Airports are often a disaster zone for low carb and Keto travelers. Even before I began this way of eating (WOE), I still struggled to find healthy, affordable options before flying at most airports! Times are changing, and things ARE slowly getting better, but the best thing to do when you are Keto and flying off to parts unknown is simply this: BE PREPARED.
Option 1: Pack That Snack!
Because prior to this WOE I had already been gluten-free for many years, I became accustomed to packing my own airplane meals. Not to pat myself on the back or anything (well, maybe a little…) but my seat-mates while flying were usually jealous looking at my prosciutto-wrapped figs, plump olives, crackers and chunks of beautiful cheeses.
Nowadays, they’re STILL jealous, but my Keto-compliant snacks are even more satisfying and hunger-crushing than ever before. Now they leave me fueled until well after the plane has touched down, no matter how long my flight is!
Here is a list of Keto approved snacks. Do be aware that there ARE carbs in things like nuts, berries, and low carb crackers. Don’t be afraid of them – just make sure you real the labels and factor them into your day!
Perfect Keto Snacks for Traveling (or Anytime!)
• 1 oz/28 g portions of nuts or seeds – almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. Be aware that some flights do place restrictions on nut consumption during flights due to severe allergies of other passengers – I would carry a backup snack, too!
• Cheese cut into manageable portions/cubes/slices – count your ounces or use prepackaged serving sizes like string cheese sticks or Babybels
• Charcuterie like dried salami, prosciutto, bresaola, etc
• Pepperoni slices baked into mozzarella to make mini-pizza-like crispy delights
• Chicharonnes aka pork rinds
• Sugar-free jerky/dried meats – I love Duke’s Shorties Sausages and Bacon Jerky the most!
• Hard boiled eggs + a fast food packet of mayonnaise, or just salt (these can be a little stinky, so wait until the “regular” airline meals are served, or at least be quick about eating!)
• Lily’s Chocolate Chips or Bars
• Individual packets of no-sugar-added nut and/or coconut butter, like these by Artisana or Justin’s
• Chilled chicken salad (chicken mayonnaise for our non-American friends). Chilled tuna or egg salad can work, as well, but you have to deal with the smelly factor!
• Deli meat roll-ups: turkey + goat cheese + arugula, pastrami + boursin + spinach, ham + provolone, salami + cream cheese + pickle are all great suggestions, but you roll up what you like! You can even roll these into lettuce leaves if you want a fresh crunch
• Low carb crackers like Dr. Oetker’s Flackers or cheese-based Whisps
• Moon Cheese packets from Starbucks
• Low carb vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, celery, peeled cucumber, etc) + a little 1 oz packet/portion container of Ranch/Blue Cheese Dressing/Herbed crème fraiche for dipping
• Quiche cups/egg muffins baked ahead of time
• Cooked bacon
• Avocado already cut in half + a packet of salt
• Premade Keto waffles + fresh berries
• Protein bars like Quest Bars*
• Fat bombs
• If you’re willing to make and carry an actual meal, DO IT! You just have to follow the regular airport rules about liquids and make sure there is no more than 2 oz total. The TSA may err on the side of caution, so I would advise NOT preparing juicy meals. But there’s no reason you can’t enjoy some Keto Eggroll in a Bowl, or a portion of Keto lasagna, or a homemade Caesar, Cobb, or Chef’s Salad with a 1 oz portion of dressing in a container.
• Dry measured-out portions or packets of Keto-friendly protein powder to shake into a bottle of water
*I am not a HUGE fan because of all of the artificial and processed stuff that’s in them, but when you’re in a pinch, they can be a lifesaver. I keep some in my car glove compartment at all times just in case a Hangry Emergency hits.
Option 2: Fast to Last!
This option, in my opinion, is even easier because you do not have to DO anything, buy anything, or make sure you don’t forget anything. It is simply suggesting that you do not eat during your flight. Not eating is otherwise known as fasting, and is something that many people incorporate daily into their Ketogenic lifestyles, referring to it as “Intermittent Fasting”.
Intermittent fasting is something that I toyed with about 3 months into my journey, but put back on the shelf until just recently because it was not for me at the time. It is the practice of limiting your eating to a certain window of time, while still sticking to your already calculated macros. When you are not eating, you are fasting, and we all fast to some extent when we sleep at night. Kinda makes sense we call the first meal of the day “breakfast”, when we are “breaking our fast”.
The idea of intermittent fasting freaks out a lot of people, but it’s really not that difficult ***if you are already fat-adapted***. You will find once you have been Keto for a while that your constant hunger and cravings naturally subside, and you aren’t even tempted by Joe Shmoe’s Snickers bar. You know and appreciate that high-carb and sugary foods aren’t the keys to reaching your goals, and they become easy to resist.
If you have a flight that is not exorbitantly long, and you know that there will be food on the other end that you can eat, just don’t eat during the flight! Drink another cup of coffee or tea, natural appetite suppressants. Drink water. Bring along a scoop of a fiber supplement and mix THAT into a bottle of water to fill up your stomach. I promise you, not eating for one little flight is not going to kill you, not going to throw off your metabolism or electrolytes, and is actually not going to be that hard.
I do not recommend fasting for those new to Keto. It is a practice you should find out if you are comfortable with before you attempt it on a 13 hour flight, because realizing that it isn’t for you with only the expensive (both in price and in the cost to your happy fat-fueled body) food options could be a disaster.
When you are truly hungry, you should eat, and eat the right things. Until you have been eating low carb and listening to your body for some time, you may mistake habitual desire to eat with hunger.
Little anecdote – waaaaaaayyyyy back in the old days before I had ever even discovered that I was allergic to gluten, I “treated” myself to Sbarro every time I took a flight. After a while, as soon as I arrived at the airport, I craved Sbarro and those super-oily breadsticks! I had trained myself to associate airports with eating this carb-laden, completely unhealthy food. That was habit, not real hunger – and we want to break those kinds of habits.
Ready for Takeoff!
Both packing healthy snacks and fasting during your journey are pretty simple, manageable strategies for traveling while Keto. Do you have any other methods that have worked for you? Or maybe delicious flight-friendly snack ideas to share? Please do share in the comments!
Do you not worry about keeping many of the mentioned foods cold?
Nicole Poirier says
Hi Andee! Personally, I do not worry and have not suffered any ill effects of my airplane meals not being refrigerated, and I have been packing treats for myself for years. Many of the options presented never require refrigeration. When it comes to the ones that you WOULD normally leave in the fridge if you were keeping them at home, if they start off chilled you should have no issues with a day of travel. I think of the when we used to bring brown-bag lunches to school and leave them in our cubbies or lockers for half the day and somehow managed to make it to adulthood! Nowadays, we have so many fantastic insulated lunch bag options that keep cool things cooler if it is of concern; do make sure if you use frozen water bottles or ice packs in your bag that they are frozen solid when presented at the time of screening or else the TSA will not let them through. Hope that helps! 🙂
As a flight attendant I have found carrying a small cooler bag with frozen I e panos keeps my goods cold. Once those have lost their efficacy I bring two of those snap cold packs people use for injuries to snap and cool for longer periods if needed.
Cheese, hard boiled eggs, celery, cream cheese, salami, peppers, pickles and homemade keto cookies or sweet fat bombs are my go to while traveling internationally
I meant frozen ice packs. Spell check didn’t do me any justice with above post! Lol
Great suggestions, but what about when you’re already travelling, going from B to C, or the return home? And not a deli in sight (Asia)
Nicole Poirier says
Hello Kaz! It might be a little harder to manage if you are already on the road; being prepared is one of the best ways to stay Keto while traveling. You do always have the option of fasting. I have also never been to an airport or on a flight without coffee, which is of course something of an appetite suppressant. Airports everywhere generally have a convenience-type store that will sell nuts or seeds one could snack on. With the help of Google Translate, you can also order Keto-friendly dishes in just about any language from any restaurant in the world to take on the plane with you! Salads, pho without noodles, any variation of vegetables and meat without sauce, burgers without buns. You got this!