Hanger is a real. But it is also preventable. However, when you are traveling preparing for the inevitable need to eat can get a bit more complicated. But because the constraints around eating on a car trip vs. hoping on a plane are quite a bit different I'll focus for now on air travel. Let's break it down to the main constraints.
Location and Cost
Your end points determine what you can either find on your way or what you should bring. If you are like my road warrior husband who expenses everything and bills it back to his employer it is likely you lean toward buy. I personally follow the "be prepared" school because I have eating restrictions and generally get annoyed when I pay $5 for a meh tasting protein bar.
But, if you are in a small airport in a remote location you need to remember your options are going to dwindle. That means you can't buy your way to healthy yummy food, so you either need to be willing to eat highly processed junk or plan ahead. (Not planning ahead is how we ended up eating hot dogs and chips at the airport in Belize granted they were from this place).
In contrast, if you are in a major metropolitan hub airport you are going to have significantly more options. They will likely come in three forms grab and go bodegas, fast-food restaurants, and fast casual restaurants. Each of these types has their benefits. Bodegas sell stuff you can toss in your bag and eat later, fast food will be quick, and fast casual will give you the opportunity to sit down and relax maybe even do a little work using the wifi.
If you have access you might also have a fourth option the lounges. We have a membership at the AMEX Centurion lounge at SFO. All that means is we've paid ahead ($450) to know we have a comfortable pit stop before we hop on a plane. And we strategically use it for a few key benefits. First, they've optimized the space to give you a quick "small plate" style meal and your beverage of choice. They also have healthy fruit that you can grab and take with you on the plane. Plus, it is hard to complain about a wine vending machine. Quite novel and the wine is good.
Length of Trip
If you are going on a quick one hour flight your hanger prevention prep will likely be pretty minimal. Most airlines will give you a free drink and maybe a tiny snack. I always say no to those because they are usually full of salt and the compound the swelling effects of flying. But I would also suggest bringing an empty refillable water bottle as most airports will have a spot to load up for a cost-effective bloat-preventing beverage. This also works for longer trips too.
When it comes to a long haul flight that is longer than 4 hours you will most likely have the option to purchase food on the plane itself. In my opinion, if you are in coach most airlines view their customers like fish in a barrel. Thus, they offer poor quality highly processed snack and meal options at exorbitant prices.
If the flight isn't too long you can get away with bringing a sandwich or salad from home or an airport restaurant without using a cooler bag. My go to sandwiches are nut butter and jelly or turkey. I also love grain salads made without dairy as they keep well. But I am also really into brining things that can stay for a long time.
My Go To Snacks
- Fresh "hearty" fruit - plums, bananas, apples, grapes, and pears (even better free from lounge)
- Nuts - macadamia, almonds, and cashews (bulk section at Whole Foods or TJs)
- Dried fruit - apricots, mango, pineapple, pears (bulk section at Whole Foods or TJs)
- Fruit leather - I love Matt's Munchies and Annie's Bunnies but I am down for TJ house-brand too
- Bars - Lara and Kind are our families favorites Quest is good if you are into protein
- Vacum Packs - Olives, Hummus, Chia Squeezes, Fruit Sauces
- Dried Meat - Epic Bars, Chefs Cut Jerky, New Primal Turkey Sticks are some of our preferred styles
- Macaroons - Laughing Giraffe, Emme's, and if you are in SF the ones mad by Bi-rite are the best!
The other option for super long haul flights is actually brining an insulated lunch tote. This lets you have almost unlimited options. But it can be a hassle to remember it and you can't bring a melted freezer pack back through as a carry on.
You might be asking yourself why are people crazy enough to bring a cooler bag. The simple answer is if you have eating restrictions traveling without preparing can be a nightmare. In the US and Europe most major allergens are labeled, but when you get more off the beaten path you won't be able to tell if that package of chips has hidden dairy.
So before you travel decide how strict you wan to be about your diet and then get your plan on!