The airport isn’t the best place to find healthy snacks to eat while traveling, but unfortunately, sometimes there’s no choice but to grab something before you board.
While packing your own snacks is ideal (Quest Protein Bars and Quest Protein Cookies, for example), it’s not always an option, especially if you’re short on time and can’t prepare in advance. Because when those times approach, it’s better to eat something from the airport snack range than stay hungry for hours on the plane—especially if the flight is also very long.
Of course, not everyone likes the snacks and meals served on the plane itself, so grabbing something from the airport is definitely best. Here are the best and worst airport snacks you can buy, which will keep you feeling fuller for longer and keep digestion in check.
Best: Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruits and nuts
All airports have Greek yogurt and/or cheese, as well as fruit salad (or fruit cup) and packed nuts. And most often there is a variety – almonds, peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, and so on.
This snack offers probiotics to keep immunity high when traveling (so you don’t get sick on the plane!) and digestion under control, and fruits and nuts provide extra fiber and protein. Go with plain, unsweetened if you can. Get unsalted nuts to keep the sodium low, as the body can swell when on a plane and stick to one or two sizes of nuts.
Best: salad with a cup of hummus
Salads made with greens like spinach or kale with healthy toppings on them, such as grilled chicken, cheese, and nuts are a good option, and you can also have a cup of hummus (like Sabra’s hummus cups with pretzels).
Another swap is a cup of guacamole, if available. The protein from the chicken fills you up, the fiber from the chickpeas works as well (or the healthy fats from the avocado), and the leafy greens will provide iron to make sure you’re energized during the flight.
Best: apple with nut butter زبدة
Choose an apple instead of a soft fruit cup of berries – hard fruit is best for the flight, and you can enjoy it with nut butter, such as peanuts, almonds, or cashews, which are often found in most airports by a variety of brands.
Slice it and lather butter on it or enjoy the apple on its own and put nut butter on some whole-grain crackers, which are also a great option. Just make sure the sodium is low.
Best: a protein bar and string cheese or a jerky stick
Clean protein bars that are rich in protein but low in carbs and sugar are the best option, as you can avoid blood sugar spikes and fluctuations (which lead to crashes) during the flight.
Quest protein bars are an excellent choice, containing enough protein to keep you feeling full and fewer calories, carbs, and sugar. It’s a good option if you’re on a low-carb diet as well. Pair it with cheese or bacon. If the trip is longer, keep using jerky but make sure the labels say it’s relatively low in sodium. You don’t want a drink that’s high in sodium, which can lead to bloating and swelling.
Worst: Creamy Salads
Delicious salads like tuna or chicken salad sit in mayonnaise, creamy seasoning, and other sauces, so they’re loaded with calories, unhealthy fats (even if it’s a tuna salad, where there are some healthy fats, too), and carbs. Plus it feels very heavy, so you might get an upset stomach during the flight.
Worst: Fried Food / Fast Food Restaurant Items
Having fried foods, such as Chinese food, chicken wings, french fries, and of course pastries and baked goods such as cakes, are all a red flag. Basically, if you’re going to an airport fast food restaurant, you won’t find a very healthy option, as you do in some other restaurants or food court sections.
These will weigh you down, puff you out of excess sodium and cause you to become dehydrated during the flight, and may lead to poor digestion.
Worst: big sandwiches
You might find a whole-wheat sandwich with a light turkey breast, tomato, and lettuce, and this would be a good option, but usually sandwiches on croissants, white bread, large white baguettes, brioche or pretzels. Bread alone isn’t great for a healthy snack on the plane and contains more carbs, calories, and sodium than you realize, without any nutrition.
In addition, the inside usually contains mayonnaise or creamy sauce, or is stuffed with tuna, eggs or a rich, high-calorie and high-fat chicken salad, as opposed to lean meat or cheese slices. If you get one, you can improve it by forgoing the bread.
Worst: Serving in large quantities/large serving of processed snack foods
Steer clear of the huge, bulky bag option of chips, cookies, crackers, and even healthy items like popcorn, nuts, and jerky. The main reason here is willpower – when you’re bored on a plane, you’ll likely get hungry out of boredom and you’ll throw out the whole bag, when you should only eat one or two meals. If you’re flying solo, skip it and grab a small bundle of something else.