Every traveler knows that feeling of being stuck at the airport. Your flight’s delayed, you’re irritated, bored, hungry (or worse, hangry), and totally out of your element. Here’s how to eat healthy so you won’t feel even worse.
Traveling is stressful, no matter how excited you are about your destination. Even the most experienced travelers dread the thought of lost luggage, missed flights, long delays, and every other possible complication.
When you’re stressed, your body remains in constant fight-or-flight mode. If you add processed, low-nutrient food on top of that, it can aggravate inflammation and cause digestion issues, uncomfortable bloating, and increase stomach acid.
It’s hard to diminish the stress of traveling, but if you make better choices in the food department, it can make your airport experience a lot more pleasant.
Here’s how to fit in some healthy eats, so you’re not stuck on a plane with a stomachache after a Cinnabon bender.
Pack Your Own Food
If you can, take your own food with you to the airport. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting—no hidden sugars or processed fats will trick you. And you can satisfy your hunger and the crazy travel cravings that tend to accompany anxiety. You can’t bring liquids, though. No matter how much you love your protein shake, it’ll end up in the trash if you try to take it through a TSA security screening.
You can either cook something at home or get take out from your favorite restaurant. Pack it in a container and seal it well. Don’t bother packing utensils as you’ll find plenty at the airport food stalls. Plus, packing a knife in your carry-on is not a good idea.
Bring some healthy snacks, like nuts, seeds, fruit, raw veggies, healthy cookies, energy balls, or protein bars. You’ll stay full longer and have more energy to deal with any delayed flights or other unexpected situations.
Buy Snacks at the Airport
If you don’t want to pack your own food, you can pick up some snacks in the shops at the airport. Opt for nuts or seeds, protein or energy bars, or a smoothie (if you can find one that isn’t just made of fruit).
Read the labels on the back of the products and try to find something with as few ingredients as possible. Raw almonds should contain only almonds, and smoothies should contain only fruit and vegetables (no added sugars).
Eat at an Airport Restaurant
If you’re unable to find anything healthy in the shops, venture over to a deli or restaurant. You’ll find the majority of airport restaurants are fast-food chains. But there’s almost always some sort of raw veggie with hummus or salad option available.
It might not be the comfort food you’re craving after a rough trip through security, but at least you won’t feel bloated. Thankfully, some big companies, like Starbucks, carry healthier items, so there’s always something you can find; you just have to look.
Most airports have a bunch of airline lounges, although, it’s tough to get into them in the U.S.—in Europe, you just pay to get in. If you’re in the airline’s program or, sometimes, if you have a credit card tied to the company, you can breeze right in.
American Express Platinum cards, for instance, will get you in most lounges. Or you might be able to leverage your “frequent flyer status” to get in. The food options there are usually the best at the airport, as they always have a bunch of fresh vegetables and fruit available.
If you do have the option (and time) to get into one of the lounges, you can skip scrounging around for food.
If you practice intermittent fasting, you can either extend your fasting window or make it fit perfectly into the hours you spend at the airport.
However, we really don’t recommend you fast while you travel if you don’t have a lot of experience with it. It can be completely counterproductive because it can make you nauseous and light-headed.
If you skip a meal or two, and that’s not your normal routine, it’s a sure way to have a bad time at the airport.
Although we’ve focused primarily on eating at the airport, let’s take a moment to talk about airplane food. Eventually, even if it feels like the wait to board will never end, you’re on the plane and stuck with whatever food is on offer.
First and foremost, the airline you fly with matters. Low-cost companies tend to have smaller menus and fewer options. However, if you’re willing to pay the premium for them, many budget airlines have a surprising number of food options.
Second, the duration of your flight matters, as well. Longer flights tend to include meals in the price of your ticket, while shorter ones require payment.
Third, whether you fly economy or business class matters, too. Business class gets a bigger menu and more “fine dining” options.
Still, airplane food is airplane food. No matter how “good” it looks, it’s rarely fresh or super healthy. Luckily, there are usually some sort of nut or trail mix packs, and sometimes, even salads or energy bars. For longer flights, you can usually choose your meal in advance.
Now that you know your options, you’re better prepared and, hopefully, you won’t be stressed about the menu when you’re in the air.
It’s definitely more of a hassle to plan ahead and skip the easy (and unhealthy) options at the airport. But if you eat nutritious and nourishing food while you travel, it’s a great way to start your vacation or business trip feeling your best.