If you’re a late-night, last-minute packer like I am, snacks are probably the last thing on your mind as you’re running through mental checklists of everything you need for your trip.
But I’ve had enough tight connections resulting from flight delays to know that picking up food at the airport isn’t always an option, and being hungry while stuck on an airplane isn’t fun. As a result, granola bars and an empty reusable water bottle are now on my packing list (in addition to phone and laptop chargers, floss and the like).
An ideal airport snack is easy to eat on the go, doesn’t take up a lot of room in your bag, and is filling enough to keep you going until you have time to eat a full meal. For some healthy inspiration, I chatted with three registered dietitians to learn about their favorite airport snacks. Tuck a few of these into your carry-on so you’ll have something to eat if lines at the food court are super-long and you don’t have enough time to grab a bite between flights.
Whether homemade or store-bought, this is a simple snack on the go. Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and media spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, makes his own trail mix with raisins, pistachios, walnuts and granola.
“I like trail mix because eating just a handful can satiate my appetite for a long period of time,” Valdez said. “It is packed with protein, fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.”
Nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts)
“I don’t always pack snacks for air travel, but when I do I typically pack small packaged nutrient- and calorie-dense items to help keep me satisfied and my hunger at bay for longer periods of time,” Kris Sollid, senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council, said. Nuts are a nutrient-dense source of healthy fats. Some of his favorites are almonds, pistachios and walnuts.
Unsalted, dry-roasted almonds are a must-have for Amy Gorin, a plant-based dietitian and owner of Master the Media. “These are also great in a pinch when mealtime gets pushed back,” she said. “I have something substantial to eat so I don’t get cranky.”
This is another simple snack that you can either pick up at the store or go the homemade route.
“I like to pack a bag of homemade roasted chickpeas with me for my airplane ride,” Gorin said. “I love snacking on these because they’re crunchy and satisfying, and they provide plant protein and fiber to help keep you fuller for longer.”
You can make them yourself and flavor them any way you want, Gorin added, so they never get boring. Watch this video to see how to make them:
“A bite-size sweet treat like dark chocolate always makes air travel a little more enjoyable,” Sollid said. He added that it pairs well with coffee –– a must for early morning flights.
Valdez makes sure to pack a few protein bars in his carry-on bag. Their high protein content helps keep him satiated, which decreases his likelihood of seeking out other foods at the airport, which can often be unhealthy (ahem, food courts). When picking up snack bars, Sollid looks for varieties that are high in fiber, protein and healthy fats. Check out our story on nutritionists’ favorite healthy snack bars.
“You can usually find a banana in my carry-on bag, and one big reason is because it’s an extremely portable fruit,” Gorin said. “I also like that bananas boast potassium. And since a lot of airport food is higher in sodium, this helps to counteract that sodium to benefit heart health.”
Valdez is also a fan of packing fresh fruits like apples, oranges, grapes and bananas, as they are filled with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.