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6 tips: Healthy eating for airport travel

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Author: Secure backpack designer Sarah Giblin

If you’re anything like me, travelling brings out the snacker in you. Shops, cafes and bars filled with cakes, crisps, chocolate, muffins and drinks seem to tempt you from the moment you leave your front door. It’s fine if you’re running from train to plane, but when we’ve left a sensible amount of time to arrive, we spend so much time waiting in airports. If you don’t want to indulge every time, here are my top six ideas for keeping healthy on your airport journeys.

1 Eat a proper meal before you leave

Travelling to the airport means plenty of walking, thinking and carrying extra weight in the form of your luggage. All that burns more calories than you do sitting in a office. You’ll get hungry more quickly if you haven’t had much to eat before you go. That’s when the chocolate bars starting looking tempting.

Healthy eating when you travel bean salad

It might only be a 90 minute flight, but that actually means at least 6 hours of travel from door to door. Whether you’re travelling or not, you’re going to get hungry at some point. Do yourself a favour and have a good meal before you leave. That most likely means planning ahead so you spend your last hour at home having a meal and not, for example, packing frantically.  

2 Carry a water bottle 

Drinking enough water is a challenge for most of us. Whilst 500ml isn’t going to keep you hydrated all day, it’s better than nothing. Grab your water bottle and keep it with you.

Are you allowed to take bottles through airpot security? You can take empty bottles. So don’t worry about airport security. Finish the water in your bottle before you got through security. Take the empty bottle through. There are often water fountains on the other side of security where you can top up your bottle again and keep hydrated.

Can you take water bottle through airport security? Empty bottle riut RiutBag backpack anti theft secure Sarah Giblin

Our bodies aren’t great at distinguishing between hungry at thirst. Keeping your thirst quenched may well keep your snacking pangs under control. Dehydration also adds to jet lag, so reducing your caffein and alcohol consumption at the airport and replacing them with water could help if you’re heading on to a long haul flight.

3 Think about how to fill your time

For many of us, arriving at the airport on time is the goal. If you make it PHEW! That often means we have time to kill at the gate. Here's where a little planning can help. Don’t wander into the shopping part of the airport and think “I’ve still got an hour to kill, what shall I do?". That’s when the shiny branding from the shops, cafes and restaurants starts to work its magic. Have a plan. Know what you're going to do with that time.

What to do when you're bored at airport - riut RiutBag Sarah Giblin anti theft secure backpack

Think: I’ve arrived early, now I have time to... read, work, listening to music or sit down and think. If you don’t need to eat, just remind yourself of that just before you reach the waiting area. Then enjoy the wait.

4 Bring healthy snacks from home

How long will you be on the go? Are you travelling between meals or will you miss a whole meal time? If you just want to stop yourself grabbing a chocolate bar, make sure you have healthy snacks from home which will give you something to munch on. Flat bread or carrots and humus, an apple, tupperware with yesterday’s left over rice and chill. These are all good alternatives to let you munch on something, especially if your plane is delayed. 

pack food with you to the airport humous carrot - eat healthy travel

I’m a fan of fresh food prepared at home because you can control how much you take, you know what you’re eating and it tends to be cheaper. If I’m leaving at 4 o’clock in the morning to catch the 6am plane, I actually make my breakfast the night before and take it with me in the morning. I can recommend it. But if that sounds too much, just take few snacks and munch on them if you're trying to stop airport snacking.

6 Cut one thing from your travel diet

This may sound extreme, but here's my problem. I travel alone a lot, and I can easily eat a slice of cake in every cafe I see at the airport. I think it’s because have no one to suggest I eat something more healthy with me. But honestly, who knows?

My airport cake habit has actually stopped since I decided to change to a vegan diet. A vegan diet avoids all animal based products - meat and dairy like butter and cream, cheese and milk. The vast majority of less healthy airport food which temps me happens to contain plenty of dairy products like cream and butter. Somehow, just limiting my diet slightly has had a major impact on my desire and abililty to snack whilst travelling alone. It means I turn down unnecessary snacks and prepare a few more healthy snacks to bring with me. 

So does this mean you have to turn vegan? Not necessarily. But I have found, whilst travelling, cutting one item from my diet - sugar, dairy, chocolate or crisps - is more effective than the more general "trying to be healthy". Of course, there are many vegan items that are still pretty bad for your waist line - crisps, sugar, fruit juices - but at least some are off the menu.   

7 Forget the romantic image

Whilst I was employed at an office and looked more like a business person, I got really caught up in the romantic image associated with drinking and eating at the airport. Me, alone, in my suit, sipping wine and reading the paper whilst at the rather select Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar at Gatwick airport. (I know, there are more luxurious places in the life, but this was mine.) I spent £30 a go easily just on the image. It was romantic. I felt like Don Draper from the TV series Mad Men. Everyone there seems to be eyeing up the others and wondering where they are off to. But in reality, I was just passing the time and drinking more alcohol that I needed too. Every time I passed through the airport. 

healthy eating travel - avoid the bar at the airport

I decided to say no to the glamour, spend less money and plan ahead instead. Now I happily grab a seat, drink water, get out my carrot sticks and humus whilst doing a bit of people watching from the main seating area. Is it as romantic? Probably not to onlookers. But it’s healthier, I don’t spend as much money and I get a better look at how the world’s travellers are moving with their backpacks and belongings through airports. 

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Final thoughts: these tips are for people who travel solo a lot and want to eat more healthily on the go but find it challenging. It's tricky, because there's a lot of waiting as a traveller; especially at airports - and even more so if there's a delay. These are a few options which I've tried and they helped me. With bit of forward planning, I'm sure you'll have forgotten that chocolate even exists! Well.. maybe :)

Wishing you safe and healthy travels!

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I’m Sarah. I spend my time thinking about how we can travel better and I share my thinking with you. I design and build city travel backpacks called RiutBag, designed with security at their core. My company is called Riut - that stands for Revolution in user thinking. My aim: to help travellers use the right products and behaviours to make sure we are truly adapting to our urban environment: feeling calm, confident and comfortable wherever we go today and in the future.