It’s that time of year again: holiday season aka travel season. Many folks are preparing to live out of a suitcase for the next few weeks as they make moves to see family and friends or take that long-awaited vacation. Tis the season for indulgence, too, so, if you’re focused on staying on track diet-wise, you’re probably looking for easy ways to stay healthy in the moments before those big get-togethers centered around food. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to stay healthy while en route, even if you’re going by plane. As long as you pack TSA-friendly snacks, you can skip the airport fast food options and bring your own wholesome, whole foods to munch on. Here is everything you need to know to get through security with your healthy snacks in tow.
Rules to Remember
There are a few rules of thumb that TSA reinforces when traveling, particularly when it comes to liquids. You should always keep the 3-1-1 liquids rule in mind when putting together meals and snacks. If you fly regularly, you know it well:
- 3.4 ounces or less per container
- 1 quart-size, clear plastic zip-top bag (all liquids must fit in bag)
- 1 bag per passenger
There are certain items that can exceed this amount if you’re traveling with children, including juice, breast milk, and baby formula. Just remember, all food must undergo X-ray screening. TSA officers ultimately make the final decision on which items are permitted into the secured areas of the airport.
To avoid hassle and confusion, refer to the simple tips from experts below that will help you prepare and pack snacks for your next trip.
How to Pack Fruits and Vegetables
When bringing fruits and vegetables on board, make sure they’re in their solid form. You can pack both fresh and frozen in your carry-on or checked luggage. Pureed, mashed, or fruit cups are subject to the restrictions applied to liquids. “Hand fruits like an apple or pear are easy to pack. It’s also likely easier to pack a fruit with a thick skin or that you can peel, like an orange or banana. This helps to keep your fruit clean and safe to eat if you aren’t able to wash it off,” says Rachel Paul, Ph.D., R.D., of The College Nutritionist.
When organizing your luggage and packing snacks, opt for a collapsible food container. “To keep fresh fruits and veggies from getting crushed or bruised, pack them in BPA-free, reusable, and collapsible food containers,” says Serena Poon, celebrity chef and nutritionist, wellness expert, and founder of Just Add Water™️. “They take up little space in your carry-on while also protecting your product and keeping it fresh. When you’re finished with your fresh snacks, the containers easily collapse and store for later use.”
What if I can’t bring produce?
What you pack largely depends on where you’re going. Certain destinations, such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, do not allow fresh fruit or vegetables onboard in order to prevent the introduction of invasive plants. Adrienne Bolten, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., says, “When fresh fruit is not an option, I choose hummus with lentil chips, air-popped popcorn, pistachio nuts, or almonds.” Bolten notes that if a flight is peanut-free, go for shelled pumpkin or sunflower seeds instead of nuts. Another delicious option is a small bar of dark chocolate to help you unwind once you’ve gone through security and are comfortably settled in your seat.
Give Your Hydration a Boost
It’s extremely important to remain hydrated in general—but even more so while traveling. The high altitudes can cause dehydration. Plus, the lack of moisture in an airplane’s pressurized cabin dries out your mucous membranes. This makes it more difficult for your body to flush out germs. It’s ideal to boost your immune system a few days before traveling. Do this by loading up on fresh-pressed organic green juice. “The vitamins and nutrients from the juice, along with the probiotics, will strengthen your digestive system and thereby the entire immune system,” Poon says.
Good old water is always an excellent choice. But giving it a boost can help you reap the benefits of some extra vitamins. “I always bring Ultima with me when I travel, especially over the holidays,” says Katie Bressack, holistic nutritionist and women’s health coach. “I add it to my water and it helps with hydration. But it’s also full of minerals and vitamins, which I find helps me stay healthy when I travel. It’s a balanced electrolyte formula with no sugar, [and it has] potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, and plenty of vitamin C to help ward off colds.”
Other options for staying hydrated include fruit-infused water, sodium-free seltzer, and coconut water. “Once I go through security, I usually like to purchase a coconut water to help counteract the potential for dehydration during the flight,” Bolten says.
Take tea bags.
If you prefer warm beverages, bring some herbal tea bags. Once you’re on the plane, all you need is hot water. “Herbal tinctures and salves are great for helping us maintain balance when we’re away from home, and tea bags are the easiest and lightest way to travel with them,” Poon says. “I love ginger tea because, in traditional Chinese medicine, it’s warming for the body, which helps with that cold, recirculated air in the airplane cabin. It’s also great for healthy digestion and nausea that can come with motion sickness.” Other herbal teas to consider packing are chamomile and lavender for calming your nerves and helping you relax.
Pack Food the Right Way
Packing food the right way is easier than you think. All you need are a few budget-friendly essentials. Always make sure to have enough plastic bags—or Stasher bags that are eco-friendly and reusable. This will help cut down on the bulk and keep items fresh. Most security checkpoints now require that all food items be taken out of your carry-on for scanning. Poon suggests “collapsible food containers to pack some high–water content fruits or veggies like cucumbers, celery, or melons to snack on.”
Another option is buying preportioned single-serving snacks if you don’t have the time to prep beforehand. Stocking up on non-perishable snacks that have wholesome, real ingredients helps you when planning for future trips as well.
Always opt for trail mix.
The best DIY snack that’s worry- and mess-free is trail mix. With a simple combination of raw, unsalted organic nuts such as almonds or cashews and some dried, unsweetened, and organic berries, you can say goodbye to hunger pains. “Berries are naturally low in glycemia, full of fiber and antioxidants, and, when dried, can be both tart and sweet. Try adding dark tart cherries, as they have natural melatonin for helping you sleep,” Poon explains. “The nuts are a great source of fiber, healthy fats, and vitamin B6, so they help fight that post-flight bloat. For a special treat, throw in a few pieces of extra-dark chocolate chips. They’re full of polyphenols that have a prebiotic effect, helping your gut and digestion.”
Now you can take on holiday season travel with you TSA-friendly snacks in tow!