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Healthy Food Packing Tips for Air Travel

Healthy Food Packing Tips for Air Travel

My brother and his wife came out for a visit over fourth of July weekend. On his way back home through Phoenix airport I got a text message from him. He said that his bags got pulled off the security line for inspection. It turned out that the suspicious items were food related. That got me inspired to have a discussion about this topic.

It’s summer time and that means vacation! Yippee!

I know that many of you are traveling this summer. I also know that many of you are working hard to eat clean and avoid processed foods.

When you are committed to eating healthy, it can be difficult to find good choices when you travel.  Food selection has dramatically improved in airports over the last decade but finding fresh items like fruits and vegetables is still a challenge.

If you travel with food you might have noticed that in the last few months your bag was pulled off the line for inspection.

Recently the Transportation Safety Administration(TSA) started placing food on high alert. That means they are spending more time inspecting food that is carried through security. The main issue with food is its density.  Food cannot be easily viewed through x-ray scanner technology.

I was informed by TSA at John Wayne Airport that there is heightened security around food and that I should expect more frequent inspections of it.

While you can pack nearly anything in checked luggage, it becomes a bit more challenging when you are carrying food items on.

Although a security search can be annoying and time consuming I have never had any of my food taken or thrown away. It all has been given right back to me. If an item looks suspicious it is the decision of the TSA employee if they will allow it or not.

To reduce time spent in security I have developed a way to pack my food that makes it easier for the TSA to see what I am carrying through.

I have a list of food items that I carry along on my trips and I want to share it with you.

On a long travel day, you should not have to deviate too far off your eating plan if you plan ahead.




1. As a rule, nearly all liquids are a no-no. The liquid allowance is 3 oz. or less. I try hard to avoid them all together. Semi-solid items like yogurt, peanut butter, guacamole, and chia-seed pudding enter a grey area and will probably get taken away. It’s best to stick with solids or items that resemble liquids at a 3oz or less quantity.

2. Pack all of your food in easy to see zip-lock bags. I use a selection of sandwich bags, quart bags, and gallon size bags. If it is a messier item I double bag it.

3. Place all of the food you are carrying through in its own separate bin. This prevents the TSA from searching through your bags and speeds up the inspection process.

4. If you are going to freeze your food or place it on an ice pack make sure that the food or the ice pack is completely frozen at the time it goes through security. Partially melted ice packs will not be allowed through.

5. Here are a few of my favorite snack items to pack: Buffalo jerky, 2-4 apples, protein bars, trail mix, dried fruit, individual packets of olives, almond butter, and rolled oats. One box of Mary’s gone crackers, celery and carrot sticks, individual serving cups of hummus or guacamole.

6. These are a few of my favorite meal items to pack:  Two – three zip-lock bags of chopped grilled chicken, asparagus, and quinoa. (I freeze these the night before and put in a small cooler bag the morning of travel). One zip lock bag of roasted potatoes and kale salad. (breakfast item) One disposable container of overnight oatmeal cup. When all the ingredients soak overnight they congeal into a solid mass. You can re-constitute it with a little water once you get through security (breakfast item). See my blog post on this if you are unfamiliar with them.


If you travel with food please share by leaving a comment below I would love to hear from you and see what ideas you have when traveling.

(This post was originally a Facebook Live video. You can watch that HERE)

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Dr. Andrea Purcell

A trusted and well-respected Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Purcell has been in private practice for over twenty years. Dr. Purcell is a published author and has a women’s specialty practice for hormone balancing, weight loss, mystery illness, and gastro-intestinal concerns. Dr. Purcell assists her patients by identifying the underlying cause of disease and removing obstacles that impede the body's natural ability to heal. Drugs and surgery are used as a last resort. She believes that increasing health on the inside shines through to the outside.


  • Deborah Garrett says:

    I take a CamelBak Chute water bottle, fill it 3/4 full of filtered water and freeze it standing up the night before my flight and then pack it with my perishables in a small flexible cooler. When I get to security, I simply drink the melted water and leave the block of ice and then put it separately in a bin with my 3-1-1 bag. You must freeze it standing up for this to work or else the ice will block the opening and you won’t be able to drain out the melted water!

  • silvia faris says:

    hmmm very interesting, I usually pack individual bags of nuts, jerky, I have never attempted hummus..that would be great especially on my africa trip add some carrots and celery for dipping.

    I will keep your ideas in mind.
    Thank you
    another note Dr. P I wanted to ask how long Robby and I can continue on the protien drink and medi bulk . We are at the tail end and have done well. I am going to continue the style of eating until I leave for Africa, I will modify for robby. I do feel better, less skin itching and more energy…
    thank you
    Silvia Faris

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