How to Choose the Healthiest Airline Foods

When you’re traveling for business or pleasure, hunger can strike at any time. You may be in the airport, awaiting an international flight, or you might already be in the air on a cross-country journey. Either way, if you aren’t prepared with snacks of your own, you’re at the mercy of airline foods.

Airlines weren’t always known for having healthier options in the past, but that’s changing little by little. You simply have to take the time to examine your choices and decide which selections will satisfy your appetite without destroying your diet. While it would be easier if airlines gave you the full nutritional and ingredient breakdown for every food offering, it isn’t always the case. If you take the time, you might just find it’s not too hard to uncover the healthiest airline food on the menu.

Think Protein, Not Carbs

In general, protein is going to be more satisfying than carbs. Carbohydrates are filled with sugars, and the body processes sugars rapidly. Carbs are found in sweets and breads, which many airlines give out. These include crackers, cookies, rolls and bread-heavy sandwiches.

Protein makes you feel fuller for a longer period of time. Therefore, if you do get the turkey, cheese and lettuce sandwich the airline touts, it’s a good idea to take off the top of the sandwich to minimize the carb load. Eat the turkey and cheese, which will give you protein without all the sugars.

To Nut or Not to Nut

On many airlines across the nation, peanuts and tree nuts are not offered. However, if they are, you have a definite choice. As long as you aren’t allergic, you may want to grab a packet of peanuts, almonds, cashews or mixed nuts. Just beware: Nuts are very high in calories.

So how do you sate your rumbling stomach without destroying your preferred daily intake of fat and calories? The trick is to eat slowly and drink plenty of water with your peanuts or tree nuts. Don’t open the package and dump it into your mouth. You’ll just want more instantly. Remember that it takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’ve had enough.

One other note: Nuts can be excessively salty. If you are trying to stay on a low-salt diet, you should avoid eating any kind of salted nuts … or salted anything, for that matter.

Hummus and Fresh Vegetables, Anyone?

Among the items that are available on your airline, you may discover some gems, such as fresh veggies with better-for-you dips like hummus. Snag these for a better-for-you alternative to cheesy dips. Even if the option is crackers and hummus without the vegetables, you’ll still be getting the advantage of hummus, which is nutritionally superior to a lot of dipping alternatives.

Limited? Do Your Best

Let’s say you’re on an airline with very few options. Basically, you’re being asked if you want cookies or pretzels – and that’s it. Unless you want to suffer through the rest of your flight, you might as well opt for the pretzels. They will be empty calories but will contain less fat and sugar than the cookies.

You can help yourself stay on track by drinking tons of water on the plane, or even black coffee or diet soda. Stay away from alcoholic beverages. They lower your resistance to making poor food choices and add empty calories to your daily intake. Juices aren’t the best choice, as they can be sugary and filled with salt, but they’re preferable over full-sugar sodas.

When in doubt, ask your airline attendants if they have any alternative foods. You might be surprised to learn about an item that is off the menu, but available to those who ask.