Best Airplane Snacks for Athletes


When your team heads to tournament travel, you’ll want to know the best airplane snacks to pack. 

Since air travel can be one of the most unpredictable ways to travel and airlines typically offer limited snack options in the air, make sure you pack foods that can keep your hunger at bay.

By planning ahead and packing your carry on with TSA approved airplane snacks, you’ll be sure to keep yourself fed and energized throughout even the longest travel day. 

Therefore you’ll want a travel nutrition plan to stay on track with your performance nutrition plan and step off the plane ready for competition.

TSA guidelines for airplane snacks

When you’re planning ahead for your travel competition, you’ll want to know the TSA food rules for the best airplane snacks you can take through security. 

Liquids, gels and pastes packed in carry-on must follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule:

  • 3.4 ounces or less per container
  • 1 quart size, clear, plastic, zip top bag (all liquids must fit in bag)
  • 1 bag per passenger

Airplane snacks like juice, tart cherry juice packs, yogurt, nut butters, hummus, jelly, applesauce and condiments need to be under 3.4 ounces.  

Best airplane snacks approved by TSA

You’ll want to place this quart size zip top bag in the front pocket or at the top of your carry on for easy access. 

The best airplane snacks for athletes

Shelf stable snacks will be the easiest to pack since you don’t have to worry about keeping anything cool. You can combine a few of these healthy snacks to make a mini meal. 

  1. Pretzels and whole grain crackers, animal crackers, dry cereal. These carbohydrate rich snacks can keep your energy steady. Choose whole grain options for added fiber, vitamins and minerals. Pair with a health fat or protein snack for a mini meal. 
  1. Bagels. You can quickly make a bagel sandwich with a nut butter spread. Or make your bagel sandwich ahead. Bagels are one of the better travel-ready breads and less likely to be smashed. Choose whole grains when you can.
  1. Nut butters. These come in easy to carry 1.15 oz pouches that can be spread on bagels, crackers or apple slices. They’ve got healthy fats and added fiber and provide a good source of vitamins and minerals like vitamins E, B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper and potassium. 
  1. Trail mix. Make your own, either sweet or savory, with a mix of your favorite nuts, dried fruits, pretzels, veggie chips and more. You can also find a wide variety of trail mix in bulk sections at grocery stores.
  1. Nuts. Nuts provide a good source of healthy fats to increase satiety. Additionally, they’re packed with antioxidants like selenium, manganese, vitamins C and E.
  1. Roasted chickpeas and soynuts. These provide a high protein, salty snack. Salt may help to stimulate thirst, which can help prevent dehydration. 
  1. Dried fruits. Dried fruits pack easily and don’t require refrigeration. Dried fruits are nutrient and calorie dense and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. 
  1. Fruits. Choose fruits that are easy to pack and won’t bruise easily. Bananas, grapes and oranges are great options. You may also slice apples or pears ahead of time to pair with a nut butter for a satisfying balanced snack. 
  1. Energy bars. These can provide a quick and easily packed, ready to eat snack. With so many nutrient options-gluten free protein bars, high protein bars, granola bars, fig bars- you can find options to meet your energy and nutrient needs. 
  1. Jerky. So many options can be found to meet nutrient needs and dietary options. Jerky comes in many varieties like beef, turkey, salmon, beyond meat and mushroom. Pair a high protein option with some carbohydrates for a balanced snack.
best airplane snacks for athletes list

Airplane snacks on ice

Some healthy snack options need to be kept cool for food safety. So, you’ll want to pack a soft sided lunch bag with ice packs (but check the TSA guidelines because anything slushy won’t be let through).

Additionally, you could freeze yogurt, juice packs, applesauce packets to double as ice packs.

Some chilled snack options

  1. Pre made sandwiches
  2. String cheese
  3. Yogurt tubes
  4. Hard boiled eggs
  5. Hummus and carrots

Importance of hydration

The pressurization of the airplane can cause fluid loss and lead to dehydration. Therefore, it’s recommended that you drink 8-10 oz of fluids/hour throughout your flight. Bring an empty water bottle and once you pass through security, fill up your water. 

To encourage fluid consumption, you can also pack some electrolytes or flavored water packets, like Nuun and Gatorade packs.

Best airplane snacks-hydration

Airplane snacks and food safety

While travel may wreak havoc on an athlete’s GI system due to changes in routine, access to uncommon foods and lack of fiber, athletes should also be mindful of food safety issues. (1)

Athletes should carry a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer and use on hands prior to eating. Additionally, you may also want to carry antibacterial wipes to wipe down your seat tray prior to eating (use according to manufacturer instructions).

Final thoughts

Planning ahead for a long travel day is important in order to stay on track with your performance nutrition plan. Since air travel can be unpredictable and airlines offer a limited variety of snacks, use the suggestions in this post to find packable and healthy snacks.

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