How to Pack Airplane Snacks for Kids

by Ann Marie Michaels on April 13, 2011

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Are you stumped on how to pack healthy snacks for kids on the airplane? It’s really hard to fly these days since many airlines have stopped serving meals, and if they do have food for purchase, it’s mostly low-fat and/or processed.

When traveling with kids, it is not a good idea to skimp on the fat. Low-fat food = tired, cranky kids!

If you make sure you have lots of nourishing foods loaded with healthy fats, it will make your trip a lot easier.

Airplane Snacks for Kids

Here are some of the things I pack for a plane trip:

Salami – nitrate-free — where to buy salami
Healthy potato chips
Hard-boiled eggs – people are always shocked to see my preschooler eating hard-boiled eggs — she loves them!
Coconut flour egg, bacon & cheese muffins
Popcorn (popped in coconut oil and topped with melted butter) – we make popcorn for the movie theater, too –
Coconut flour blueberry muffins
Grass-fed cheese — where to buy cheese
Homemade corn tortilla chips
Soaked and dried nuts — where to buy snacks
Homemade sprouted flour crackers
Whole, raw milk (in a sippy cup; sometimes I even bring two) – it’s impossible to get ANY kind of milk on most airplanes these days; many airlines only have non-dairy creamer available
Scrambled eggs – I put them in a Thermos container
Bananas, oranges, apples, grapes – organic if possible
Homemade shortbread cookies – it’s a great idea to pack a few cookies for those extra-tough times while traveling
Raisins – organic if possible — where to buy raisins
Grass-fed whole milk yogurt mixed with a little fruit-sweetened jam or honey – I put it in a Thermos
Homemade soaked granola

Of course, these are all great snacks for road trips, too — or outings to the zoo or playground.

Share Your Comments

What do you pack for plane trips?

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Claudia April 13, 2011 at 9:13 PM

Thank you so much for posting this!!! I am perpetually stumped about what to take along for snacks on outings! Somehow, I’ve gotten the kids used to resorting to crappy fast food when we’re running errands and we get hungry – we just don’t do well without a hot meal or something in sandwich form. I take fruit and sometimes crackers along, but it barely suffices! Of course, we all regret it later when the resulting crankiness from eating poorly sets in…it pays to do a little extra planning.

Please, more posts on simple ideas for eating well when out and about!

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Meagan April 13, 2011 at 9:53 PM

Guacamole, nut butters and sliced raw veggies travel well too. I bring those when I fly. Also lettuce wraps and protein bars! See my attached link

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jeanmarie April 13, 2011 at 9:58 PM

Looks like great ideas for my lunchbox!

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Kelly @ The Nourishing Home April 13, 2011 at 10:15 PM

we always pack our own food for plane flights. we’re almost always on a plane at least 5 hours to get to our relatives for the holidays, so having real food on hand is a must, the last thing we want to do is eat terminal food – literally! LOL! thanks for sharing some great ideas with us. blessings, kel

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Riki Juster April 13, 2011 at 11:13 PM

How do you get past security with milk or yogurt. They don’t let anyone through the gate with any kind of liquid, not even water. Another great snack to take on the plane is any kind of jerky!

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Kathryn Niflis Johnson April 14, 2011 at 5:27 AM

That’s what I was going to say- I once had my daughter’s applesauce taken away by security. Who knew it was a liquid? It wasn’t even runny! I agree that liquids like milk and pastes like yogurt or guac may be a problem. Be prepared to consume it on the spot or dump it out.

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Rebecca April 14, 2011 at 6:14 AM

Maybe during the travel time to the airport and waiting in the line to check in and the security line. By that time, all of her milk could be gone.
I love the snack list. I will be flying to CT in June and this will help me with my snacks and meals.

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cheeseslave April 14, 2011 at 8:26 AM

The trick is to put them milk in sippy cups or bottles. If you tell them it’s breast milk they won’t take it away.

However I’ve never had them take it away.

This would be harder to do with older children. :-)

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Allen in AK April 14, 2011 at 7:54 AM

We even an issue flying frozen salmon down to my mom. There was an ice pack in to help keep the fish frozen longer. It was all frozen to -40! I told them I was pretty certain it wasnt a liquid or gel, nor would it be by the end of my flight. We had to cut open the box, take out the ice pack and then reseal it. But at least they didnt grope us.

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Jennifer April 14, 2011 at 1:36 PM

LoL Allen,
That’s true! At lease there was no groping :D How did your salmon do getting home?

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Bebe April 14, 2011 at 2:04 PM

You can use gel ice packs, but it might be o.k. only for checked baggage. We took a fish box full of salmon and game and TEN gel packs from Anchorage to Honolulu in January. It was no problemo. I also packed a hunk of mahi mahi that my son caught on a charter while we were there. Dad really wanted us to bring some home so I froze a couple pieces, sandwiched them between two of the gel packs from our trip over, wrapped it all in newspaper, stuck it in a gallon ziploc and packed it in my suitcase! Papa had mahi for dinner the next night. ;)

They DID confiscate some pudding cups from us at security. I NEVER buy that stuff but decided to be ‘lenient’ in this one instance only to see them hit the trash at Honolulu International! If they had been individually labeled with their volume they might have made it through. It wasn’t all that heartbreaking for me but my kids sure did frown!

We did take LaraBars, beef jerky, dried fruit and nuts, cheese, apples and celery so no one was harmed in this incident! Chocolate was a hit with everyone, including fellow passengers while waiting at the gate late at night. ;)

Love the hard-boiled egg idea and I agree, I would absolutely pack some salt and pepper mix. Everybody in my crew loves boiled eggs.

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Jenn April 17, 2011 at 6:59 AM

Frozen fish stays well frozen when wrapped in lots of newspaper. I’ve flown with fish packed like this before and it’s always arrived still frozen after a long day of travel, and there’s no fuss with ice packs.

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christina April 22, 2011 at 4:28 PM

This list is great for just my husband and I ;)
we did try to take some peanut butter- extra natural and extra crunchy on the plane… in its container and the TSA took it away! Saddest thing I’ve ever seen thrown in the trash can. we couldnt even have time for a parting bite.

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Bethany July 12, 2011 at 4:45 AM

fantastic ideas….

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Alyss April 14, 2011 at 12:19 AM

What a great list of foods to take on a trip! I have packed my Laptop Lunchbox for a couple plane rides and wouldn’t travel without it. I love finger foods on a plane so sandwiches, sliced sausages, cubed cheese and cut fruit are my favorites. Here are a couple of my photos of plane lunches:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssluncheslove/2615890147/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alyssssyla/5006406249/in/set-72157607475623369

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Julie April 14, 2011 at 6:17 AM

Looks yummy!

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Sarah Zitterman April 14, 2011 at 3:19 AM

Thanks so much for this list.
By the way, to answer the comment about getting through security, you CAN often get through security with sippy cups or other things that are for SMALL children. Honestly, it varies country by country if you travel internationally, but the US Transportation Authority DOES make exceptions for food/drinks for children, diabetics, and a few others. Details at their website:
http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/index.shtm
I can tell you from my personal experience (even as a covered Muslim woman) that most screeners are very lienient when it comes to liquids for small children. The only place I’ve had to dump drinks for my kids was Paris. . . the French are CRAZY with inspections, and rather inconsistent, too.

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Jennifer April 14, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Good to know! Thanks for that link Sarah :)
I am also glad you informed us about the French’s way of doing things. Nothing like traveling internationally and then realize you should have looked into their policies regarding their way of doing things versus just making sure all the documents are the only important things.

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Erica April 14, 2011 at 3:54 AM

Hi Cheeseslave,

How tight is the security in the airport? Would we have to go through dangerous scanners?

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cheeseslave April 14, 2011 at 8:28 AM

I have not yet had to go through any dangerous scanners or be patted down.

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Tasha @ Voracious April 14, 2011 at 4:35 AM

It’s not just kids, low fat food makes ME grumpy…and cranky, and tired, and just all around awful to be around. Especially when traveling! :-)

These are some great snack ideas, especially love the hard-boiled eggs idea. For some reason I wouldn’t think to travel with those, but now that you’ve put the idea in my head I can definitely see myself doing that. SO much better than airplane food!

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cheeseslave April 14, 2011 at 8:28 AM

What I like to do is put a little sea salt in a small snack-sized ziploc bag. Then you can have salt on your hard boiled egg!

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Lisa Imerman April 14, 2011 at 6:21 AM

We also pack our laptop lunches (for most outings we do this). The only thing I hate is no cold packs for a flight, so that makes it a bit trickier to keep it cold.

We pack very similar type of things. I was allowed to take organic applesauce (I had the pre-bought sealed cups) because we need them to give Elliott and Ben their supplements (crushed up and put in applesauce,..they can’t swallow pills yet) and TSA allowed it. They made me throw away my yogurt however.

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Jo-Lynn April 14, 2011 at 10:29 PM

Lisa bring baggies with you and ask the fligh attendants wfor ice. They would be more than happy to accomdadate you. Hope that helps. I love to see people bringing their own food on the plane and eating healthy!

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sammyjay April 14, 2011 at 7:14 AM

I once had a jar of peanut butter they told me I could not bring on, and so I asked them if it would be OK to bring a peanut butter sandwich on. They said yes, of course, so I emptied my entire jar of peanut butter into a tupperware and put a piece of bread on it. They let me through. :) It’s all about the packaging! If the food is in a thermos or any kind of my own container–even a blended soup–they have always seem to be OK with it.

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cheeseslave April 14, 2011 at 8:30 AM

LOL! That is so funny!

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Jennifer April 14, 2011 at 1:45 PM

huh. That’s so odd. Way to go TSA :D

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christina April 22, 2011 at 4:35 PM

smart idea!!! we’ll be sure to bring a slice with us next time….and here i thought leaving it in the original packaging was better and safer. they threw our whole jar away!

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sammyjay April 14, 2011 at 7:17 AM

I once had a jar of peanut butter they told me I could not bring on, and so I asked them if it would be OK to bring a peanut butter sandwich on. They said yes, of course, so I emptied my entire jar of peanut butter into a tupperware and put a piece of bread on it. They let me through. :) It’s all about the packaging! If the food is in a thermos or any kind of my own container–even a blended soup–they have always seemed to be OK with it.

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Ami April 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM

I also like to bring meat. Beef jerkey travels really well! Chicken in pieces is good or tuna salad. Although the tuna salad is pretty stinky – more like for a layover. When my son was a baby, my first flight with him after he started eating solid foods, they tried to take the yogurt away. I cried – and they let me on with it… Since then, I definitely assert myself if they try to take stuff away, but I usually bring SOUP, and they’ve always let that through!? I don’t get it, but you can always say your kid has a special diet and that you “need” that food….! great! :)

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Lisa @ Real Food Digest April 14, 2011 at 10:51 AM

I pack oven roasted turkey breast – the kids really like that.
Also canned salmon/tuna and rice crackers which is usually what I eat on the airplane – some of my kids eat it and some don’t. Also carrot sticks and cucumbers, apples, homemade trail mix – I add some chocolate chips as a treat. I will sometimes let them have an organic lollipop or organic chocolate as a once in a while airplane treat.

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Mindy April 14, 2011 at 12:40 PM

This is a great list, but I would not count on them letting you through with mussy things, even with kids. It is totally up to the whim of the people working at the times you are going through. We frequently travel with hummus or quark, but I’ve had to toss it about 25% of the time (even within weeks at the same airport, I will get different answers). On the other hand, I’ve never had a problem with hard ice packs.

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Paula Runyan April 14, 2011 at 1:12 PM

I need suggestions! We are adopting a baby and we have her on the WAPF formula. She is almost 8 weeks now!
So, this fall, we are planning to head to the midwest to visit family, and that will involve flying.
How in the world can I take all that liquid on a plane?
Paula

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cheeseslave April 14, 2011 at 1:48 PM

CONGRATULATIONS, Paula!!! That is soooo exciting!!! Woo hoooooo!!!!!!

I took all the ingredients for the homemade formula on the plane with me when Kate was a baby. I know, it was nutty. But I did it.

Here’s how I did it: I would make enough formula for 1-3 days and I would put it in bottles in a cooler. I told the TSA guys it was breastmilk.

You can also put them in breastmilk bags and freeze them, then put the frozen bags in the cooler. You can get ice at the airport to add to your cooler (after you go through security). I did that a lot of the time I traveled.

Then you can put most of the ingredients into your suitcase and check it so you have what you need to make formula once you get there. You can buy organic milk (or raw milk if possible) where you are going — and you can also buy things like olive oil most likely. Pack the things you can’t buy there such as the lactose powder, the vitamin C powder, coconut oil, and so on. I packed each one in small ziploc bags or, in the case of coconut oil, in small Tupperware containers.

I printed out the homemade formula recipe and stuck it in there with them so they would know what I was using these things for. Of course nobody ever went through my suitcase but I was just being cautious.

Can you get raw milk where you are going in the midwest? If not, bring some kefir grains and you can just culture the organic whole milk that you buy there.

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cheeseslave April 14, 2011 at 1:50 PM

I just have to say one more thing… I just can’t tell you how HAPPY I am for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO happy!

And yesterday was my daughter’s birthday. Four years old.

Being a parent is one of the greatest joys in life.

Happiest and best wishes to you and your family.

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Paula Runyan April 14, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Oh, and thanks :o)
We are still in shock. We were aproached by friends and asked if we would adopt their baby. We got her at 3 weeks old.

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Paula Runyan April 14, 2011 at 1:57 PM

the breast milk bags idea is totally awesome! I would never have thought of that! Should not even have to declare what it is either, I would think!
My parents have a fantastic source for grass fed Jersey milk, and the rest of the ingredients I am planning on mailing down there.
Mom should have things like the oils on hand though.

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Jennifer April 14, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Sarah Zitterman posted a link that might help you:
http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/index.shtm

It talks about the liquids.
“Medications, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces (100ml) and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Officers may ask travelers to open these items to conduct additional screening and passengers should declare them for inspection at the checkpoint.”

http://www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm
“Declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.”

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Paula Runyan April 14, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Thank you Jennifer!
I have a plan in place now!

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Sandra Mort April 14, 2011 at 9:57 PM

I don’t know you but congratulations on your new baby!!! Babies (and older kids, too!) are the best thing in the whole wide world, regardless of how the family gets together.

If you don’t want to reply to me, I won’t push, but if you’re interested in getting information on inducing lactation for an adoptive mom, I’ve got a friend who was able to exclusively breastfeed their son. They’d be happy to get you more information if you like. Anyway, I’m sure that you’ll do right by him no matter what you feed him. Congrats again!

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Paula Runyan April 15, 2011 at 10:05 AM

I have already attempted, but time constraints with the her have made it impossible at the moment.
I have everything, and once things settle down better, will start back up.

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Paula Runyan April 15, 2011 at 10:08 AM

I should have mentioned that we had all of 9 days to get ready for her. Literally. We were not preparing, and I had no idea that this couple had had a baby!
So, needless to say, that last month has been just a tad crazy, lol!

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Erica April 15, 2011 at 5:20 AM

Hi Paula,

Congradulations for your new baby :) !!!!!!!!!

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christina April 22, 2011 at 4:38 PM

oh! congrats! my friend just adopted a baby. where can i find the recipe for this homemade baby brew?

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Paula Runyan May 3, 2011 at 6:43 PM

Ann Marie has the recipe in one of her posts. It is also in Nourishing traditions.

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JIll April 14, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Hey Cheeseslave,
Great topic! When I travel I pack a styrofoam cooler full of frozen food and label it as food and count it as luggage. It is usually no problem. The problems come when trying to come back to the US from a foreign place. Going through customs can be a nightmare! One time I forgot that I still had a lemon in one of the otherwise empty coolers, and the Customs Officer was about to fine me! She kept asking if I had any other food. I actually did but did not admit it — otherwise we would have not had anything to eat on a 5 hour flight! We were on GAPS at the time! They did not allow meat and produce in particular. We had hamburgers and salads! And I would not want to eat airport food… This is really a problem because we go to Aruba every year. Going into Aruba is no problem — they allow all foods in, but coming home — peanut butter and tuna fish is OK. Any other suggestions? Jill

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Terrell April 15, 2011 at 10:58 AM

You must carry the cooler on the airplane? I think this is a great idea, but am worried about the flimsy styrofoam container standing up to traveling. I wonder if one could carry on a plastic cooler…

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Againstthegrain April 14, 2011 at 9:26 PM

Living on the West coast, with family on the East coast and in-laws in the UK and Europe, our travels are usually very long distance. We also eat gluten-free and my husband and I eat low carb. Airline and airport food options are incredibly limited. I now pack a pound or two of “baked” bacon in waxed paper, slices or cubes of a good aged cheddar, and really high fat hommade coconut-nut bars (made loosely based on Nora Gedgaudes’ nut snackers recipe). That alllows us to pick and choose from the “least worst” airline meal offerings, as the lightweight and compact high fat provisions with a bit of protein satisfy our hunger quite well. I was inspired by the antarctic expedition that subsisted on butter and bacon for their meals.

Prior leaving our home for the flight we all drink a very rich heavy cream and egg yolk “nog” that also helps to fill us up prior to the flight in a nourishing way. I sometimes even pack my hand held stick blender for easy egg nogs during the trip.

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Jett April 15, 2011 at 12:33 AM

Lol they kind of looks like bricks, I don’t know :). Not but interesting list, I like the sound of the coconut flour blueberry muffins thing :)_

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Liz April 15, 2011 at 2:54 AM

We have a hard time finding veggies that my son can eat when we’re traveling (he’s only 15 months and doesn’t have any molars, so raw veggies are out). Steamed carrot sticks work really well, and I make little spinach bites (purée steamed spinach, dried mushrooms, onion, garlic, and egg in a food processor, then drop on a cookie sheet and bake like cookies) so he can get his leafy greens on the go.

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Judy April 21, 2011 at 3:37 PM

How extremely clever!

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Lee April 15, 2011 at 10:29 AM

super, super ideas here from everyone! congratulations to the new baby too!

when we fly I always make chicken salad from good pastured chicken and hard boiled eggs and mayo and pack it in those single-serve tupperware lidded containers (about 4oz each), hard boiled eggs (again, tupperware makes a travel salt/pepper shaker that’s about an inch or two high, perfect for cars and planes!), red and yellow bell pepper strips, snow peas, carrot sticks, radishes in zipper bags, lots of jerky, good cheese slices and homemade crackers. Nowadays, after a disappointing flight to Italy with no butter anywhere, I try to stock up on those little restaurant butter thingies with the one pat of butter and a peel-back top. I stick handfuls of those in so that we will always have some kind of butter! Just make a point to swing by a Panera or Atlanta Bread Co. and raid their condiment bar. :) LOL!

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Bethany July 12, 2011 at 4:43 AM

I made tuna salad once and it went over well, good ideas….

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BARB April 15, 2011 at 11:14 AM

I used cooked in their skin, whole, sweet potatoes that are frozen in a baggie as my “GEL PAC”. That’s only good for an outgoing trip, unless I’m staying with a friend and can have them make me some sweet potatoes! The good thing is I get to eat them once I get to my destination. Even cold they make a nice addition to my breakfast with some home made jerky.
My favorite travel cooler is the e-bags crew cooler, which is sadly discontinued. It’s made for flight attendants, so it’s of a size that can fit under a seat in the plane, very well insulated and large enough to carry about 3 days worth of food.
I wrote about using it to send with my husband when he had to go in to work during a blizzard. http://girlsraiseirontoo.blogspot.com/2011/01/oh-snow.html

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Bethany July 12, 2011 at 4:43 AM

what a good idea with the frozen sweet potatos… once I froze tuna salad and sent it with my husband since i was only going to be a few hours flight… good thing it didn’t leak !! :-)

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Maggie @ Maggie's Nest April 15, 2011 at 8:11 PM

I recently sent my sister your recipe for coconut flour, egg, bacon & cheese muffins as an easy way to get the kids out the door to school in the morning. They were a huge hit!

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Adam April 17, 2011 at 11:48 PM

thank you everyone,, i love your ideas.
Now i can pack nutrition and hydration food during we travel . Fill the kids’ snack pack with simple, filling and healthy treats before we go.

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Alex Lewin April 18, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Great ideas! And not just for kids…

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Andrea April 23, 2011 at 2:57 AM

I just have to add to how awesome we all think you all! Thank you so much for helping us help our families eat better! This post was a lifesaver for me.

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Leahhona May 2, 2011 at 11:35 AM

I am not suggesting this, because I think it’s HORRIBLE, but I have a frequent flier friend who gets all the confiscated items you all talk about on her flight and more, because she carries a bottle of insulin with her. It needs to stay on ice packs, she gets her peanut butter, milk, cheese, yogurt, and water bottles. She keeps everything sealed, until through security, and I am appalled and amazed at how TSA lets her through every time.

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naomikrauss@localpsychiclist.com May 31, 2011 at 12:05 AM

my kids love to fly. I prepared important things in advance.

Thank you for the tips. I will share this to my friends…

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cmori77@premiermarketingtools.com June 3, 2011 at 2:07 AM

Yeah it is my problem for to pack snacks for my kids. I don’t know which one to bring. Thanks for the tips!

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leighann July 5, 2011 at 8:38 PM

I work in the food industry…granted, the restaurant I work tries to be healthy, but by the healthy standards the government recommends. So, of course, I can’t eat the majority of what’s there, making a quick an’ easy lunch difficult. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for– thanks for posting it!

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Bethany July 12, 2011 at 4:40 AM

what great ideas !

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Bethany July 12, 2011 at 4:41 AM

wish I had this list when we just went on vacation ! All went well with the kiddos though

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Lydia December 6, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Thanks for the snack ideas! I have tried making delicious meals for the plane and throwing out my ice pack before security, then buying ice on the other side. But I fly often and sometimes this is just too much work (especially when the delicious meal is not nearly as appealing as the hot cheeseburger of pizza my husband usually gets). So my new go-to is grilled cheese, cut into finger width strips. Made on whole grain sourdough with pastured butter and cheese, this is a fairly healthy option and actually delicious at room temperature. You can add apple slices or tomato slices to make it more interesting and experiment with different raw milk cheeses. It avoids all the liquid debates, and stays fresh for several hours without ice!

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