Airport Survival: Don’t Blow Your Diet When You’re in A Pinch

by Matt Weik

With warm weather right around the corner and the thought of summer vacations floating around in our heads, I figured it would be a good time to talk about how with a little planning and thought, you could get yourself out of a jam if your flight gets delayed this summer. Let’s lay out the scene. You made it to the airport or you are getting ready to jump on your connection to that tropical oasis you have been waiting months to go visit when all of a sudden, the airline started pumping the brakes on you.

You look up at the screen and in big bold letters you see the word “DELAYED” next to your flight. Son of a b*tch! Now what are you going to do? You’re starving, your cranky, and you don’t want to sit down at some airport restaurant and pay a small fortune for airport food that quite frankly is fried, greasy, and unhealthy. So, what do you do? This article is going to lay out some of the ways you could prepare for such occasions as well as some ways that you can work around them with a little thought.

1. Pack your portable protein source

There’s honestly no reason for you to not be able to take a baggie or small container (that meets TSA guidelines) full of tasty protein goodness. Whether you decide to pack nuts, protein bars, protein powder, beef jerky, whatever, having it on you at all times prevents hiccups like this from throwing you off your game and ruining your day full of travel. One of the things that I did when I traveled was take Ziploc baggies full of protein powder with me in my carry-on luggage. I’d always have a shaker bottle with me to fill with water while at the airport, so all I had to do was grab one of the baggies full of protein powder, dump it in my shaker full of water, shake it up, and I’d have myself a protein-packed snack. For the most part I would use a water fountain to fill up my shaker, but if I wasn’t getting a good vibe that the water at the airport is worth drinking I’d simply purchase a bottle of water at one of the shops near the terminal.

2. Fruit

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a vendor at the airport that doesn’t carry fruit. It can be anything from fresh fruit like bananas and apples to things that are prepackaged like grapes, watermelon, apple slices, honeydew, etc. The nice thing about this option is that it’s generally small and easily transportable either to your terminal to eat or to walk on the plane with and eat once you sit down. Either way, the fruit will give you a nice little boost of energy, some antioxidants, as well as micro-nutrients. Be advised, however, the price you will pay for fruit at the airport will not come cheap. So, be aware of that before you go checkout and the cashier tells you the total.

If you go with this option, make sure you grab any silverware you’ll need to eat the fruit (nothing is worse than sitting down at the terminal just to realize you forgot a fork or spoon). Also, be sure to grab some napkins as well since consuming fruit can be messy at times.

3. Nuts

While some people might call you “nuts” for flying, the one we are referring to are the protein-packed little gems. Nuts are extremely quick and convenient to pack, eat, and transport—especially when they come in a resealable package in case you don’t finish them all at one sitting. If for some reason the packaging is not resealable or you somehow damage the packaging, ask one of the vendors if they have a paperclip that you may have. This way you can fold over the packaging and secure it using the paperclip so it doesn’t dump out all over the floor or in one of your bags.

Nuts are a great option at the airport because not only will they give you a good supply of protein, fats, and fiber, but they will also help keep you feeling full and satiated hopefully until you can board your plane and land at your final destination. You can get anything from peanuts, to walnuts, pistachios, almonds, and cashews. A quick tip though… stay away from the glazed, candied, or sugary nuts. These are full of sugars that you don’t need in your diet. Some of these options might be chocolate covered almonds, honey roasted peanuts, and similar. If the whole nut option you choose has added salt such as sea salt, you will be fine with that option so long as your diet allows for the additional salt and it won’t interfere with any health condition you might have.

4. Protein and Nutrition Bars

After spending a decade in the supplement industry traveling, protein and nutrition bars are no stranger of mine. In fact, I would regularly pack my own protein bars before leaving on a trip to ensure I have a backup plan in place for occasions like we are talking about in this article. A word of caution, if you are taking a bunch of protein bars, do not line the bottom of your suitcase with them and think you’re going to make it through security without being questioned what’s in your bag. Through the x-ray machine it appears like you’re smuggling a suitcase full of explosives. This is frowned up. So, if you don’t want to see people from every which direction running your way, put them in a bag in no particular order and shove them in your suitcase or carry on.

But in all seriousness, protein bars have saved my butt on many occasions when my flights have been severely delayed or even cancelled and I refused to pay the insane price for a meal at the airport terminals. The good news is, if you didn’t remember to take protein or nutrition bars with you to the airport, just about every vendor there will have a variety. You can find brands like MET-Rx, Quest, Balance, Pure Protein, Clif, KIND, and many others. Again, you will pay a pretty penny for these bars, but I’d rather spend a few bucks on a protein bar than a multiple of that for an unhealthy meal. Most of these bars will have a good amount of protein in them as well—anywhere from 10g to upwards of 32g.

5. Yogurt

A nice little snack option that you could pick up from some of the vendors at the airport is yogurt. Packed with calcium and protein, this is a home run if you’re jammed up. Some of the yogurts you will find at the airport vendors are prepackaged like the Dannon variety for example, while others may come in a clear cup, even with some fruit or granola in it. If they have the Greek variety, even better for some additional protein! Word to the wise, just like with the fruit mentioned earlier, make sure you have silverware and napkins because it can be messy or potentially spill. Want to put a damper on your trip? Spill your yogurt and try to explain the white stain on your shirt or suit, Monica.

If you wanted to play with the macros a little bit, you could always purchase some fruit like mentioned earlier and put that in your yogurt to add some flavor and sweetness. You could also take some of the nuts we spoke about and dump some of them in as well. This makes for a tasty treat if you don’t want to eat plain vanilla yogurt.

6. String Cheese

Want a quick and easy source of protein and fat? Snap into a Slim-Jim! Wait. I mean string cheese. String cheese is a great snack option especially if you need something immediately that you can quick eat while walking back to your terminal and even a super easy snack to consume on the plane. It isn’t advised, however, to keep the string cheese unrefrigerated for any length of time since it is a dairy product. There’s no good way to seal up the string cheese if you open the packaging, so for that reason, make sure you can eat the entire thing or be prepared to get creative resealing it or simply throw it away (I hate the thought of not only throwing away food but tossing money into the can since you paid more than normal on your string cheese from the vendor to begin with).

7. Jerky

BEEF! Or maybe TURKEY! Man, I love protein and I’m sure you do too. When it comes to jerky, it all depends on the variety you’re in the mood for. Jerky is a slam dunk at the airport. Most of the packaging you will find at the vendors will be resealable in case you don’t finish the entire package at one sitting. It is worth mentioning again that if you thought jerky was already expensive at the grocery store, you might be sticker shocked when you see the price at the airport vendor. But, if you’re in a pinch, it’s still an option. The salt content is also high for this option, so if that doesn’t bother you or interfere with any health issues you may have, then by all means eat up.

Jerky options will vary depending on where you shop at the airport. Some vendors will have one brand while others might have a different. You also need to take into consideration the flavor options. Do you prefer original? Maybe you like teriyaki or a peppered jerky? It’s completely your personal preference and if the macros with the added flavoring fit your dietary needs.

I hope you found this article helpful and it gave you some ideas to consider when you are traveling and in a pinch. Are there options not mentioned in this article that you enjoy when you travel and find yourself in a pinch? If so, let us know in the comments or hit me up on social media.