight to Israel. Packing food and drinks can be tricky, especially since you can’t bring beverages and space in limited carry-on bags. If you’re flying somewhere this holiday season, here are tips to keep you from starving — or oversnacking — on your trip.

The Food
There’s no such thing as included meals anymore. These days, you’ll need to buy food or bring your own on most flights. Besides saving money on overpriced airplane (and airport) food, your own grub undoubtedly will taste better. Problem is you have limited space to carry food — so smart packing is a must.

I typically take dry foods for the kids to munch on. Graham crackers, goldfish, pretzels, dry cereal or raisins and a granola bar work for the whole family. Kids get bored on flights, so instead of shoving candy or lots of food at them, bring some games (sticker books, playdough and color-by-number pictures are big hits with my crew). During take-off and landing, you’ll find that many kids start crying due to the change in pressure and its effect on their ears — make sure to have them suck a lollipop, munch on food or drink something. It helps “pop” their ears and alleviate the pressure.

Sandwiches are also a good idea, but forgo the stinky stuff. A tuna or salami sandwich may sound tempting, but they start smelling after sitting in your bag for a couple hours and your fellow passengers won’t be pleased. Some easy sandwiches include cream cheese with sliced cucumbers, hummus and veggies, peanut butter and jelly, turkey and cheese. Coolers are bulky and take up precious space. For shorter flights (less than four hours), you don’t need one. On longer flights, use a small cooler for foods that easily spoil (this would be any food you’d keep in the fridge). It’s important to keep all foods refrigerated until you’re about to leave your home and not to eat them once you’ve landed. Some easy items to pack from home in your cooler:

  • String cheese
  • Fresh fruit
  • Cut up veggies with a side of hummus
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Rice pudding (Kozy sells travel-sized cups)

The airport is another place to pick up a last minute snack. Your options are usually limited to fast food joints and quick-stop coffee shops (i.e. Starbucks). Sometimes I find a healthier grab-and-go deli, but they’re always very pricey. Here’s a list of healthier items that you can probably find at the airport:

  • Fresh fruit (i.e. banana or apple)
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Pretzels
  • Garden salad (ask for vinaigrette on the side)
  • Grilled chicken sandwich or wrap (avoid those with added mayo)

The Drinks
I’ve flown with a 3-month old infant in tow—and nursing is an option (they can’t confiscate that liquid!). If you’re not comfortable feeding in public, pack along a small towel. For formula fed infants, measure out powdered formula for several bottles—you can get a mixture of hot and cold water on the plane.

It’s important to drink enough fluids while flying—you tend to dehydrate quicker than usual. For kids, bring along an empty sippy cup or water bottle to fill on the plane with milk or water.—believe me, kids can’t sit still and the open cups spill in no time. You know your child is drinking enough if they take a few trips to the restroom (remember, they have smaller bladders than adults). Some airports allow you to buy beverages once you’ve passed security—I’ve been asked to show my receipt before boarding the plane to prove it. You can always check with your local carrier to verify any rules in your area.

TELL US: What healthy snacks do you pack for the airplane?

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