As the world slowly begins to find its new normal, things like airline travel is picking up again. Just this past weekend I flew cross-country for the first time in many months, and was reminded of all the rituals I have to keep myself healthy and on-track regardless of where I am. 

As you might expect, one thing I’m VERY particular about is my food. I never leave that up to chance, airports or airlines and a little pre-planning goes a long way. I wrote this article years ago back when our eldest, Sia, was just a toddler – and it’s still relevant today. If you’ve got travel plans coming up, have a read and fly prepared! 

You see, I always travel with food. If your body likes real food (and ALL bodies like real food), then you want to take matters into your own hands wherever possible. Those little snacks they hand out on airplanes are more chemical concoctions than foods. (Don’t believe me? Read the ingredients. Even something as simple as peanuts will have a long list of unpronounceable stuff in it.) And while the options for purchasing “real” meals are better than they used to be, they’re still far from ideal.

We’ve been doing a lot of travel lately as a family and today I thought I’d share with you what’s in my travel food bag. It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated in any way – and you certainly don’t have to take as much food as we do. I always pack more than we need so that we have lots of options and are prepared if flights are delayed. The following example was for two adults and our toddler preparing for an 8-hour travel day that would include breakfast, lunch and plenty of snacks in between.

Fresh produce – I always pack a few different options here. I’ll bring whatever’s in season or in the fridge. In this case we brought apples, bananas, pears, oranges, an avocado, a grapefruit, sliced red/yellow/orange peppers, carrots (not shown), and half a bag of sunflower sprouts I needed to use up (not shown).

Protein – This is something I never skimp on because this is what really fills you. In this case I brought nitrate-free salami, grass-fed beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, and some yummy raw cheese. I also brought some yummy tempha (fermented black bean and rice) from our local farmers market, but this is only something you’ll have access to if you live in LA. (If you’re a local, check your farmer’s market for Dave’s Korean food – it’s all vegan and naturally fermented. Some truly yummy stuff, although they do use soy so read ingredients if you have a sensitivity.)

“Snack” food – Ultimately anything is a snack food, but for our purposes today I’m considering this the little odds and ends like Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten-free crackers, homemade coco-roons, kale chips, spirulina seed bars, seaweed , and homemade fruit leather. In a perfect world I’d make all this myself, but it’s not a perfect world and thankfully there are some great companies making healthy products.

Note on the seaweed in the picture: I did what I always say you should never do and grabbed something new without reading the ingredients – this is a brand I love, but I usually get their dried seaweed snacks, not the “sticks”, which it turns out have a load of unnecessary extra ingredients I’d have avoided had I read the label.

Utensils – I have a lovely set of bamboo cutlery that I bring wherever we go. It gets past security easily, and is sufficient to cut into things like avocado and cheese. It’s not perfect, but it does the trick and it’s better than flimsy plastic. I also bring a couple of cloth napkins, which serve as placemats, wipes, napkins, etc. If I’ve got space, I bring a couple of (empty) water bottles we can fill once we get through security so we’re not at the mercy of expensive bottled water.

The bag I use is a cooler bag, but I never actually bring ice packs because the food itself usually keeps cold enough over the course of the day.

Armed with all this food, we had more than enough to keep us going through a long travel day – everyone was happy and well fed (well, as happy as you can be with an energetic toddler on a 6hr flight!)

Now, if this seems like a lot of food, remember that’s for 3 people, and I intentionally brought enough food so that we’d have extras just in case of delays. And remember: we were flying with a toddler.
Being well-supplied is essential. On my most recent trip, I flew solo and went with a much smaller food bag which included:
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs with a pinch-pot of Pluck for seasoning and extra nutrients
  • Some Epic salmon bites
  • A small flat of raspberries
  • A small bag of cashews
  • A couple of sticks of Pique tea so I’d have my own delicious tea to drink on the plane rather than their options

All of this easily fit into a little lunch bag I borrowed from my daughter. Dorky? Perhaps. But I’d prefer to be prepared than cool.

Another strategy I’ll often use is to intentionally fast during a long flight. For one, this solves the food problem altogether and I don’t need to bring anything with me. For another, it helps my body deal with all of the additional radiation and other pro-inflammatory exposures I’m getting while flying. Clearly this isn’t an option for kids, but for the adults among us, and especially if you’re accustomed to fasting, this is a great option.

Do you travel with food? What’s in your travel bag? I’d love to hear your travel food strategies in the comments below.

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