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Airplane Food, Reimagined

Upgrade your journey with these DIY in-flight meals.

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These days, airlines serve preservative-packed 100-calorie Ritz Crackers and those powdered mustard-coated pretzels and call it dinner. If you, like this writer, are a remotely healthy person, chances are you abstain. But going hungry isn’t an option. Instead, prep delicious, healthy (and TSA-approved) meals in advance. Yes, it requires a bit of your time, but it’s worth it. You’ll be happy, satisfied, light—and ready to tackle whatever adventure lies ahead. Below are easy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner that you can make using fridge leftovers and pantry staples.

BREAKFAST
Quick raw muesli
: In a mason jar or Tupperware container, toss ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup of whatever nuts and seeds you have in your pantry, 1 tbsp. chia seeds, and 1 tbsp. hemp seeds. Bring a banana for topping. Buy a carton of milk or yogurt at the airport. Stir muesli through with milk or yogurt (FYI: Use less dairy if you prefer the texture to be thick and porridge-y).

LUNCH
Refrigerator salad:
There are no rules with this dish. Take whatever leftover veggies you have in your fridge and roughly chop. Add a protein or two (hard boil an egg, toast a handful of nuts, shred that leftover roast chicken, grab a can of beans from the pantry…you get the idea). Make a quick vinaigrette (1 tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice, 1 tbsp. mustard, 1 tsp. honey, 3 tbsp. olive oil). The morning of your flight, toss the vinaigrette on your salad (if you do it the night before everything will be soggy). Seal your Tupperware in a plastic bag for a leak-free voyage.

Easy sandwich: Out of veggies? Snag a can of beans from the pantry and two slices of bread. In a food processor (or a bowl), puree (or mash with a fork) ½ the can with a few tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tbsp. Greek yogurt (optional), 1 tbsp. olive oil, and ½ tsp. paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the bean dip on your bread, top with sliced avocado (if you have some on hand), add a sprinkle of salt and a crack of pepper, maybe even a drizzle of vinegar or lemon juice, and you’re good to go. (With a handful of raw veggies, the bean dip doubles as a nice snack.)

DINNER
Pesto and possibilities:
Chances are you have odds and ends in your fridge for a delicious, rules-free pesto. Simply puree ½ cup greens or herbs (think arugula, kale, parsley or cilantro), 2 tbsp. nuts, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, and ¼ cup olive oil in a blender or food processor. From here on out, the possibilities are endless: Toss with leftover pasta; stir into lentils (or quickly cook up a batch of quinoa) and dot with goat cheese; julienne zucchini into noodles, throw in some tomatoes, and shave pecorino on top.

DESSERT
Keep it simple with dark chocolate (preferably above 70 percent cacao) or a piece of fruit (or both!).


The (Unofficial) Rules of DIY Plane Food:
– No garlic, tuna fish, kimchi, or anything other kind of fragrant dish. 
– No gas-inducing foods. 
– Don’t forget to pack plastic forks and spoons
– Yogurt gets confiscated, so buy yours at a post-checkpoint kiosk. 
– Chia pudding usually gets through security; try this at your own risk.