I recently had a 40+ hour journey through quite a few airports on my way back from the diplomate program. Thanks to the severe weather we were having in the Midwest, delays and cancellations were common. While I thoroughly enjoy advancing my knowledge in the craniocervical junction, I’m not a fan of the food options (and prices) in airports. But, with a little preparation and knowledge, you can eat healthy while flying.

Bring your own healthy snacks

While security at airports may be restrictive in many areas, food isn’t one of them. As long as it isn’t high in liquid content, snacks and other items are usually allowed. However, they may be subject to additional screening.

While it’s hard to pack a full meal in a small carry on bag, healthy snacks can help tide you over. In my case, I packed some organic granola to munch on. I left it in my carry-on and it never caused an issue through security.

The items you bring with you should be satiating with plenty of good fats & proteins and low in sugar. Try things like snap peas, mandarins, or homemade trail mix with raw nuts and no-sugar-added dried fruit.

If you’re curious about what is allowed, check out  the TSA website about food. Keep in mind that the final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint. So don’t bring any snacks you aren’t prepared to throw away or snarf down quickly.

Food at the terminal 

If you can’t bring enough healthy snacks through security, there are plenty of quick shops that have small items to grab on the go. Look for places that have a bowl of fresh fruit, trail mixes, granola/protein bars, and even yogurt or dark chocolate. Make sure to check labels to avoid added sugar.

Sometimes, you can’t stash enough food in your carry-on. Long trips or unexpected delays mean a snack isn’t going to cut it. A bag of granola wasn’t enough for me. So what should you look for? What should you avoid?

To save time and avoid greasy, unhealthy options stay away from sit down restaurants and fast food joints. In addition to being bad options on many diets, they take time you might not have. Even the fast food places. In my experience, they always have the longest lines because everyone else is rushing.

Better options are places that have freshly made salads and sandwiches. They usually come with lean protein and dietary fiber to help you feel fuller. Make sure to skip on pre-packaged types as they’re usually swimming in extra dressing or condiments. Most coffee shops in airports will have oatmeal. High in fiber and potassium, it makes a nice snack or light meal.

Stay hydrated

While liquids may be restricted, most airports have water bottle filling stations. Keeping hydrated is important, so bring an empty bottle through security or buy a bottle past the checkpoint. You can refill it throughout the journey.

Eating right

A key point about eating healthy is that it is an ongoing habit. Changes from fast and greasy to lean and healthy (and vice versa) usually come with some intestinal distress for a day or so. Traveling in an enclosed space with strangers is not a great time for this. So try and maintain a normal diet when traveling.

If you’re already eating healthy, this guide can help you navigate the food options at the airport. If your normal diet isn’t as good as you’d like, make the change at home. It’s a comfortable environment and you’ll have more time & options.

Safe travels!