Hunger doesn’t care where you are and what’s available – it is selfish, with no regard for your schedule or current location. Without a plan of attack, a flight attendant can quickly find themselves in between a rock and a McDonald’s. It is with this in mind that I carefully pack my lunch box before leaving for work, trying to appeal to the craving for junk food that an airplane inevitably brings while somehow remaining healthy. 12-15 hour days are draining, and haphazardly packing food without preparing for that can lead to a hard crash and burn. I’m sure this rings true for those of you who work in offices too, with a vending machine or GrubHub vying for your constant attention. Fortunately, this is one area where our new pandemic-driven lives at home have benefitted, with easy access to a kitchen and fridge. But just like I’m only as good as my lunchbox in the air, you’re only as good as your fridge & pantry at home. This is how I arm myself for the battlefield that is my workday.
PS: Don’t limit yourself to the office – even if you aren’t flight crew, pack like you are for your next trip! I’m always surprised at how often people think they can’t bring food through security – TSA only limits liquids so pack munchies with abandon! Not only will you spend less on expensive airport food, but eating healthier snacks will also keep energy levels up despite the stress air travel can put on the body.
I travel with a couple of frozen ice packs in a small lunchbox to keep food cool all day. I also keep breast milk bags in my bag (don’t laugh!) in case my ice packs get too warm or I forget them. I’m not a mom, but these things are seriously awesome. The small baggies are compact enough that they don’t demand too much precious space in my bag and are designed with double zippers to keep them from leaking. Go through TSA with them empty, then grab a cup of ice from a restaurant to fill them before you board the plane. You can find them at grocery stores (I think I bought mine from Target) or on Amazon. I dump them out when I get to my destination to refill and reuse as many times as I need.
- Apple slices & nut butter
- Apples are great to bring, both with or without nut butter. I prefer almond butter, which with a giant Honeycrisp, I can treat more like breakfast. Just the apple alone makes for a great boredom snack, giving satisfaction in chewing each juicy bite instead of opening another bag of cheez-its. I prefer to slice and core the apple ahead of time so it’s less messy to eat on the plane or during a layover. Bonus points because they’re easy to scoop out almond butter. I usually use the LunchBots dip containers I talked about in my first post for the butter, which holds plenty for one apple. Any small Tupperware container will work, but I like that these are stainless steel to keep it colder for longer. Just keep in mind that any nut butter falls into the liquid category, so keep it under 3.4oz/100mL.
- I always pack these tender guys last and on top of my bag to prevent too rough of a ride. They’re easy enough to cut through with a plastic knife that you bring with you (also cool with TSA) or one you grab from a restaurant post-security. I’ve cut them up ahead of time but have found they last much longer with less browning if you can wait to cut until right before you eat. Y’all know I’m bougie and travel with a small jar of salt for seasoning on the go, and if I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll even bring my red pepper flakes and half a lemon. Bring a slice of toasted bread and call it lunch. Don’t let traveling keep you from living your best life. Give yourself something to look forward to and make your fellow passengers jealous.
- Dark chocolate
- Perfect for when you can’t even look at another Biscoff cookie. It satisfies any sweet tooth craving while still giving all the great health benefits you probably already know about. Grocery stores will have fresher chocolate and charge half the price of the airport, so go ahead, buy two bars. I love perusing options at Trader Joe’s, alternating between bars, almond butter cups & the coffee lover’s espresso beans (bonus: solid caffeine! No TSA restrictions).
- Fruit – fresh clementines, grapefruit, grapes, berries; dried cranberries & apricots
- Again, a great way to satiate your sweet tooth while avoiding empty calories. Citrus fruit options are easiest to transport with their protective skin and give a vitamin C immunity boost. Grapes are more prone to squishing, so if I don’t think I’m going to eat them for a while, I’ll freeze them the night before. Or eat them frozen for a tasty summer ice cube, do you. Of course, there’s always Tupperware too, great for any berries your heart desires. Dried fruits are super easy to travel with and are an easy way to get extra fiber in your diet.
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Less of a snack and usually more a meal-building block for me, these are great when I’m short on time and groceries. For example, when scheduling called me at 2 am this morning telling me to get my butt to the airport by 5:30 am. I was able to boil a couple of eggs in the background of throwing a suitcase and lunchbox together. I personally like them boiled for about 9 minutes, so they still have a little creaminess to the yolks. Go for 10 if you like them all the way hard. Just whatever you do, please don’t boil them for longer. 15 minutes results in the chalky-gray-deli-eggs of my nightmares. Check out my post on 6 different ways to cook eggs for a full step-by-step to learn how to boil like a pro. I pack them unpeeled to keep them protected during transport and peel right before eating. You best believe I’m sprinkling salt like this dude too:
- Mixed nuts
- If I have enough time and variety in my pantry, I’ll bag my own nut mixes. Almonds, pistachios, cashews, dried cranberries, dried coconut chips, and dark chocolate chips are a favorite combo. But I’m also a sucker for the fun options at Trader Joe’s. I can shamelessly eat the entire bag of Omega Trek Mix in one sitting, and I’m always excited to see the Nuts About Rosemary cans around the holidays. Honorable mention to the Happy Trekking mix. I’ll always pick a cranberry over a raisin.
- Perfect bars
- I love these bars! They’re kept in the refrigerated section of the grocery store (where they’ll also last the longest at home), but they’re good out of the fridge too for about a week. I love that there are no mystery ingredients listed on the back of the bar and are minimally processed. I first discovered them at Trader Joe’s (I know, shocking), but have seen them at most grocery stores in Washington. I’m not crazy about peanut butter, so my favorite flavors are the more savory original almond butter and its sweet counterpart, dark chocolate almond. They’re not as chalky as Clif bars and don’t stick to your teeth the way RxBars tend to.
- Pre-popped popcorn
- Ah popcorn, the perfect salty snack you can eat fistfuls guilt-free. Surprisingly high in fiber & protein, it’s actually a pretty healthy option provided you’re not reaching for the movie-theatre-butter options. Obviously, microwaves are hard to come by in the airport and don’t exist on airplanes, so I’ll bring a ziplock bag pre-popped at home. Or there’s always options you can buy, already popped and seasoned, like SkinnyPop or (you guessed it) from Trader Joe’s. The perfect alternative to potato chips.
- Veggies with or without hummus
- Carrot, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, they’re all fair game. Go for broccoli too if you’re not scared of the stares the smell might illicit. Just like with nut butters, non-flight-crew will have to exercise restraint with hummus too, as it falls into the liquid category. Hummus is filling and nutritious alongside some veggies slices. Personally, this can be too creamy of texture for me, but I like it better homemade so I can keep it a little chunkier. If you’ve got the time to soak some garbanzo beans the night before, this is my all-time favorite chickpea recipe from Bon Appetit. Once they’re cool, I blend until just short of creamy, still a little chunky, making me feel like I’m not eating baby food. More power to you if you like it like that, you can definitely go store-bought for less effort. But I swear this recipe won’t let you down. Part of a killer guide to a week’s worth of meal prep that I can promise you traveled just as great as it all tasted.
What are your favorite snack options for work? Or any cabin crew out there: what snack tips & tricks do you rely on for your trips? Comment below!