in the last year, the amount of travel i've been doing has increased well over 100% and most of that is by airplane. many of these trips are in and out in a day, meaning i'm spending the majority of my day in an airport (have you seen my check-ins on foursquare??). you don't have to travel often to know that any type of travel takes you away from the creature comforts of home and all the meal planning and workout routines we rely on to keep us healthy and sane. through trial and lots of error, i've come up with a few tips & tricks that help me stay on the healthy track when i'm flying in and out of airports. hopefully they will be helpful for you on your next trip!
tip #1: know your airportsone of the best ways to stay on track is to know where you'll be spending your time. just like you'd research restaurants before going out to eat, you want to research and know your airports!
- research the food/restaurant options at each terminal. know what restaurants exist where in the airport and make a plan for getting to the places where you'll have healthy options (rather than stopping at the closest/quickest food place near your flight). pro-tip: sometimes the magazines in the plane will have airport terminal maps with restaurants listed on them if you don't research before you fly!
- memorize the food offerings at your home base airport. this way you'll always have a quick, go-to option when you're in a pinch.
- have a go-to list of food you can eat for different cuisine types. you should already have this in the back of your mind for dining out, but have a list of 2-3 foods you know you can eat at coffee shops, deli-quick service places, fast food joints and americana sit down restaurants. these are the typical categories of food options you'll find in airports no matter where you fly!
- my go tos: oatmeal, salads, muscle milk or protein bars, turkey jerky, nuts/seeds, fresh fruit
- what i avoid: muffins, bagels (anything carb heavy), anything fried or greasy, anything that may have been in a fridge for too long, candy, chocolate/yogurt covered anything
tip #2: have a plan for different flight times
the time of your flight can really throw your game off when it comes to meal planning. having a game plan for different flight times keeps you in control and your belly on a more consistent schedule.
when you have an early morning flight... (anytime before 9am in my book)
- prep breakfast before you go, that you can take on a plane. i usually take a peanut butter & jelly sandwich or a meal replacement bar that has enough fiber and protein to keep me feeling full.
- don't drink coffee before your flight! this seems counter intuitive, but it has saved me from eating more calories than i should for breakfast. if you wait until after your flight lands in your destination to get coffee there's a few benefits: 1) your coffee will be a mid-morning snack, and you'll be full so you won't want to eat more before lunch 2) you'll get to sleep on the plane, catching up on zz's and skipping those plane peanuts or cookies and 3) you'll have a way to get alert right after the plane, which you need when getting into new surroundings!
- drink, drink, hydrate, hydrate. if you don't have coffee before your flight, you do want to drink something so that you feel refreshed, and are alert while getting to your flight. pick something that's cold (for the refreshment and alertness) and decaffeinated. i like to do a crisp, flavorful iced tea first thing in the morning, but something like water or powerade zero would work too!
when you have that awkward early evening flight... (anytime between 4pm and 7pm)
- have a substantial snack before the flight or break a meal into two snacks. if you are waiting to have dinner until you land, eat a big snack before the flight, or bring two small snacks onto the plane and space them out. i'll have the first snack during the first beverage service, and the second snack an hour or so before landing.
- bring dinner on the plane with you. simple enough. if you aren't planning on eating when you land, just bring a meal on the plane and eat it during the first beverage service.
when you have a late evening flight or red eye...
- if you have to eat, eat light. if you wouldn't eat before or during bed, you don't need to eat before or during a red eye flight. but if you absolutely have to have something, pick something light (like fruit, maybe a protein shake) before a red eye. whatever you eat will be sitting in your gut for a few good hours while you try and sleep in a seated position, so you don't want a gut bomb before this flight!
- no caffeine. this is a no brainer, but you'll do yourself a huge favor if you do whatever you can to sleep through that red eye.
tip #3: pack snacks!always, always pack snacks. options in airports are not great and if you have any food sensitivities or diet restrictions, you could be seriously shit out of luck. if you're prepared, you can avoid making poor choices, and i'm all about feeling confident and in control during travel! here are some of my favorite snacks to take on flights:
- bars that are high in protein, high in fiber. if on a flight during meal time (and i haven't packed a meal), i'll pick a bar that is higher in calories.
- nuts and seeds. i always pack almonds and pumpkin seeds for day trips. easy to eat and access snack, low calorie and high nutritional values.
- protein powder. yes, you can take protein/meal replacement powders on planes! best if it can stay in original packaging, but if you have to put powders in clear bags, i would try and stay away from powders that look suspicious (like white powders).
|typical snacks i take on day trips|
tip #4: keep moving!traveling all day is not an excuse to be lazy. do whatever you can to keep moving in between flight time - you'll thank yourself later!
- keep a 10,000 step goal. if you use a fitbit or pedometer you're in luck because you can track steps to gauge how active you need to be. try and get to 10,000 steps in anyway you can. here are some ideas:
- avoid people movers and trams as much as you can
- take the stairs
- avoid the temptation to sit in the boarding area. you'll do enough sitting on the plane, so get your butt out of the seat and do some laps around the boarding area or up and down the terminal until it's time to board
- wear as comfortable shoes as possible. this will help you to stay active and avoid chairs. there's no reason to wear heels in the airport. traveling for business? pack your heels in your carry on and wear comfy shoes during travel time. no one will judge you for wearing sneakers and a skirt, i promise.
- activate your muscles in simple ways. do calf raises. do some glute clenches (you can do these when seated on the plane, too). engage your abs while walking. find little muscle isolations you can do to keep muscles active.
lastly, be prepared. i always pack a first aid kit of sorts that could alleviate any type of ailment i might encounter during the day. packing your own drugs is way most cost-efficient than buying them one-off in the airport! here's what i always have on hand in my carry-on: hand sanitizer, alka seltzer, pepto bismol, migraine medication, aspirin (especially for flight 4+ hours), cough drops and eye drops.