What To Eat At The Airport If You're Vegan (and Sugar-Free)

Waiting for a flight, bored and starving? Been there.

I'm doing a fair amount of traveling these days and the question that always comes up when I'm packing is what, if anything, should I take with me to eat in the airport?

My Options

1. Eat before I go and try to fast on hot tea until I get to my destination.

2. Sit there in the terminal watching everyone else enjoy the fast food, bags of convenience store snacks, or fajita bowls in the food court, starving and bored (me, not them. They're having a great time.)

3. Search the fast food joints for something that won't make me tired, irritable, and/or bloated. Find that there is nothing. All the salads have meat and/or cheese, and all the "fruit" smoothies are loaded with chemicals and sugar.

4. Try to find a restaurant that has a vegan option or at least something halfway decent that I can ask them to leave the meat, cheese, and/or sugar off of (if I have time to sit in a restaurant) and pay too much money for food I probably didn't enjoy that much anyway.

5. Wish I would have just packed my own snack.

Packing My Own Snacks

This also poses some problems. What can I pack that won't be utterly destroyed or disgusting by the time I sit down and dig it out of my carry-on? Also, it can't take up a ton of room or be too heavy, and it has to be tempting and filling enough to keep me out of the Asian Grill line.

I sometimes pack vegan sugar-free baked goodies I made myself, but most of these things require some sort of plastic container (which takes up precious space) or they end up flattened or just destroyed. Not that I won't still eat them, mind you, because the minute I find my gate and sit down I'm looking to munch for some unknown reason, but ugh.

So here's my current solution. It's easy, light, filling, and doesn't bloat me up like a balloon.

1. Ezekiel Bread + Vegan Cheese Sandwich. Ezekiel 4:9 bread (regular, not the low-sodium version) is an obsession for me since I started recovering from TMJ pain enough to chew it. It's delicious with two slices of Chao vegan cheese, and if I want to spice it up a bit I add a few pickled jalapeño slices. Seal it in a baggy and you're done. It's lightweight, and Ezekiel bread is tough enough to stand up to being jostled and smashed in my backpack purse or laptop bag with aplomb.

Also, I am definitely not too proud to pack two or three of these babies for my trip. I don't like going hungry!

2. Bag of organic mixed raw nuts and pumpkin seeds. Mix together any raw, unsalted nuts you like - I like pecans and walnuts if I need softer nuts and almonds, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts if my jaw can take the pressure of chewing something harder. I like raw organic pumpkin seeds tossed in as well for the magnesium, zinc, protein, and other nutritional boosts they add.

Now, at home I limit my nut intake because they are expensive, fattening, and not cleansing like fresh veggies, but for the airport they do the trick of filling me up and not leaving me feeling deprived as I do when I sit there munching on plain lettuce (yes, I've done this) while everyone around me is wolfing down pizza slices and Quizno's subs. A baggy of mixed nuts is a huge treat to me, so this is one time I indulge. Again, this is a snack that can survive the backpack or laptop bag just fine. Pro tip: pack a small plastic spoon inside the baggy if you're like me and it weirds you out to stick your fingers in your food after you just touched everything in security, the handrails on the escalator, anything in the restroom, your own luggage that's been dragged all over God knows where, etc.

[A caveat about nuts in airports: I have been stopped in security once for having a baggy of nuts in my laptop bag. All they did was look at it and then give it back to me. The TSA agent said it was fine to have it but that I should have taken it out of my carry-on like you do with liquids. Also, some countries will not let you take them through customs, but for your flight BEFORE customs, it should be fine.]

3. Tea bags (and an alternative plant based sweetener, if desired.) Yes, sometimes you can get decent herbal teas that aren't chock full of chemicals (I'm looking at you, Allegro,) but I much prefer bringing my own mixed baggy of choices (current faves: Tazo brand Calm Chamomile, Ecotea's Yerba Mate, Numi Tea's Moroccan Mint, Trader Joe's Mint Melange, Yogi Tea's Berry Detox tea (amazingly good tasting for a detox tea, and helps with travel bloat,) and Yogi Tea's Green Tea Kombucha (I take bags in regular and decaf. Hey, I never know if I need or want caffeine or not.) Buy a cup of hot water to steep it in at the airport (and/or ask for one on the plane later) and voilá. Lusting after everyone else's Mocha Lattes while you're sitting there bored is a thing of the past, or at least the edge is taken off.

[Side note about my tea that I take with me: I have been asked more than once by a flight attendant what kind of tea I was drinking because it looked/smelled so good, apparently. It happened just this past weekend when I was flying and asked for hot water for my Allegro "Energize Your Brain" tea. (Not listed above as one of my favorites because it has a lot of unknown "flavors" in it, but I am going to use up the box I bought for sure.)]

So that's it...on my trip home from Oklahoma this past weekend, I sat down at my gate with my little cheese sandwiches, a hot Yerba Mate, and bag of mixed nuts, feeling pampered rather than deprived. :-)

I'll add to this post as I discover more options, but for now, this will get me to my next destination just fine.