Every parent with a picky toddler, child or teen will probably place in-flight food as one of the least pleasant aspects of travel. Famously opinionated celebrity chef/restaurateur Gordon Ramsay would heartily agree with you and your kids. He recently told pop culture website Refinery29 that based on his knowledge of where the “food’s been and where it goes,” having worked for airlines for 10 years, he is adamant about not eating what comes on the cart.
Ramsay aims to be a part of the solution with his Plane Food restaurant, inside London’s Heathrow Airport. However, for many families, there are some inherent challenges with eating at the terminal or taking it to go, from high prices to aromas of some foods offending other passengers or wilting by mid-flight. Other noted chefs across the United States serve up some tasty suggestions on how to make the journey more satisfying and less stressful.
“I am meticulous about the snacks I bring when traveling,” affirms Angela Garbacz, owner and head pastry chef, Lincoln, Neb.-based Goldenrod Pastries.
“It’s hard enough to be in airports all day, so it’s really important to be well-fed and to have good, fresh food to eat. I always pack bananas, individual packets of Justin’s almond-maple butter, trail mix, and at least one meal. A great savory meal is some lightly cooked greens, with something that can sit at room temp well, like curried quinoa salad or a Thai vegetable curry. A really tightly wrapped breakfast burrito or hummus wrap is easy to pack, too! Trust me, you’ll be the envy of everyone on your flight.”
For the return trip, Maiko Kyogoku, owner, New York City’s Bessou, suggests purchasing snacks pre-flight to remind you of the place you are leaving to make memories linger. “When traveling from New York, I usually try to find really good pretzels like Martin’s Handmade from Union Square Greenmarket, which I brought as a carry-on snack on a recent flight to Japan. On the way back from Japan, I brought dried persimmons, which I can never find quite as sweet and powdery white in the States.”
As the mother of a 17-month-old, fellow New Yorker Janine Booth, co-chef and owner, Root & Bone, keeps things super healthy when it comes to travel snacking. “Healthy snacks keep Sunny entertained, and both her and I nourished! I often make protein balls with almonds, goji berries, cocoa, and chia seeds, and also bring pita chips and homemade baba ghanoush (made with some almond butter) to add a nuttiness to the dip, and peanut butter/date banana bread.”
As a former flight attendant with three kids under 7 and a spouse still in the airline industry, Abbie Unger, founder, Flight Attendant Career Connection, has creating a carry-on snack bar down to a science.
“Although not all fruits and vegetables pack and travel well, many do,” she says. “My favorites to pack are apples and oranges. I pre-wash the apples and put every piece of fruit in a separate ziptop bag with a napkin. That keeps the fruit clean, makes for easy distribution, and provides an easy place for your child to dispose of the skin and core. Baby carrots and pre-cut celery work well, too.”
As her kids love dipping chips and veggies into hummus and guacamole, considered liquids by the TSA, Unger pre-purchases individual containers that are less than three ounces. She also likes Sargento’s string cheese and snack packs with cheese, dried fruit and nuts.
“I recommend keeping food products together in one bag because TSA has recently started asking to perform a special screening on all food, she says. “I use a plastic travel cube from EZ Packing, so I can just pull out the packing cube and put it in its own bin for easy screening.”
Beyond the airport, travel expert Marcey Rader suggests if you want to avoid “pound packing” (that is, gaining an average of three pounds when away from home for just two weeks), pack a few smart items to ward off hunger for the ride and book a family hotel with a fully-equipped in-room kitchen (such as Extended Stay America branches). Not only will this allow the family to maintain a routine and healthy lifestyle, but also have an opportunity to take full advantage of local farmers’ markets and cut restaurant expenses.
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