If there’s one thing anyone traveling by plane will agree on is that healthy food isn’t so easy to find both in airports and onboard. It’s hard to eat healthy then. And if you only eat rich snacks once in a blue moon, well, you’re bound to feel sick.
Thinking of that (including the trip I’m about to take), I decided to call a couple of nutritionists (who happen to be my friends as well) to ask for a hand in this hunt for healthy foods that can go in our carry-ons.
Fabiana Honda, a nutritionist at PB Consultoria em Nutrição, in São Paulo, has told me that we should never forget the oilseeds, like nuts, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. “They’re rich in vegetable proteins, good fats and fibers, which stimulate satiation, not to mention they’re rich in antioxidants, too”, she points.
Chia seeds are also a great pick. After all, they’re rich in soluble fibers, which absorb water and form a gel, increasing satiation and improving your intestinal health. They can be added to the fruits that are served onboard”, the nutritionist argues.
Ariana Vieira Rocha, a nutritionist at Estima Nutrição, in São Paulo, suggests a snack that’s very easy to prepare: “Wholemeal bread (French or loaf) with cream cheese, carrot and beet pâté. This recipe will provide fibers, which will promote satiation and, in turn, keep industrialized foods at bay”, she adds.
Dried Versions are best
According to Marília Costa de Araújo, a nutritionist at Clínica Aktionpaz, in Florianópolis, the dried or freeze-dried fruits are a great choice, since they contain enough carbs, fibers, vitamins and minerals to make sure you have the energy you need along your trips. Remember, additionally, that they do not tend to go bad easily, so, in case you don’t consume them on the flight, they are good for later too.
“The two options are natural, do not expire quickly – even though they don’t include preservatives – and are easy to carry on the go. Now, in terms of protein, we can think of dried meats or supplements, like whey protein”, she says.
Cucumber and celery sticks, as well as baby carrots and grape tomatoes offer a great source of nutrients and antioxidant substances. On top of that, they contain a great amount of water to keep you hydrated in the dryness of the plane.
This is, by far, the hardest. As if it weren’t enough to have to get to the airport 3 hours before your flight, you have to stay on the plane for about 5 more hours, for instance. There’s no winning in this, specially for your stomach. In case you want to (and I know you do) bring your own snack, you may consider salads or sandwiches.
“In that case, prioritize long-lasting ingredients that will resist at room temperature. To salads, for instance, you can add some grains (wholemeal rice, quinoa), a protein, like shredded chicken and vegetables. You can bring the dressing separately, in a non-spilling cup, smaller than 100ml or in a ziploc bag” Fabiana suggests.
Now, if you’re into something a bit more functional, the sandwiches can be prepared with homus, shredded chicken, tuna, roast beef and vegetables. Wrap your sandwiches in plastic wrap film and put them in ziploc bags.
Coconut should go in the list as well. Why? “It’s a good source of good fats and soluble fibers – which promote satiation – and it’s got low glycemic index, not to mention it contributes to the reduction of sugar compulsion and contains relevant nutrients to your immune system”, Marília explains.
Another option is the chocolate with 70% – 80% cocoa. Other than promoting satiation due to its composition, it contains polyphenol, which helps with hormone regulation, oxidative stress, as well as with antithrombotic action, which is quite interesting when it comes to traveling, considering the atmospheric pressure changes.
For Flavia Meddeiros, a specialist in functional nutrition, healthy snacks comprise: dried banana, apricot or banana/sweet potato chips. I also like those.
But how can I carry these foods?
You thought I’d never say it, right? But it’s on my list. Fabiana Honda points a few things for me. Check them out:
- Beverages like juice, coconut water, yogurts or gels (peanut butter or homus, for example) are a no go.
- In case you bring any liquids, do not overpass 100ml and place them in a ziploc bag or a six pack, additionally to a non-spilling cup.
- Avoid strong smelling foods.
- Give preference to foods that can be kept at room temperature.
- Place the foods in recipients that are easy to open and close. And the portion size should be that you consume regularly.
- The foods can be carried in thermal bags. But if you’re to add ice to it, make sure it still frozen when you go through security.
The Fitness Snack
Have you heard of this kind of snack? It’s so popular in the fitness world because it’s made with chicken and it’s pastry can be sweet potato or cauliflower. “They’re great choices because they’re rich in protein and increase satiation” Fabiana points out.
They’re also easy to make at home or you can buy them frozen. The frozen version can be baked at home. Besides that, they do not contain any kind of artificial additives and are not rich in fat, like some kinds of bread and cold cuts. Therefore, the fitness snack is quite advantageous in relation to some kinds of sandwiches. I know, this is a very hot tip.
Did you consider preparing your snack yourself? Then, check this recipe Marília Araújo has sent me:
1kg chicken breast (cooked and shredded)
500g cooked sweet potato or manioc
3/4 cup chicken gravy
3/4 cup oatmeal, linseed or chia
Coconut flour or grated coconut or crushed rice flakes for breading or linseed flour
Process the chicken, potato, water and linseed flour together (attention: add the water gradually until it’s enough). Stuff as desired (spinach with ricotta, broccoli with cottage cheese, heart of palm, so on and so forth). Before putting it in the oven, bread it with the selected flour. Bake it at high temperature for around 20 minutes.
You could use some supplement
Whey protein in a squeeze is a great choice on the go. If you can add oatmeal to it, even better. This match puts together low glycemic index carbs, quite interesting soluble fibers present in oatmeal (the beta-glucans – which have hypotensor properties, that is, reduce blood pressure) combined with the whey protein. “I suggest storing it in a squeeze or shaker and then mix it with water”, Marília tells me.
But how about beverages?
As the humidity in the aircraft is quite low, we must drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated. “Water or coconut water (in case you can get it at the boarding lounge) preferably. Avoid beverages that contain too much sugar or artificial sweetener and avoid alcohol as they contribute to dehydration” Fabiana advises.
Plus, you should avoid sparkling beverages. In high altitudes, pressure tends to drop making gases expand, including the gas we have in our digestive system. That’s why many people feel bloated and gassy during flights. “In that case, avoid beverages and foods rich in sugar, sparkling beverages and foods that are rich in white flour and fats”, the nutritionist points.
Another idea that works is preparing a juice of water and cayenne pepper. “It’s highly digestive and boosts your metabolism. It can be consumed natural or iced”, Flavia suggests.
The nutritionist Marília Araújo believes the bottles featuring an infuser to store foods and supplemens are the best pick. And always choose BPA-free plastic or stainless steel.
“Dried-herb teas are also great. All you gotta do in that case is find hot water and make the infusion (1 tsp for 250ml of pre-boiling water for 5 minutes). My suggestions are horsetail, hibiscus, green tea, dandelion and centella because of their antioxidant, anti inflammatory and diuretic properties, other than their contribution to blood circulation – quite essential in long flights”, she states.
Ready to travel healthy?
Well, I’ll start sorting everything in order to prepare my fitness snack. I’ll also get a couple of snacks that are easy to carry, like dried fruits and oilseeds. This way I can travel with a clear conscience. I hope you’ll do the same from now on!