Let's be honest. I love traveling, and I love exploring new places. Getting there though is a whole other story. While I don't mind the flight itself, airplane food leaves much to be desired. I always wonder if they let preschoolers put together the menus. It's often just noodles and white rice with some kind of meat, a side of dead lettuce, sour tomatoes, and something spongey, unidentifiable for dessert. While I have found that ordering special meals, like vegetarian, vegan or even raw vegan can sometimes be better, it still baffles me what is on the plate; well pretty much the standard American diet, and everything that is wrong with it. You will have to dig a long time to find living and delicious vegetables or fruit. Everything is so overly salted just so you can taste it up in 10,000m. And the water is often filtered, purified water with no minerals left to hydrate you.
While I have written extensively about my plane survival kit, this time I am going to tell you all about how I prep food for these long trips, especially with a toddler in tow now!
The easy option: do a water fast
First of all, there is always the easy option: use this time to do a little water fast. This was my go-to before I had Baby Zand. I will often use a flight to give my digestion a little break, and I will just drink a LOT of water. And again, this is not the purified water available on most flights. I stock up on mineral water (often the extremely expensive Fiji one) right after the security check but before boarding. This allows me to have mineral water to hydrate me, and flush my system through.
My last meal is either at home or out, something nutritious like a filling salad. Then I will have nothing but water on the way to the airport, during check in, the actual plane trip, and upon arrival.
If I arrive at night, I just go to bed, and the next morning I will have a nutritious breakfast starting with a green smoothie and probably some easier to digest oatmeal.
If I arrive in the morning, I would break the fast, and have the same kind of breakfast as mentioned above.
If I arrive during the day, then it would be a light salad, soup, or something else veggie heavy. I always try to avoid heavy foods like pizza, sandwiches, etc right after a plane trip. Your body is already retaining water from the trip, you don't need to make that worse by eating lots of salt. So stick to veggies, which are super easy to digest.
This is the easy option, because all you have to do is pay a lot of money for water, but no other preparation is necessary.
The labor intensive but oh-so-worth-it option: food prep before you get on the plane
If fasting does not sound appealing to you, then there is always the option of preparing, and bringing your own food. This is a bit more labor intensive, but so far has always paid off big time, especially when flights are delayed, and the plane just sits on the tarmac for hours. If your stomach is rumbling or your child is screaming of hunger, then you can be uber-prepared with this option. A few days before you fly, think about how long your trip is from door to door and add an extra couple of hours. Then think about how many meals will fall into this time frame. For example if I take a quick trip down to LA, the actual flight time is less than an hour. However, from door to door it takes me a good 5 hours. This means there will be at least one meal during this time, most often lunch. In this case I would plan for one lunch box plus an extra snack on either side of this, because for some reason the boredom of travel makes me ravenous.
Next, plan what is easy to bring. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
If I bring food containers, will I be able to wash them at my destination? When I go to a hotel, I always bring a sponge and small bottle of dish soap for this specific reason.
If I don't want to take containers that I need to clean, how can I still bring food? Think not so environmentally friendly but totally useful zip lock bags and cling wrap, old take out containers or plastic containers you bought food in.
Do I need utensils for my meal? A lot of flights don't serve food anymore, so don't count on them having any utensils (for free). Bring your own - disposable or reusable, your choice.
How messy is the food I am bringing? Think turbulence! Just always always bring extra napkins and wet wipes, even if you don't have a child.
And finally, how many people do I have to make food for? Don't make an elaborate meal for every person. Rather, pack bigger zip lock bags of finger food everyone can share.
Now after giving you so many things to think about, let me actually give you some of my favorite things to take along for both Baby Zand and myself:
veggie sticks in all forms and sizes (carrots, celery, cucumber, radish, whatever you have left in the fridge that needs to be used)
steamed veggies for those that are not so yummy raw like broccoli, cauliflower, etc
a dip for your many veggies like hummus or minty pea dip. Just a tip on the side: keep the garlic to a minimum if you don't want to piss off your neighbors in the row. Keep it in a small container, since sometimes security can be picky with dips.
slices of bread that can be dipped into the dips
Justin's almond butter individual packs - squeezed right into my mouth or on the slices of bread :-)
ready made sandwiches. My go to: 2 slices of sprouted grains bread, mustard on one, mashed avocado with lemon on the other, some baby spinach (and maybe sprouts if I have any), and cucumber slices in between, and bam, sandwich to go. Don't put tomatoes, they will make everything soggy.
fruit like apples, banana, and tangerines travel really well. I also put grapes in a zip lock to snack on. Nectarines, peaches, and plums bruise a little too easily.
shake salad: put lettuce leaves and other chopped veggies in a zip lock bag. Put a dressing in a another. When you are ready to eat, pour the dressing in the salad bag, shake it, and enjoy.
When I am super lazy, I will pack leaves (baby spinach, baby kale, etc) in a zip lock bag and just snack on them while eating nuts at the same time.
Which brings me to nuts, all kinds of nuts travel really well.
Energy balls are always a must, especially when traveling with Baby Zand. They are her favorite. Try the lemon cashew balls with coconut, hemp energy balls, or Christmas balls (even if it's not Christmas :-)).
Larabars are always in my bag if I don't have time to make energy balls
falafel or other veggie patties that can just be eaten cold and with the hands
crackers (my favorite ones at the moment are Mary's Gone Crackers or Go Raw sprouted crackers)
If I want to be very elaborate, I will make myself a lunch bowl with everything that is in my fridge like cooked rice, some leaves like baby spinach, chopped veggies, cooked beans, avocado, lemon, sauerkraut, basically whatever leftovers I can find that need to be used. This is not advisable if you are traveling with a baby on your lap!
Since you can't bring smoothies, bring the next best thing to help you alkalize: super greens powder, which you can just mix in any bottle of water you have bought after security check. My favorite brand is Amazing Grass, and they do individual packs for one portion. Perfect for travel. I use these on the plane mixed into my water, and will use these as a green smoothie substitute when I can't get one at my destination - really nothing substitutes a green smoothie, but this is the next best thing! :-)
Woohoo, we got through the list. And that's really just the beginning. Once you start to think about it, the options are endless.
A quick note on traveling with babies and toddlers: you can bring as much liquid for them as you need like breast milk, sippy cups with water, dips, purees, soups, etc. So no need to worry here at all!
The back up: find a health food store with a prepped food bar
So let's say you don't want to tear off the head of the person sitting next to you when the fasting goes wrong, but you also have no time to food prep. Or if you are on your way back home, you may not have a kitchen available to food prep. Then use my back up: find a health food store that offers a prepped food bar. Whole Foods is my go to when in the US, but really most bigger cities will have some kind of supermarket with a salad bar. Grab a box, and fill it up with those leafy greens, and vegetables of all colors. Don't mix in a dressing, so it doesn't get soggy. Even if the container seems sturdy, place it in an extra zip lock bag. There is nothing worse than going through security, realizing that food has spilled out of its container, and all over your laptop and into every tiny corner of your carry on bag. Yuck! Don't forget those disposable utensils, and lots and lots of napkins. While at the health food store, pick up an apple, some bars or nuts as an extra snack, and you're all done. Minimum effort, and still huge results. Your body will be sooooo happy!
The other day Baby Zand and I were traveling back from LA. Our flight was super delayed, and even though I had food prepped, we ran out of things to sink our teeth into. So I had to improvise with what is available at the terminal:
if you can find a food outlet, see if they have veggie sticks with hummus, salads, or anything with vegetables
If you can't find a salad, look for a sandwich without the cheese and meat (highly processed in these cafes!!!), and instead look for one with hummus and veggies.
you will usually find some kind of nuts at the magazine shops. Raw ones would be optimal, but can be difficult to find, so anything roasted with the least salt you can find should be good.
look for bananas and apples. Coffee shops and sometimes even bookstores should have some lying around.
Dried fruit are a good option if you can't find any fresh ones. Yes, of course they are high in fruit sugar, but still better than that candy bar you've been eyeing :-)