Airport travel used to be a time where I felt at the mercy of unhealthy, over-salted food and overpriced water. I also felt uncomfortable with the paper and plastic waste created purchasing multiple water bottles and packaged food. Then, add to that the new security measures that decided that soup or water from home was a "safety threat." However, where there are limitations, new and better creative solutions spring forth.
Tip 1 - Water
My mother told me a valuable tip for being green and conserving money with regards to bottled water after I complained about spending four dollars on water at an airport. The chlorinated tap water did not taste good, my flight had been delayed and it would be a while before the flight attendant was serving water. She packs an empty water bottle in her carry-on bag and has it filled with filtered water once she passes through security. That way, I have my own water while waiting for the plane and flying without creating more plastic waste, save money and can reuse that bottle many times. The empty water bottle goes through security without a problem and the restaurants and coffee shops are happy to fill it for you, often with filtered water. If you don't want to have your own bottle, most places will give you a cup of water if you ask.
Tip 2 - Food
The three food sources while flying are to bring it from home, buy it at the airport or fly first class. My personal goal is to carry as little as possible, yet to have satisfying, high quality good food available to me. If not, I end up eating food that is not high quality, spending more money and feeling sluggish. Basic fruit, such as bananas, apples, oranges and fruit cups have become prevalent in most airports. Even though these are reasonably priced, I prefer to bring fruit from home and use airport fruit as back up. Be careful with the airport fruit cups as the lids often do not have good seals and are best eaten while waiting for the plane. The times I have carried a fruit cup on the plane in a bag, the lid came off and it spilled everywhere. Pack food that is easy to both carry and eat on the go.
Depending on how long the flight is, I suggest packing three types of food. First, bring a small sandwich bag that contains basic dry trail mix with some nuts and dried fruit. This is back up and you may not eat it on every flight but it is a great survival kit when the plane is sitting on the runway for 2 hours. Second bag, a larger bag, has fresh fruit and fresh or steamed vegetables. This might hold some grapes, celery, cucumbers slices, plums, apples or green beans. Pack fruit and vegetables that are fairly sturdy and won't squish being carried or going through security. Avoid tomatoes, ripe peaches, strawberries or blueberries unless you put them in a rigid plastic container to protect them. The third food is the "meal". There is nothing wrong with getting a bowl of chili or soup in the airport or a grilled chicken salad. However, if I don't have time or want to assure that I am eating high quality meats or meals, the best bet is to bring it with me. What you bring must not be liquid based or it won't get through security, so chicken soup is out. This meal can be packaged in a cardboard box like you find at many Whole Foods and grocery stores deli areas.
I usually shop for or prepare travel food the night before and have it in the refrigerator overnight to chill it. Then, I eat it while waiting for the plane or just after take off.
Tip 3 - Green
I prefer to bring chopsticks versus plastic utensils. In a third bag, bring a napkin or paper napkins. This bag doubles as bag to put anything you wish recycle or reuse, like plastic a plastic fork or Tupperware.
At the end of your trip, you will have a little bag of recycled products and will feel healthy and good. If your flight is delayed, you have the trail mix to fall back on. If you are super green, you can wash and rinse the zip lock bags for reuse. The key to eating well when traveling is to plan ahead, know what you want and prepare.
Laura Trice, M.D.
Laura's Wholesome Junk Food