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Summer Travel Tips: Healthy Airplane Snacks

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Updated February 15, 2014

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Think ahead and have a smart snack at home to keep mid-flight cravings at bay!

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Healthy airplane snacks aren't as difficult to come by as they used to be, but if you find yourself using an airline that hasn't improved their offerings, it's best to prepare.

Consider the contents of the "snack pack" that my friend Aaron recently brought back from a flight on a major U.S. airline:

    • mini summer sausage
    • cheese
    • cheese crackers
    • corn chips
    • cookies
    • raisins
Aaron scarfed the raisins (good move!) and brought the rest to me for a quick calorie calculation. My estimation of the grand total? A shocking 1,064 calories. That's right -- a 1,000-calorie snack!

With this example in mind, you may need to plan your own snack tactics for your summer travel. Check out these tips to choose or pack healthy airplane snacks:

  • Do some homework before you take off. The next time you're checking out your flight information online, click around to find out if your snack box options are listed so you can choose ahead of time. If the snack is a no-go altogether, you can be prepared with an alternative snack of your own (Scroll down for ideas on BYO snacks!).
  • Ask if the airline provides an alternative, healthier snack option even if it's not listed. If there are multiple options listed online, look for clues like "smart" or "fit" in the snack box name. But you still need to be careful: Not everyone's idea of "healthy" translates to diet-friendly. (Case in point? I was once provided a packet of full-fat granola with peanuts and chocolate chips as a "smart" snack option. It packed in a whopping 440 calories!)
  • Plan ahead about the meals and snacks happening before your flight. It always takes longer than planned to get off the ground and running, so even if your normal mealtime is hours away when you leave for the airport, it's a smart move to have a snack or mini-meal before you go. Doing so will curb your appetite, prevent overeating down the road, and help you say no to those less-than-preferable snacks after you've circled the runway a few too many times. (The free snacks are particularly hard to resist in this situation!)
  • Keep your brain busy by doing something instead of nodding off, chatting with a row-mate, (or, if you're me ... gripping your armrests, muttering about how you should have driven instead!). Staying occupied will prevent you from eating from boredom (or, if you're me ... mortal fear!). Journaling or reading a good book are both engrossing. (Personally, I swear by crosswords. Whether I'm mid-air or it's mid-afternoon on the mainland, doing a crossword helps me fend off almost any craving.)
  • Be selective -- remove the chips, crackers, meat, muffins, corn chips (you get the picture) from your standard snack box and enjoy whatever is left over. The exception to this? If you're offered baked chips, whole-grain crackers, turkey, and the like... feel free to munch!
  • Stay hydrated. This is important all the time, but drinking enough water is especially important when you're flying, to prevent dehydration. If you get dehydrated, the "signals" of hunger and thirst can get crossed and you may start to feel simply famished even if you're not truly hungry.
  • Walk around the cabin when you're given the go-ahead to. Just a small burst of light activity can get your mind off munching.
  • And lastly, bring your own snack. Here are some ideas:
    • a zipper bag of whole-grain cereal
    • your favorite 100 calorie package
    • a dried fruit packet
    • string cheese
    • turkey jerky
    • single serving of unsalted or lightly-salted almonds
    • sugar-free candy or gum (to keep your mouth busy!)
    • More: Healthy On-the-Go Snacks

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