Travel is great for the soul, but it can be murder on the gut.
This is especially true if you are prone to inflammation, digestive upset, or IBS, or generally try to follow a low sugar, or gluten free lifestyle.
Some places in the world don’t understand, and don’t care.
I am going to share some practical Ways to Make Healthy Decisions in the Airport, and elsewhere when travelling.
The inexperienced traveler Wises Up
I am not a frequent flying expert, nor am I one of those people who is always flying off somewhere, but I have some strategies I use, so I am going to share these with you.
This year, between overnights in Utah, Mexico and Costa Rica, relaxing down time in Nicaragua, and connections through Texas, California, Washington, and Colorado on my way back and forth, I’ve logged an unusual amount of airport time.
So, away from my safe havens of yoga and gluten free food, I’ve had to learn to stay healthy on the go.
The biggest deal was travelling around Japan last winter with my family, because of the language barrier (the Google translate APP is amazing for translating store labels on the fly) but there was a camping road trip this summer with my partner that took almost as much planning, believe it or not.
I am happy to share some of the things I have learned.
I try to stick with my normal routine, where I eat a clean anti inflammatory diet, which to me means that I eat all the food groups, but only if they are high quality.
The items that are available on the run are usually made for shelf stability, and so they are missing
- PHYTONUTRIENTS and MINERALS FROM COLOURFUL FRUIT N VEGGIES
- CLEAN PROTEINS
- HEALTHY FATS (Omegas etc)
Instead, they use sugar to keep things flavourful and moist, and preservatives and unhealthy shelf-stable fats.
Counteract this by packing items filled with fiber, phytonutrients, minerals, clean proteins and fats.
Then grab the fruit and salads you do find inside the airport.
Some of my favourite ways to do this include
- Bliss balls, boiled omega 3 eggs, good quality small fish or smoked oysters on Mary’s crackers, as well as overnight dry chia seeds with many healthy add-ins like Elderberry Crystals (a purple antioxidant filled choice), and omega 3 and protein-rich hemp seeds
- Many people like roasted chickpeas, or homemade granola bars or loaves (build in the veggies like pumpkin, carrot and zucchini)
- I like packing my own organic grassfed cooked sausages with sauerkraut and olives, and bringing powder ready to shake up – I include my favourite protein powder, a greens powder, a purple powder, L-glutamine, creatine and medicinal mushroom powder, maybe even some ground flax, then I add water and shake as needed.
Begin with the right breakfast
Flights or even road trips often require leaving the house early, but you can bring a breakfast made the night before.
Grab a couple of hard boiled omega 3 eggs.
Overnight oats and chia pudding make great breakfasts prior to a trip, because they can supply huge doses of the macronutrients usually missing on the journey – fibre and healthy fats. The fibre comes with the oats or chia, and then you can add some flax oil or other healthy oil.
Bring healthy snacks from home
When flying into the US and elsewhere they may have restrictions on liquids, but you can bring foods from home, and I think a large number of people don’t realize this.
Healthy snacks that satisfy are snap peas and mandarins, both easy to take along if you’re flying only within the country, and you won’t have limits of fruit.
Nuts are also a good choice, and I usually just bring Brazil nuts, a nutritious source of magnesium and selenium, and one that is lower in oxalates, but small amounts of trail mixes with small amounts of dried fruits without added sugar are good too.
Keep it interesting by trying some wasabi peas or pili nuts.
Yogurt covered raisins, candied hibiscus flowers, papaya, mango, pineapple, or sour cherries are delicious additions, as are chocolate covered organic coffee beans, and the occasional corn nuts. None are that healthy but they are better than Skittles or M&Ms.
Another great snacking idea are protein balls made yourself at home. You can check my YouTube channel for a video on how to make those here. These nutritious and delicious snacks can keep you fuelled up until you get to your destination.
When flying with only a carry-on, the weight of each day’s food becomes an issue. Freeze dried or dehydrated foods are lightweight and have a virtually indefinite shelf life without the chemicals. Because these meals are odour-free until moistened, they’re also less likely to be embarrassing.
You can find many choices at outdoor shops.
A jar of pROTEIN and OTHER PowderS
Now, if you bring a jar of powder, it can look weird.
I always label it, and I bring a shaker cup.
This saves me every time. I stay hydrated, regular, and unworried in the event that there is no safe gluten foods – I don’t have to worry about getting to the one gluten free place two terminals away, or suffer hangry times or constant gluten damage.
Salt Lake City had more healthy options than I expected
My small jar contains a premixed powder blend containing
1 – protein powder, 2 – gut-healing, sugar-craving busting L-glutamine, 3 – Lion’s Mane mushroom powder to help regulate stress response and sleep/wake cycle, 4 – antioxidants and immune support in the form of powdered elderberry juice, 5 – Green powder for extra phytonutrients and fibre, 6 – Collagen powder for health of the gut, skin and more
A shaker cup that seals can be used to drink water and to shake up the powder blend on the go.
When I travel I aim to stay limber, hydrated and comfortable. I want to disturb my gut as little as necessary, and avoid getting hangry.
Of course, fasting is an easy way to avoid gut problems, but I still want to enjoy the culinary experiences offered by travel, and anyway, my body is not well adapted to fasting yet. If you are, by all means, Do it!
When finding yourself at the airport several hours before take-off to allow enough time for check-in, you’ll likely be finding yourself ready for a snack or even a meal before you journey on to your next destination.
Here are a few of my favourite tricks on healthy things you can find at the airport, whether you’re on a layover, delayed, or are just famished from your travels!
Indulge in dark chocolate
When you’re delayed, and you desperately want something sweet to snack on, head to one of the convenience stores and grab a bar of dark chocolate. You’ll not only be treating yourself, but you’ll also be getting a bounty of antioxidants.
Be sure to choose a bar that’s at least 70% cocoa to make it as natural as possible and look for low total sugars.
Drink a green tea or a smoothie
Most airports have smoothie stations, which make a more nutritious stop than the airport bar. If you’re going somewhere tropical, why not fuel your adventures with a tropical-flavoured smoothie? Make sure you add mostly greens to your smoothie so you can enjoy the health benefits without loading up on too much fruit in one glass.
A caveat: BEWARE the green smoothie that is full of banana and sugar. Some pre-made brands at the coffee shop or NEWS stand at the airport are LOADED with sugar.
If that’s all that’s available, grab a green tea instead, and eat a healthy pepperoni stick.
It is easy to eat carbs on the go, especially sugary items low in fiber and nutrients.
The protein and fat that are commonly available as options tend to be a bit dirty and inflammatory.
Find a clean protein source
Steer clear of those fast-food chains and instead, seek out the places that serve clean proteins in the form of hardboiled eggs and chicken salads, free range turkey sticks, tinned sardines or roasted chicken, or even hummus with seed cracks or cut-up vegetables.
Sandwiches with lean proteins (and without being slathered in mayonnaise or creamy sauces) can also be a filling option for your airport adventures if you’re running out of options or time to explore and you tolerate some gluten.
Grab a few protein bars to go – for those times when you’ll be hopping from one place to another pretty fast and you’ve forgotten to pack your own, grab protein bars to keep you fuelled up. The trick is to choose the brands that have less than 10 grams of sugar and only a few ingredients. If you are prone to IBS, steer clear of the ones that are mostly dried fruit, dates and figs.
Some of my favourite solutions have been MULTIPURPOSE, enabling me to travel very light:
Travel spray essential oils with lemongrass and tea tree. Spritz to refresh yourself, your shoes or hands, your space. Deodorizes and sanitizes, acts as a perfume for yourself or blocks your neighbour’s bad breath.
Exercise Bands with different strengths and levels of resistance and a yoga mat are everything you need for full body workouts on the go.
You’ll get aerobics from walking most likely and the bands can provide a full gym workout worth of resistance. You can practice yoga outside or perhaps in special places you find along the way.
Filtering water bottle/Travel mug or Shaker cup. Depending on the destination, I will choose the best one. Drink on the go for less and with less waste without compromising on safety and purity. If travelling where filtered or clean water is available, bring a reusable no spill coffee mug and it can be used for all your needs. A shaker cup allows to instant hydrating, nourishing beverages on demand for a fraction of the airport price.
Sleep mask and earplugs. Sleep on the plane, in the airport. Protect hearing at concerts and clubs while away. Disengage from conversation with your seat mate on plane if you wish. Useful if the hotel you stay at seems oblivious to the importance of a dark room (I’m looking at you, Adventure Hotel!).
Charcoal toothpaste. I listened to Ben Greenfield ‘debunk’ charcoal toothpaste, saying that it can be abrasive to teeth, among other ills. However, after using it for 6 months, I had a great dental checkup so I am not concerned. Using a naturally flavoured peppermint or cinnamon charcoal toothpaste that has no fluoride might not suit you all the time, but when travelling, a small amount stretched very far, and can be swallowed if required. The charcoal in the gut can help absorb toxins, reducing digestive distress.
Seamless underwear and a bra without underwire. Avoid pinch points. Underwire is not as comfortable for dozing in, and really isn’t healthy anytime, but it is especially nefarious when you are flying across the North, where radiation levels are higher. Fly wireless.
Cotton clothes and slip off shoes. Preferably comfortable, loose and breathable, without looking frumpy.
All in one balm. It can be for your lips, cuticles, elbows or under eyes, but wherever you use it, it locks in the moisture that travel tries to steal from you.
Long and wide soft infinity scarf in stretch jersey in a neutral or a Pashmina in a pattern that coordinates with
many things. Use as a head wrap for your hair if it is spitting or drizzling out, or if you go to a sauna or steam room, to prevent frizz and keep hair clean. Use as an extra layer when cold – around your neck, around your legs while seated or as a muffler for hands. Use as a bandanna when dusty. Use as a head cover in modest or devout locations. Use as a miniskirt or as a tube top or cross body bandeau top around your neck in a pinch. Use as an improvised tensor bandage in the event of a sprained muscle. Wrap around chest to make a discreet pouch for keeping
documents against your body under clothes. Use as a towel or handkerchief in a pinch. Use to wrap and protect fragile souvenirs. Use as a blindfold if you’ve forgotten your eye mask. Use as a pillow or to clean your screens.
Smart phone. Check in, get a map of the terminal. Hail an Uber or call a taxi. Watch in-flight movies. Clock. Alarm. Record audio notes. Take photos. Listen to ebooks or podcasts or music. Browse social media. Map of the city and restaurants/ hotel. Reviews of destinations. Check emails from your air bnb or other contacts. Text friends and family. Meditation apps. Find allergen free or veg-friendly foods. Compare and find the best museum to visit if you only have 2 hours. Binaural beats, TED Talks and sound healing videos. Check currency exchange. Transfer money. Carry scanned images of travel permission letters. Work on the go. Play games.
Medicinal mushrooms and antioxidants like grape seed extract, astaxanthin, lutein all protect against radiation exposure from flying. Medicinal mushrooms help the body readjust to time zones more effectively.
Circulation aids like grape seed extract, diosmin/hesperidin and pine bark are proven to improve circulation to legs to prevent CVI issues while flying.
Melatonin, 5HTP and sour cherries (a melatonin precursor) can help with sleep.
Valerian, passionflower and skullcap can help with restlessness, anxiety or sleeplessness.