Vegan Airline Food: What You Can Bring and Meal Ideas
Nurturing a plant-based lifestyle can be easy when you are at home, in control of all the ingredients you bought and used while cooking your healthy and delicious vegan dish.
The true challenge occurs when we are pushed out of our ‘nutritional comfort zone’ and have to depend on others to organize our meals.
One of the situations described above is traveling, more specifically traveling by plane.
Luckily, we can never be forced to depend on, and worry about external meal options that are rarely satisfying for vegans. We can bring our food with us.
However, with all the necessary preparations that traveling requires like packing, finding suitable accommodation, exploring the sightseeing tours worth engaging in, and finding someone to water your plants while you are away, thinking about food tends to come last.
But don’t worry. In this article, we will reveal which food items are allowed to be brought into a plane, and what are the easiest and healthiest vegan meals to prepare and bring on your flight.
Why Is Bringing Your Own Food Important?
Unfortunately, most US airlines do not have a healthy, vegan-friendly menu.
Traveling by plane is the fastest way to reach your destination, but the delays can be very unpredictive. Even if your flight is on time you have to arrive early at the airport.
And if your flight is long and involves a layover, you should prioritize your meal prep for that day.
It is always important to consume nutritionally balanced meals that contain the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Eating in an airplane is no exception. You will probably be deprived of sleep and your body will yearn for a healthy meal to restore its energy more than ever.
In conclusion, it is essential to bring your plant-based food on a flight. Yes, there are a bunch of airport security rules about what you can carry in a plane, but they are not as limiting as you may think.
In the next section, we will outline those that are most important.
Airport Security Food Rules
On this link, you can find all the TSA regulations which concern food and beverages.
Liquids are allowed only in amounts that are less than or equal to 3.4 oz (100 ml).
There are some exceptions for traveling with little children and toddlers which you can find here.
Since water, tea, and coffee are served on planes, vegans do not have to worry about liquids as much as food when they are traveling by airplane.
That is why we will not be dealing with beverages in this article.
You can order something to drink on your flight or bring your water bottle and refill it when needed. It is only important for it to be empty (or contain less than 3.4 oz) during your security check, but you can add water after you’ve passed it.
The good news is that almost all food items can be carried on the plane.
However, the 3.4 oz rule also applies to food that is in liquid or gel form, such as creamy spreads, oils, and nut butter. But this does not create a problem since you will probably use less than 3.4 oz of hummus or guacamole or some other spread for your sandwich.
So a whole package of, for example, hummus is not allowed to be brought on a plane, but that doesn’t mean you can not include it in a meal.
As the TSA website states:
‘The food you bring through security must be wrapped or inside a container.’
So, pack your meals in zip bags, containers, dishes, lunch boxes, or whatever you have at home. Don’t forget the utensils (no knives), although you can probably ask the plane staff to give you some.
If you are flying with an international airline check if their food regulations differ from the TSA ones and organize your meals accordingly.
Vegan Meal Ideas Allowed in Airplanes
Here we will include an option for breakfast, three for lunch or dinner, and a snack idea.
The important thing to consider is that you should always choose something as tasty at room temperature as it is when heated. You will not have a chance to heat it in the plane.
If some of your food items should be kept cold, it is probably best to use a thermal insulated bag for packaging.
If you are wondering about ice and the TSA regulations, here it is:
‘Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements.’
Also, depending on the duration of your flight, you shouldn’t bring food that can easily go bad when not in a regular refrigerator.
Let’s start with breakfast.
If you are having an early flight and don’t have time for breakfast at home, overnight oats are a good option.
This is just an example, feel free to add what you usually use in your oatmeal. Some nuts, nut butter, or even protein powder, whatever suits you.
Just remember, there must not be more than 3.4 ounces of liquid substance in the oatmeal (plant milk in this case, but also if you use some nut butter).
If you are afraid that there would be more liquid than the allowed amount, you can replace the plant milk with water. Just pack the dry ingredients and then ask the flight attendant for some hot water to add and mix.
If oatmeal doesn’t keep you full, take a look at our next option. It can be consumed as breakfast as well as lunch/dinner.
Avocado Tofu Sandwich
Sandwiches can be eaten at any time of day, they can be a suitable breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack.
Depending on the type of ingredients you fill them up with, they can be extra healthy or extremely unhealthy.
It is also one of the best foods to carry with you when you are leaving home for more than a couple of hours, as is the case with traveling by plane.
Here is a sandwich idea for your flight that contains everything your body requires — protein, carbs, and fats.
Choose your bread wisely. If the bread is highly processed and unhealthy, the rest of the ingredients can not compensate.
Find a good whole-grain bread and read the label carefully. If available, sourdough bread is often a great and healthy option.
Or, even better, make your bread at home (it only takes a couple of minutes to mix the ingredients, and then you can continue packing for your trip while the bread is baking in the oven).
The bread will be the base of your sandwich and the source of carbohydrates.
Add some tofu (or any other source of protein).
Slice half of an avocado for your daily dose of healthy fats.
Add a handful of arugula. It is such a beneficial final touch to your sandwich since it will contribute to its amazing taste, and this leafy green is extremely good for you because it contains a lot of antioxidants.
Cold Pasta Salads
Similar to sandwiches, pasta can vary from healthy to unhealthy, depending on the recipe you are using.
Here is an idea for a cold pasta salad. On one hand, it is much more filling than regular salad, and on the other, you do not have to reheat it as regular pasta.
Just like the bread for sandwiches, choose your pasta wisely. Not the shape, you can choose whichever you like best (although long spaghetti or nuddles might be a bit inconvenient to eat in a plane, so you might want to stick to fusilli or other shorter shapes).
It is high in protein, so it will keep you full for longer and help you reach your daily protein intake goal, which makes chickpea flour a great substitute for other refined flours.
Add some sliced vegetables, such as cherry tomato, green pepper, cucumbers, some beans (black, red kidney, whichever you prefer), and a couple of olives.
Don’t forget the 3.4 oz rule for the dressing. You can make a sauce from overnight-soaked cashews blended with some olive oil, lemon juice, and pasta water (the water in which the pasta was cooked) and add it to your salad dish.
Add some fresh basil or parsley, pack it up, and enjoy your traveling plant-based meal.
If you can not imagine eating pasta cold and as a salad dish, take a look at our next salad suggestion or use our salad meal generator.
Quinoa is a really good source of fiber for vegans. It can be used in many dishes and salads.
It is also high in protein and is a complete protein which means that it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that human systems cannot produce on their own, in contrast to some plant proteins (for example, seitan which lacks a necessary amino acid called lysine).
Cook the quinoa. Slice and prepare all the vegetables that you like and have at hand, for example, red or green pepper, cucumber, carrots, and avocado… The more the merrier.
Don’t forget a protein source. Add some chickpeas, beans, or edamame to your salad.
Mix it all up and top it with olive oil (a source of healthy fats), some lemon juice, and the spices you prefer. Add some fresh parsley or basil.
You will get a colorful, easy, and healthy plant-based meal that is ideal for your plane ride and that will nourish your whole body.
Of course, don’t put more than 3.4 oz of olive oil and lemon juice in your meal.
Nuts and Dried Fruit
Snacks are a must-have. You never know how long until you reach your destination, so it is smart to have snacks in case the delays are long and you get peckish.
Also, if you are a nervous flier, snacking on something might take your mind off flying and make the time pass faster.
If it is a long flight and you have an opportunity to watch a movie, snacks will be more than welcome.
In case you can’t sleep in transit and need something healthy to energize you, nuts and dried fruit are great options for you.
Make your mix of nuts and some dried fruit to sweeten your snack, or buy one in a store (as always, pay attention to the label, healthy snacks are not always as healthy as they seem).
Nuts are high in fat and contain lots of antioxidants and essential nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin E, and selenium (one Brazil nut is enough for your daily required intake of selenium, so eat it in moderation).
Add some dried cranberries, for example, to sweeten your nut mix and you have got yourself a delicious, healthy, and energizing plane snack that will keep you full longer than you’d expect.
You can also bring some fresh fruit, vegetable chips, popcorn, energy bars, and granolas (store-bought or, even better, homemade).
Some airlines have decent vegan options, and some allow you to order a plant-based meal a couple of days before your flight.
But it is always safest to bring your food with you. You never know what might happen.
The TSA regulations sound strict, however, they are not, and you can bring almost any plant-based food items on the plane.
Just remember the 3.4 oz rule, which applies not only to beverages but to food that has a slightly liquid form such as creamy spreads (hummus, guacamole), oil and nut butter.
With this in mind, plan your meals on time and enjoy your flight.
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Read more about our process and team.
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