If my mind was a pie chart there would be a large slice labeled Intense Thoughts about Snacks. A subcategory of that slice would be Travel Snacks with a sub-subcategory for Airport Snacks. And since we’re about to leave for a trip my Intense Thoughts about Snacks mind wedge is in full planning mode.
Most airport food is disgusting, innutritious and preposterously overpriced—fight back and bring your own. Here are some considerations when planning your airport eats:
- Work with the TSA rules. Since liquids or gels (except for 3 ounce containers inside a quart zip-loc) are not allowed, bring food without heavy sauces. We carry an empty water bottle and fill it from a water fountain once we go through the security check point.
- Plan snacks for different phases of your journey. Fresh food is great for a pre-flight mini meal. You’ll also want something to nibble on inflight. Got a layover? Bring snacks for that too. Finally, think about what happens when you land at your destination. Will you immediately catch a train to another city? You guessed it, more snacks.
- Pack light. Yeah I know, I just urged you to pack all this food and then I turn around and tell you to pack light. It can be done with a little strategy–seek out lightweight snacks, remove any excess packaging in advance, and if you’re travelling with another person, give them a stash to carry (hey–it’s only fair since they’ll be sharing.) And remember, most of that food will soon be in your belly, not in your carryon.
- Seek out nutritious snacks. Find food that will give you energy and help you stay healthy through the jetlag and stress of travel.
I hate rushing at the airport, so we always arrive extra early. Once we’ve found our gate it’s snack time! Pack something homemade–a sandwich is fine. If you’ve got more time, grain salads and soba noodle dishes are tasty (put them inside reused containers from things like cottage cheese or yogurt that you can toss when you’re finished). For our upcoming trip I made Kale Quinoa Bites (recipe from 101 Cookbooks).
Dehydrated fruits and veggies are perfect inflight snacks. Sure, I prefer fresh vegetables and fruit, but these are lightweight and won’t spoil. Also, customs rules often prohibit bringing in fresh produce and you don’t want to mess with that.
Now its time to eat on your layover. For this trip, I’m bringing whole grain crackers, tuna cups and cheese. CHEESE! One of the happiest revelations of my snack-obsessed life was realizing that I could pack real cheese. The next time you go to Whole Foods, notice how not all the cheese is refrigerated. The lady at the cheese counter assured me that they keep several types of cheese unrefrigerated for 14 hours a day, so now I just look through these varieties and buy what’s on sale.
We also bring protein bars which are basically candy bars masquerading as health food but boy can they be handy in a time crunch.
But wait–you’re still going to need an emergency snack in case of flight delays. (One time, due to thunderstorms, HOB and I were stuck in a small wing of Atlanta airport where the only food option was a nasty fast food chain. We didn’t have an emergency snack, and the chicken sandwich we ate in desperation made our mouths taste like we’d just gargled MSG.)
Granola makes a great emergency snack. Here’s my own granola recipe, which you can modify to your taste:
The Wife of Bath’s Flight Delay Granola
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
- In a large bowl whisk together 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar, 1/4 cup grapeseed oil or coconut oil, a teaspoon of vanilla extract or coconut flavoring, and a pinch of salt.
- Fold in two cups of rolled oats.
- Mix in 1 1/2 cups raw seeds/nuts. (You should chop up the larger nuts). I use a combination of whatever’s in the house: sunflower and pumpkin seeds, cashews, sliced almonds, walnuts and pecans.
- Spread mixture on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. If you want the granola to come out in large chunks, press down on the granola with a spatula.
- Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Cover with tin foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
- Turn off oven and remove foil but keep granola in oven for additional five minutes.
- At this point your kitchen will smell like pure yum. Use the last five minutes of wait time to write a comment on my blog about how I’m your travel snack guru.
- Take the granola out of the oven to cool. If you’re feeling frisky, mix in some toasted coconut or mini chocolate chips.
I’d love to hear about your favorite airport snacks. And if you’ve got a good snack recipe, please share—my pie chart is always seeking inspiration.