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Nutrition Notes: Stay Healthy and Save Money Traveling This Summer

by Jenna Richter, Dietetic Intern

It doesn’t matter who you are, even with the slightest mention of “airplane food,” a collective groan or general look of disgust is bound to emerge. I get it. It’s easy to grab a quick burger from a fast food joint while you’re shuffling between terminals or driving in the car, but let’s be honest, even if fast food was primarily healthy, having it every day while you’re on vacation gets old pretty quickly.

The good news is, with a little planning ahead, you don’t need to rely on what’s in the airport or off the side of the road for a bite to eat during your summer travels. What some people might be unaware of, is that in the United States (and in most other countries), you are allowed to bring your own food with you to the airport and onboard the plane (yes- something you can do on a plane. Cue the applause!)

Below you can find some TSA-approved snack ideas that can easily be packed and transported with you on the plane, the car or any other mode of transportation you so choose:

1. Homemade sandwiches wrapped in parchment paper, and stored in a quart-sized plastic bag (that part is specific to plane travel.) Remember that all food that you carry on a plane will need to go through the x-ray machine, so be sure not to use any foil.

2. Dips and sauces such as hummus, salsa and almond butter can come on the plane, but remember, they need to be in a 3.4 ounce container or smaller and placed into a quart-sized plastic bag. The travel-size packs that are available from some brands are perfect!

3. Fresh fruits and veggies, such as apples, bananas and avocados. Just wash them at home or in your hotel room before you put them in your bag. You can also bring a butter knife with you if you’re traveling by plane (believe it or not.) Keep in mind however that if you’re traveling internationally, fresh fruits and veggies may not be allowed through customs, so for these trips you may need to just pack enough to get you through your flight, otherwise you’ll be forced to throw away any extra food. If you’re traveling by car, these items should ideally be kept in a cooler in the backseat of your car as opposed to the trunk where they are less likely to be kept cool by the air conditioner.

4. Crunchy snacks such as crackers, popcorn, kale chips, etc.

5. Dried fruit and raw nuts- these make a great snack while you’re on the go. You can make your own mix: 1/2 cup each of raw almonds, coconut flakes, dried cherries or raisins, and raw walnuts. Airports and convenience shops usually have trail mix available for purchase, but they often contain inflammatory oils, or other additives.

6. Pre-made salads. Salad dressing can be packed separately as long as it’s in a 3.4 oz. or smaller container (again, for traveling by plane only.) However, a great tip is to simply pour your dressing in the bottom of the bowl or container first, and then layer your greens on top for mixing in later so you don’t need to bring a separate container for your dressing, and your salad stays minimally soggy. (Just don’t forget to bring a fork- and yes, this too is allowed to be carried on the plane with you!)

7. Empty thermos and empty water bottles – any size. These are great for filling up after you get through security in an airport, or when you’re on the road and make periodic stops for water. Bringing your own refillable water bottles will also save you money as opposed to buying bottled water. If you’re going to any countries where you fear for the safety of their tap water, there are special water bottles available with filters inside. Check out this site to see if the tap water in the country you’re visiting is considered safe or not. Tip: Bring your own tea bags in your bag with you, and enjoy something warm and soothing to drink during your busy travel days!

For additional information about what is allowed on board your plane, check out the TSA’s website and search for specific foods or other items. If you are traveling internationally, make sure you review any customs restrictions for the country you’re visiting- these may differ from TSA’s rules.

You may be thinking, okay great I’m allowed to bring all this food with me but how will I carry it all? There are actually plenty of carry-on-size, travel-friendly coolers that you can count as your second carry-on bag, or conveniently keep in your car! Tip: you can use frozen berries or other frozen foods to keep perishable food cold inside your cooler, and not waste space with excess ice; plus, if you bring some plain, low fat yogurt with you, you can top your yogurt with berries after they’ve defrosted a bit! The TSA does allow frozen food (including ice) as long as it’s completely frozen upon coming through security (again, going back to the “no more than 3.4 ounce liquid rule.”) Still wanting some healthy snack ideas to bring with you? For some specific food items to consider packing, check this list out, and this one too!

Remember! Maintaining a nutrient-rich diet is critical each day, but especially while traveling. Being in close contact with so many people may compromise your immune system, especially if you’re not receiving adequate immuno-boosting vitamins and minerals from your diet. Also, staying sedentary for long periods of time may upset your body’s usual digestive processes. It’s important to take walks whenever possible, drink plenty of water, and do your best to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to ensure an all-around, pleasant travelling experience- your tummies will thank you!

Tips and tricks adopted from Food Babe, and http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/lifestyle/travel/health-takes-flight.