Like most millennials, I have chronic wanderlust. I start feverishly planning my next trip on every plane ride home. But I’m also a health-conscious dietitian hoping to get off the plane rocking the same size pants that I was wearing when I walked on it. So thanks to how much time I spend in airports, both for business and pleasure, I’ve learned which foods are the best to grab before a long flight.
We can’t help you with the screaming child in the aisle seat to your left, but we can help you eat well. Arrive to the gate armed with an arsenal of these nourishing, satisfying snacks, and pray the in-flight entertainment stands up to the tasty eats.
1. On-the-Go Meat Snack
Best: Krave Gourmet Jerky
Worst: Jack Link’s Pepperoni Beef Stick
With almost twice the calories for the same protein punch, and an extra 40 percent more sodium than Krave, these salty sticks might leave you feeling pretty bloated at 30,000 feet.
2. Sweet and Salty Snack
Best: KIND Bars
Worst: Check Mix Popped Sweet and Salty
We love a morning bowl of Chex cereal, and are always down for popcorn, but add in a bunch of salted pretzels and a caramel coating and you’ve got a recipe for an energy crash. With almost double the sugar of KIND and a measly one gram each of fiber and protein, you’ll easily plow through a multi-serving bag (and almost 1,000 calories) before takeoff.
3. Something Nutty
Best: Wonderful Pistachios
Worst: Snak Club Chocolate Trail Mix
Don’t be fooled by the nut-mix health halo on the bag. When harmless peanuts are mixed with handfuls of coated chocolate candy, you know it’s not your best pick. For a measly 1/4 cup serving, you’re getting 11 grams of sugar for a fraction of the fiber and protein of those satiating pistachios.
4. Fruit Fix
Best: Bare Snacks
Worst: Maynard’s Juicy Squirts Berry Gummies
Don’t be fooled by the “made with real fruit” label—these snacks are just sugar loaded with more sugar. For a conservative 10 pieces of candy, you’re packing in 20 grams of sugar that will leave you with a brutal toothache.
5. Plant-Based Protein Combo
Best: Sabra Hummus & Pretzels Pack
Worst: Snyder’s of Hanover Hummus Pretzel Sandwiches
Don’t be fooled by the healthy-looking picture of hummus on the bag. These crunchy sandwiches are more pretzel than plant-based dip, and even contain some whey powder, making them not fully vegan-friendly. With almost 20 grams of carbs, a quarter of the protein, and a fraction of Sabra’s filling fiber per serving, this is one on-flight snack you can fly right over.
6. Salty Crunch
Worst: Pringles Potato Chips
You don’t need a dietitian to tell you these aren’t your best pick. If you consume the recommended serving size of a pathetic 16 chips, you’re taking in 150 calories, nine grams of fat, 260 mg of salt, and barely any fiber or protein. It maybe doesn’t sound like a total diet-buster, but you know damn well you can’t eat just one (or 16, in this case).
7. Morning Fuel
Best: Siggi’s Yogurt
Worst: In-House Yogurt Parfait
Yogurt always seems like a balanced morning choice, but even the savviest travelers can be fooled by an assembled parfait. With a whopping 44 grams of sugar from the sweetened yogurt and granola on top, expect a total energy crash before your flight lands.
8. Cheese Factor
Best: SkinnyPop White Cheddar Popcorn
Worst: Cheez-It Crackers
We love a good cheese snack, but these freakishly orange crackers are nothing more than white flour, oil, and a little bit of cheese, packing eight grams of fat, 150 calories, and 230 mg of salt per serving.
9. Purse-Friendly Bar
Eating outside your home typically means you have no freaking clue what’s in your food, so we love that RX is super transparent about what’s in their bars. With just egg whites, nuts, and dates, you can feel good about starting your vacation off right.
Unless you’re planning to rush off the plane to run a marathon, you probably don’t need a bar where the first ingredient is sugar (29 grams of it to be exact!). Save the candy bar in disguise for a tough workout.