As you all know I travel and racecation quite frequently whether by car, plane, or train. I even recently booked a fall racecation in Milwaukee!! It can be tough to travel and stay healthy on the go, particularly when balancing luggage and airport regulations. This is why I am thrilled to share with you a guest post on healthy meals for airplane travel by Dr. Ernest Brown.
Dr. Brown is a native Washingtonian and founder of Doctors To You–an on-call, on-site medical practice currently providing care for patients in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia. Unlike physicians who are planted at an office or clinic, it’s hard to try to guess where Dr. Brown is at any given day or time. He provides 24-7 care to VIPs and tourists who need medical care while visiting the Capitol region, dignitaries at diplomatic residences and embassies, and elder residents who require regular check-ins by their physician but can’t get to a doctor’s office.
If you’re a runner, like Mar, then you’re likely pretty cognizant of your intake (the good, the bad and the ugly). And you should be. It takes time and care to ensure you’re eating what’s necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle–even if you’re not a “runner.”
This can be particularly challenging when you’re traveling to the next marathon or if you’re on the road for business or pleasure–especially while in transit. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
From my kitchen to yours, here’s a list of several TSA-friendly, foods that you can take with you that are both healthy and delicious. So the next time you’re packing carry-on luggage, consider some energy-giving food to nosh on during the airport wait and on your flight.
TSA guidelines for carry-on food and beverage
TSA’s guidelines for food and beverages that can be brought through security are fairly simple to follow. There is a list of prohibited items that includes cranberry sauce, salsa, gravy, sauces and more. Check out the full list here. There are plenty of things you can bring, including whole fruits and vegetables, to give you the energy you need for the trip.
Since all food will have to go through the checkpoint (in other words, on the belt and through the x-ray), it’s important that sandwiches and partially eaten whole fruits or vegetables are wrapped in a TSA-recommended sealed plastic bags. Other food should be stored in sealed, clear plastic containers. Any sauces or liquids must be three ounces or less, and must fit into a one-quart resealable bag. All the liquids and gels you bring on the flight must fit into the same bag. So don’t make the mistake of packing your three ounce hummus container with your food. It’s got to go in with your toothpaste.
With all the restrictions around gels and liquids, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pack tiny three ounce containers of water. It’s best, instead, to bring along an empty water bottle to fill at a water fountain past the checkpoint, or plan on purchasing a full one once you reach the boarding area shops.
Staying hydrated is critical while traveling. Our bodies like to be in 40 percent to 70 percent humidity. The plane’s atmosphere gets as low as 20 percent, which can cause dry eyes, sore throat and more. The best way to combat that is to drink lots of water.
Now that we understand the rules, let’s move on to the meals. Here are several recipes of my favorite travel foods. These aren’t 100% original, but I’ve tweaked them for ease and travel-friendliness.
Snack items for airplane ride
Rather than buying a bag of chips, try veggie sticks–a mixture of celery, carrot and yellow pepper packed into plastic bags as a healthy, natural choice. Whole fruits like bananas, tangerines, nectarines, apples and pears are a great choice and are completely within TSA guidelines. Just don’t take a bite before you go through the checkpoint. If you do, you’ll need to seal the fruit in a plastic bag.
If the above aren’t enough, consider one of these satisfying snacks that can provide an energy boost and tide you over until you land.
1. DIY Trail Mix
Do-it-yourself trail mix has limitless possibilities. To be considerate of potential tree nut allergies of your fellow passengers, I’m providing a nut-free, but still very healthy, trail mix. You’ll need:
- 1 cup currants (dried zante grapes)
- 1 cup banana chips
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup dark chocolate chunks (optional)
Combine all the ingredients and divide into servings. Store in a sealable clear plastic bag and munch away.
2. Caprese Kabobs
Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. Mozzarella is a source of calcium, biotin and B6, along with a host of other “good cheese” health benefits. For this delicious snack, you’ll need:
- 6 blunt-ended plastic skewers
- 1 cup organic cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup small mozzarella balls
- 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
- Fresh whole basil leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
- Balsamic vinegar (to taste)
Soak the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls and sundried tomatoes in balsamic vinegar (optional). Drain, and set aside.
Assemble the kabobs with a tomato, mozzarella ball, sundried tomato, basil leaf arrangement until full. Cap with tomatoes to keep everything in place. Drizzle with olive oil (optional) and carry in a clear, sealable plastic bag. Keep refrigerated until the last possible moment.
Healthy salads you can travel with
1. Chickpeas with Lemon & Herbs
This flavorful salad is packed with vitamin B6, which helps boost brain function. To simplify, I use canned chickpeas and refrigerate the salad overnight before flying. For this tasty salad you’ll need:
- 1 quartered yellow onion
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 halved carrots
- 1 celery rib
- 2 cans drained chickpeas
- 1 herb bouquet with fresh rosemary and thyme
- 1 finely chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
- Another cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup fine-chopped Italian parsley
Coat the red onions in the red wine vinegar, and soak them while you’re cooking the chickpeas.
Heat the olive oil in a big pot. Throw in the yellow onion, celery and carrot and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the chickpeas, herb bouquet and a little bit of water and cook until bubbly, about 15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat to cool.
Once the mixture has cooled, drain the chickpeas and discard the rest. Drain the red onions and discard the vinegar.
Mix the red onion, chickpeas, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil and whatever other chopped veggies you want to include, fold in the chopped parsley, and seal in an airtight container.
Refrigerate for at least 6 hours. And don’t forget to pack in a clear plastic container to avoid problems at the checkpoint.
2. Greek Pasta Salad with Broccoli
Broccoli is a great source of chromium, a mineral that helps regulate the body’s blood sugar and aids in digestion. Feta is a cheese that can stand up to lack of refrigeration longer than most, and adds a natural salty flavor to this dish that makes it extra tasty. You’ll need:
- 1 pound cooked bowtie pasta
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 head organic broccoli, chopped into bite-size chunks
- 1 cup feta cheese
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives (optional)
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Toss the cooked pasta with one tablespoon of the olive oil to keep it from sticking.
In a skillet, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and add the broccoli. Cook over medium heat for about six minutes until it’s tender but still crisp.
Toss the broccoli, feta, olives and pasta with the remaining olive oil and red wine vinegar. Refrigerate overnight, and transport in a clear, airtight container.
Sandwiches to take on-the-go
1. English Muffin with Egg, Veggies and Avocado
When making this sandwich, use a whole wheat english muffin for a chromium boost. The egg will provide vitamin D–the vitamin we’re missing cooped up in airports and planes. Vitamin D can help boost the immune system and may even fight depression. The avocado in this sandwich provides folate for a surge of serotonin, and you can choose from a number of vegetables for a great, healthy meal. you’ll need:
- 1 whole wheat english muffin
- 1 egg, scrambled and folded
- 1/2 avocado, smashed
- Handful arugula
- Assorted veggies (cucumbers, tomato, red onion, etc)
Smear the smashed avocado on both halves of a toasted english muffin. Add the folded egg and veggies between. Wrap tightly in clear plastic wrap and put into a clear, sealable plastic bag. The flavors will mingle and the sandwich will be delicious.
2. Healthy PB & J
There are, believe it or not, benefits to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In addition to being packed with protein, the right choices can mean a fiber and vitamin-filled sandwich.
Here’s my pick for the best PB & J. You’ll need:
- 2 sliced sprouted grain bread
- Pure, organic nut butter made without added oils or sugars
- Chia seed jam (recipe below)
For the chia seed jam, just sprinkle three tablespoons over your choice of berries (raspberries, blackberries, or a combination), and mash together until combined. Chia seeds are full of omega 3, which is great for fighting fatigue and mood swings.
Prepare the sandwich by spreading the nut butter over both sides of the bread to create a seal. This will keep the sandwich from getting soggy during transit. Put the chia seed jam in the middle, close it up, and wrap it in clear plastic wrap. Transport it in a sealable clear plastic bag. Keep in mind that sprouted bread has no preservatives, so eat this sandwich within a few hours of making it.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to eat healthier on the go. You’re worth the extra time and effort to ensure that your travel experience includes healthy snacks and meals.
I want to thank Dr. Brown for taking the time to write on this topic specifically for Mar on the Run! To learn more about Dr. Brown and Doctors to You, visit their website and like them on Facebook. He has also been featured in a variety of prominent publications, including NPR and ABC News.
Do you travel with your own meals or snacks? What are some of your favorites? Have you tried any of Dr. Brown’s recommendations?