17 Healthy Airplane Snacks You Can Bring Through TSA

Published September 23, 2019

Written by:

Jessie Beck

Jessie is a writer, editor, and content marketer who covers travel gear and adventure travel. She’s called many places home...

Edited by:

Fred Perrotta
Fred Perrotta
Fred Perrotta

Fred Perrotta is the co-founder and CEO of Tortuga. His first backpacking trip to Europe inspired him to start the...

Woman looking at pastries

The Tortuga Promise

At Tortuga, our mission is to make travel easier. Our advice and recommendations are based on years of travel experience. We only recommend products that we use on our own travels.

Can you bring your own snacks on an airplane? Yes, absolutely!

To avoid spending money on expensive airport food and make sure you have lots of healthy options while flying, bring your own DIY snacks and food packed in your carry on or personal item.

For health-conscious and budget-savvy travelers, there’s even more motivation to pack your own airplane snacks. Bringing food from home helps you avoid unhealthy choices at the airport, saves money, and gives you something to look forward to on your flight. 

You don’t have to be a master chef to level up your in-flight food game, either. Many of our favorite in-flight snacks are quick to make and easy to pack. If you’re not sure where to start, these packable, healthy, airplane food ideas will keep you and your travel crew satiated.

Can You Bring Snacks on a Plane?

Yes, you can bring your own snacks from home as long as they’re TSA compliant. Spreadables, like peanut butter, and liquids, like yogurt, must follow the standard 3-1-1 liquid rule

Read the Travel Toiletries Packing List for more details on carry on liquid rules.

Foods you purchase after the security checkpoints at the airport do not need to follow the 3-1-1 rule. As long as you’re buying it at the airport, you can enjoy all the in-flight hummus and coconut water you want.

TSA Food Rules: What Snacks Can You Bring on a Plane?

When we talk about food that’s not allowed on an airplane, we’re actually talking about food that’s not allowed through TSA. As mentioned above, you can bring solid foods like chips, crackers, sandwiches, and pasta through TSA in your carry on, but anything liquid or spreadable will have to follow the 3-1-1 rule. So, a 1.15 ounce squeeze pack of Justin’s nut butter is fine, but a four ounce tub of yogurt will be thrown out.

Once you’re past security, this rule no longer applies, and you can bring liquids and spreadables of any size purchased in the airport. So, yes, you could technically bring a sixteen ounce bowl of soup on your flight from the Panera Bread at the airport.

The TSA’s snacks page states:

Solid food items (not liquids or gels) can be transported in either your carry-on or checked baggage.

Common foods you can’t bring through airport security include:

  • Any liquid (e.g., yogurt, juice, coconut water) over 3.4 ounces
  • Any paste (e.g., peanut butter, hummus) over 3.4 ounces

If you have questions about a specific food item, check TSA’s foods page.

What Snacks Can You Bring on an International Flight?

For international flights, there are no restrictions on what you can or cannot bring on the flight. However, at some borders, there are restrictions on what you can or cannot bring into the country. For example, Australia has strict regulations on what travelers can bring past customs and will confiscate any fresh produce or homemade meals you have in your luggage.

If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to eat your food in-flight so you don’t get it tossed at the border. If you want to pack something just in case you’re hungry, but aren’t sure if you’ll eat it, go for a packaged snack like crackers or a protein bar.

Snacks Not to Bring on a Plane

While technically allowed, you should also avoid smelly foods and allergens as a courtesy to your fellow passengers. For your own sake, skip messy foods you could easily spill.

Foods to avoid bringing on an airplane include:

  • Smelly foods like tuna
  • Allergens like peanut butter or any peanut-based snack
  • Liquids that are likely to spill and harder to get through security due to size limits

Also, a word about yogurt. We all know it’s a good last-ditch breakfast option when your airport has few healthy options, but it has a tendency to explode when you open it at high altitudes. If you choose to bring yogurt on your flight, open it veerrrry slowly to escape an in-flight disaster. The same goes for anything else that feels pressurized at altitude.

The best airplane snacks are un-messy, un-stinky food you can enjoy at room temperature, like dried fruit or a sandwich. If you’re bringing anything from home, make sure it’s TSA compliant, and won’t stink up the cabin.

If you’re not sure what to bring, use this list of healthy, packable airplane snack and meal ideas. Even the most amateur chef can pull off these recipes.

Healthy, Packable Meals (with Recipes)

If you have the time and motivation, make one of these healthy, easy-to-pack airplane meals before you hit the road.

For a quick, in-flight breakfast that won’t get smashed, explode, or cause a mess, reach for one of these nutrient-rich and antioxidant-filled blueberry oat breakfast cookies.

Banana Bread (Vegetarian)

Banana bread is another packable airplane breakfast option. For health-conscious travelers, choose a whole-wheat recipe that uses coconut oil instead of butter. Whatever you don’t pack, you can freeze until you’re back from your trip.

Chickpea Salad (Vegan, Dairy-Free)

This easy lunch recipe also works as a make-in-advance airplane meal. The salad is healthy, TSA-approved, and doesn’t need to be reheated. Plus, the recipe is flexible: toss in some feta cheese or cucumbers to make this meal your own.

Chicken and Vegetable Wrap (Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Options)

Wraps are one of the best sandwiches for flights. For a healthy option, make this chicken and vegetable-filled version from the New York Times. If you’ll be on a long flight, skip the lettuce to avoid a wilted mess at mealtime.

Fruit, Vegetable, and Cheese Bento Box (Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, and Dairy-Free Options)

Fancy-looking but simple to make, a DIY snack pack is a versatile and easy-to-pack homemade airplane snack. Simply cut up a variety of fruits, cheeses, veggies, and meats. Throw in a few crackers or a piece of bread if you’d like.

Grapes and blueberries are good options for fruits. For cheeses, stick to something low-odor and hard, like parmesan. For meat, go for a dried salami, which is preserved and doesn’t need refrigeration. 

Kale Chicken Salad (Gluten-Free Option)

Salads, the world’s go-to for a healthy meal that’s still tasty at room temperature, are another good airplane food option. To make sure your salad isn’t a mushy mess by the time you board, keep your dressing in a separate (smaller than 3.4 ounce) container. Also, opt for a heartier green like kale, shaved brussels sprouts, or cabbage, which won’t wilt like lettuce or arugula.

Cold Asian Noodles (Gluten-Free and Vegan Options)

You’re an intrepid eater, so why not give your airplane food an international twist with an Asian-inspired cold noodle dish? Sesame soba noodles are a simple classic, but if you want more ideas, check out Brit+Co’s line-up of cold noodle dishes.

Vegan Pasta Salad (Vegan)

For vegans and omnivores alike, recipes like this creamy vegan pasta salad from Love and Lemons are a great food option for air travel. Not only is it delicious, but meat and dairy-free dishes don’t require refrigeration. Even if you don’t end up eating it until halfway through a long flight, it’ll keep.

Chickpea Pan Bagnat (Vegetarian)

A French picnic classic, the pan bagnat is an easy and delicious make-in-advance sandwich option that actually gets better (not sad and soggy) the longer it sits. However, the original recipe has tuna, a major airplane no-no. Instead, try this vegetarian twist with chickpeas to make one of the best sandwiches for long flights.

Airplane Snacks

For short flights or just-in-case-I’m-hungry moments, toss one of these healthy airplane snacks in your bag.

  • Dried fruit: Unlike real fruit, you can’t crush these babies. If you’re crossing time zones, go for dried berries. Target (Good & Gather) and Trader Joe’s both have good options without added sugar. I’m partial to Target’s dried mango and pineapple.
  • Popcorn: The perfect accoutrement to your in-flight movie binge.
  • Almonds: A protein-filled snack to keep you feeling full for longer.
  • Crackers: Go for a healthier whole-wheat option that’s great for kids and adults.
  • Fruit and veggie slices: Pack a bag of snap peas, apple slices, or any other fruit or veggie you love. 

There are also a few snacks you can make with hot water from the drink service.

  • Miso soup: For a warming, in-flight snack, bring a packet of instant miso soup. Just be sure to keep your cup ¾ full, or use a thermos with a lid to avoid any turbulence-induced soup burns.
  • Instant oatmeal: Grab a packet of oats or throw some quick oats in a thermos with your favorite toppings.
  • Instant noodles: Choose a low-sodium instant noodle, since salty foods exacerbate the dehydration caused by air travel. Again, keep your bowl or food jar only ¾ full.

How to Pack Snacks for an Airplane

With most homemade airplane meals, your food is only as portable as its container. When packing your carefully crafted sandwich, salad, or noodles, make sure to choose a leak-proof container that will keep your food intact. 

Vremi Collapsible Food Container ($20)

Vremi’s line of collapsible containers is leak-proof and will keep your food safe in transit. After you’ve finished your snacks, the container collapses flat so you can stash it in your bag without it taking up as much room as traditional Tupperware.

Zojirushi Food Jar ($28+)

Japanese brand, Zojirushi, makes an affordable but high-quality line of thermoses and food jars designed to keep your warm food warm and cold food cold. If you prefer sturdier Tupperware or want to keep your food hot or cold in transit, use Zojirushi’s food jar to transport your pasta, salads, or snacks.

Stasher Bags ($8+)

Use a reusable, silicone bag from Stasher to transport your sandwich, pretzels, dried fruit, or any other snack you’d normally toss into a Ziploc bag. These bags pack even smaller than collapsible Tupperware and can be reused during your travels or on your return flight home. Like Bee’s wrap, they’ll also help you create less trash while you travel.

Bee’s Wrap ($15+ for 3)

Unlike foil or plastic wrap, you can wash and reuse these natural, beeswax-covered wraps — a plus for eco-friendly travelers who want to reduce the amount of trash they create on the road. Use them to transport sturdier foods, like sandwiches or carrot slices, and pack them on the outside or top of your bag.

Humangear Spork ($4)

If you’re bringing a dish like noodles or salad, you’ll need a utensil. Toss one of these petite, BPA-free sporks by Humangear in your bag, instead of disposable forks and spoons from airport stores. Go for the titanium spork ($14) for an upgrade.

Snow Peak Chopsticks ($38)

Prefer chopsticks with your noodles? Grab a pair of portable chopsticks from Snow Peak. Made from high-quality stainless steel and bamboo, these chopsticks break in half when not in use and, when put together, form a full-sized chopstick. They’re expensive compared to the $4 spork but incredibly well-made and designed to last. My partner, Jon, has been using his for over ten years.

Snacks on a Plane

You can eat healthier while saving time and money by packing your own foods and snacks in your personal item. Just make sure your food:

  • Follows TSA’s 3-1-1 rule: Spreadables, liquids, and liquid-ish foods like hummus, yogurt, and nut butter must be in 3.4 ounce containers or smaller.
  • Tastes good at room temperature: Consider sandwiches, cold noodles, and salads.
  • Isn’t smelly or messy to eat: Just say no to in-flight tuna.

When packing airplane snacks, consider using eco-friendly collapsible Tupperware, beeswax wraps, silicone sandwich and snack bags, and camping sporks you can reuse throughout your travels.

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Jessie Beck

Jessie is a writer, editor, and content marketer who covers travel gear and adventure travel. She’s called many places home and traveled to 45+ countries.

She now lives in San Francisco with her husband where she splits her time between traveling, adventuring outdoors, and cooking (okay, eating).

Read more from Jessie