Today I will be jumping on my second long haul flight from New York back to Australia this year. It will mark the second out of three times in 2013 that I will make this ridiculously long trip home, switching planes twice and crossing multiple time zones. In its basic form, air travel presents thousands of potholes for those wanting to stay healthy while travelling. I have blogged about this previously here, here and here. Today I want to focus on the specific foods that I pack with me to ensure I always have something healthy on hand to eat. These gems keep me full and satisfied and ensure I don’t have to resort to the revolting plane food or processed junk food sold in airports.
This trip I am packing two bananas and a punnet of fresh berries. The berries I will snack on but the bananas will be used for breakfast. I find breakfast is always a major health hazard on flights – sugar-laden cereals, processed re-heated eggs and meat or sugary pastries/muffins are always offered on board. I am going to mash the banana and add a mixture of cinnamon, raw cacao and hemp seeds (packed in little zip lock bags), along with a generous dollop of almond butter (packed in individual sachets). This breakfast not only provides vitamins and minerals, such as potassium from the banana, but the almond butter gives me a good dose of protein and good fats. The hemp seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, which will keep me full for longer, and the cinnamon and cacao have healing properties, with cinnamon also helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
Spiced pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
These little gems make a great snack. Not only are they crunchy, thereby satisfying that craving when everyone else around you is tucking into a bag of potato chips, but one handful provides 9 grams of protein, along with various minerals including calcium, potassium, niacin and phosphorous. They are also high in vitamins C, D, E and K.
You can buy spiced seeds from health food stores (just watch out for added oils and sugars) or make your own at home by dry roasting seeds under a grill for about 5-6 minutes (they burn very quickly) then adding your own blend of Himalayan sea salt, paprika or spices of your choice.
Another great crunchy snack for when hunger strikes. Again, you can buy these or easily make your own by rinsing a can of chickpeas in water to remove added salts, drizzling with olive oil and coating in your blend of salts and spices. Roast in a hot oven for about 30-40 minutes, turning every now and then to ensure evenness in cooking. For this trip, I bought the roasted, salted chickpeas from the Nutbox in Chelsea Market. I love this brand, as they contain no added oils.
Raw carrots and avocado
My body always craves vegetables on long haul flights. There is something about pressurised cabins and being in remote spaces for long periods on end that leaves my insides crying out for unsalted, unprocessed whole foods. Carrots travel well and don’t need to be refrigerated, making them the perfect snack. Avocados can be used as dip with the carrots, or eaten for breakfast if you don’t like fruit. All you need is a (plastic) knife to cut it open and a spoon to scoop out the flesh.
My roasted sweet potato and crispy kale croquettes (recipe here)
I made a big batch of these the day before my flight and packed a few to eat as my dinner on board. These croqs travel well and tend to last a while without refrigeration. The brilliance of these is that you are getting a great dose of complex carbohydrates (from the sweet potato), good fats (from the chia seeds, sesame seeds and almond flour) and a sprinkling of greens (from the kale). This time I also sautéed the left over kale and packed in a separate container to eat as a side to the croquettes. The perfect in flight meal!
Raw cacao goji berry bites
I always need something sweet after my main meal. At home in New York I have been delighting in Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar raw chocolate truffles, however due to the low melting temperature of raw cacao butter (the main ingredient), these are unsuitable to take on flights. The next best this is the little squares of cacao goji bites that I grab from my health food store. They contain no processed sugars or added sweeteners and are gluten free, wheat free and dairy free. They are made from raw cacao, sunflower seeds, goji berries and sweetened a little more with some dried apricots. A delicious and healthy dessert!
Herbal tea bags
Surprisingly, international flights do not tend to carry many varieties of tea. If you prefer a certain flavour or if you like your herbal teas, pack a few teabags and simply ask the hostess for a cup of hot water.
The above list may seem like a LOT to pack on a flight but remember, these flights are long (the NYC to Melbourne/Sydney route may be one of the longest in the world) and you will get hungry. It is best to be over prepared and have an abundance of healthy foods on hand to snack on when hunger strikes rather than being forced to resort to processed, rehydrated and reheated plane food. Don't forget also to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. It will save you when you arrive at your destination!