Just because you’re flying, doesn’t mean you should eat like a bird. Economy class airplane food often gives you no choice. It’s either notoriously unpalatable, or over-priced and under-nourishing.
While many airlines have broadened their healthier menu items, if you’re on a short-haul flight, chances are, you’ll be charged for food and snacks. So while the nutritional value may have improved, gone are the “good old days” of a complimentary bag of peanuts or pretzels.
Next time you’ve finished packing your luggage, consider packing your own snacks to bring on board. The key is to choose foods that will keep you hydrated and satiated throughout the flight and energizing enough to avoid grabbing airport food and get you to your destination.
If you’d like to save your money and health, read on. (Oh, even though we said it’s the Top Ten 10 airplane snacks, two of the items on the list are not edible, we’re pretty sure we don’t have to tell you which ones.)
1. Empty (preferably eco-friendly) bottle for water
Photo by Francesco Paggiaro from Pexels
Sounds weird? Let me explain. Airplanes are dry and it’s essential to stay hydrated to avoid headaches, lethargy and dry skin. Since customs will not permit you to cross with any liquids over 100 mL (a standard plastic water bottle is 500 mL), you’re stuck buying overpriced bottles of water on the other side of the gate. Bring an empty, reusable bottle to fill once you’re past customs. I do this for flights out of Canada, however, if you are concerned about the tap water quality at the airport from which you are flying, then bottled water is the way to go. Having a large, eco-friendly bottle with you ensures you remain hydrated, rather than waiting for the flight attendant to fill your tiny cup.
2. Veggies & Dip
While you can usually get one or the other on a flight (WestJet offers crackers and hummus for $4; Air Canada’s Onboard Cafe has veggies and ranch dip for $5) the portions are tiny and lacking variety. Include celery and cucumbers with your baby carrots and hummus, to help with hydration. Don’t forget that dips also fall under the 100ml rule. Other dips to try are salsa and almond butter, since dairy-based dips, like ranch, won’t stay fresh as long. Avoid garlicky hummus or sharp-smelling onion or blue cheese dips to be considerate to fellow passengers. You may also want to skip cruciferous veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower, as they can cause gas, which needless to say is unpleasant to anyone in enclosed cabin quarters!
On a recent charter flight, I opted for a pastrami sandwich on a pretzel bun. Unless you’re a fan of meat that looks like it’s being held together with gristle and fat, flopping out of soggy dough, then I’m pretty sure you’d have been as repulsed by it as I was. In-flight sandwiches deserve their bad rap, so next time, I’m going to make a wrap. Or pack a sandwich in a zip baggie. Again, just don’t pack any stinky salami or anything that’s an olfactory offender.
4. Nuts & Seeds
Photo by Marta Branco from Pexels
Ok, so eating like a bird isn’t always a bad thing—seeds are a great way to get protein and feel full longer. Be sure to squirrel some away for your flight in some sealed containers, but be sure to skip the peanuts, as they are a common allergen. In terms of seeds, think pumpkin or shelled sunflower seeds. Raw nuts like almonds and cashews are your best bet, or lightly salted (too much salt will dehydrate you.) Pistachios are ok if they’re shelled, you don’t want the noise and mess of opening them, otherwise.
5. Fruit & Dried Fruit
So you’ve grabbed your nuts — er, followed the advice from above, so now add some dried fruit. We like dried cranberries and apricots, but feel free to add dry blueberries, raisins or goji berries to your nuts and seeds, or enjoy them on their own. Fresh fruit is convenient and cheap, (and keeps you hydrated! Are you beginning to see a theme, here?) Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are nice to pop in your mouth during the flight. Just avoid bananas which brown easily and leave a pungent peel behind.
Wasabi peas, lightly salted popcorn and pretzels, rice crackers, breadsticks and veggie chips are all tasty options that have a satisfying crunch factor. Enjoy your own movie theatre in the sky when you pull out your popcorn to accompany your in-flight movie. These crunchy snacks are also easy to share with your seatmate.
It’s super easy to pack these. Granola, protein, meal replacement bars, you get the picture.
8. Small salads
Opt for a salad base that is dense, like chick peas, quinoa or couscous, mixed with diced veggies, as leafy lettuce might fill up a small bowl; your stomach, not so much. Feel free to add some of the nuts, seeds and dried fruits to them. If you’ve forgotten a plastic fork, you can ask a flight attendant for one. When including a salad dressing, make sure it’s in a small container and doesn’t exceed 100 mL.
9. Candied ginger
Oh, the mighty ginger! Ginger eases air and motion sickness, prevents bloating and gas (I won’t go there again), is an anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the swelling and puffiness caused by cabin pressure. The candied ginger will also help satisfy sweet cravings.
10. Butter knife or plastic knife
You are permitted these utensils on a plane, so feel free to pack ‘em for slicing food and spreading. We’re not crazy about using plastic, so if you have a dull butter knife we encourage you to use that.
These food suggestions will help keep you hydrated, nourished and sated throughout your journey. Hungry for more tips? Find out why airplane food gets such a bad rap and which airlines have hacked the science of making plane food that actually tastes great.
Editor’s note: eating healthy is timeless, but this post was originally published in December 2014 and updated where we saw ‘fit’!