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Best TSA Approved Airplane Snacks

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One question I see over and over again on social media is, “What are the best TSA approved airplane snacks?”

Let’s be honest — passing through TSA with food in your carry-on can be tricky. But once you’ve figured out the art of mastering TSA you’ll be flying with the best stash of safe food.

Until then check out my suggestions and keep in mind I’m a huge TSA nerd. I love to see how much food I can pack without TSA even batting so much as an eyelash.

People walking carrying a travel on suitcase

You definitely want to pin this now for your next trip. Because this post is packed with helpful travel information.

Importantly, listed below you’ll find tips for keeping your food cold while on a flight, lists of the best airplane snacks for kids and adults, and my must read “7 Tips for Flying With Food Allergies.”

two food coolers sitting on an airplane tray table

how should I transport my TSA approved food?

  • first invest in good quality ice packs like these. Or freeze drinks to place in your cooler. But never try to pass through with unfrozen liquids; you’ll definitely be slowed down in TSA and have your drinks removed. This even includes factory-sealed water, yogurt, almond milk, etc. Now if you’ll be staying in a hotel at your final destination, kindly ask them to store your ice packs in their freezer until your departure. I’ve never had a problem with a hotel saying no to this request.
  • now let’s talk coolers. I can’t remember the last time I flew and didn’t travel with a carry-on cooler. And when my children travel with me the size and number of coolers changes. Here are my recommendations depending on your need:
  • lastly here is the most up to date TSA link to review their “What Can I Bring?” food section
oatmeal and orange juice on an airplane tray table

TSA approved breakfast ideas

an enjoy life breakfast oval bar
sandwich, grapes, peppers on an airplane tray

best TSA approved lunch and dinner ideas

  • sandwiches or tortilla wraps– we like Udi’s Sandwich Buns. They hold up better than gluten free bread slices which tend to break apart with much jostling. Pack those sammies with your veggie and meat favorites.
  • salads with dressing in a side container–the dressing needs to be less than 3.4 ounces
  • jerky
  • hard boiled eggs
  • fruit and veggies (grapes and sliced peppers are our favorites)
  • Peanut butter packets & jelly/ jam packets for PB & Jelly sandwiches
  • leftover pizza– who else loves slices of cold, leftover pizza?!
  • slices of summer sausage and these allergen friendly crackers ; side note — we love, love, love this airline meal
  • protein bars
  • Lara bars, Kind bars
  • raw energy bites (protein balls)
  • and if you’re flying internationally always consume anything perishable before you land
several snacks items on top of a carry on bag
several gluten and dairy free snacks

best TSA approved airplane snacks

  • popcorn
  • muffins
  • Mission Certified GF tortilla chips
  • fresh fruit salad bowl–oranges, bananas, melon, grapes, watermelon, apples, blueberries
  • raw energy bites
  • homemade trail mix packed with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, dried fruit (Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips or banana chips are fun to add in)
  • fresh veggies–bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, celery
  • crunchy homemade chex mix— make this in the crock-pot a few days before your trip for an epic in-flight snack mix
  • taffy and suckers (I love to give my kids this when we are taking off or landing to help their ears adjust)
  • jerky packets

and don’t forget about these snacks

snacks and a drink on an airplane tray table
A slice of banana bread, and other snacks on an airplane tray table

the most important thing I always pack in my suitcase

is a brown paper bag filled with safe snacks for the return flight.

When I was just starting out on my gluten and dairy free journey, I struggled over our first few flights to have food for return flights home. And when you live in Montana, you typically have 2 or oftentimes 3 flights until you make it home.

The worst thing I could do was not have snacks for the return flights, but then this happened.

You won’t believe this huge mistake I made for my family once.

Imagine I forgot to pack “the brown bag” and it’s Christmas Eve. There’s bad weather and we’re on our 3rd and last flight of the day.

Because of bad weather we weren’t able to land in our hometown so we flew another hour to a different airport.

Then our family of 5 sat on the tarmac for over 2 hours praying we can take off for another chance to land in our hometown on Christmas morning.

While seated the flight attendants pass out snacks, but nothing we can enjoy.

Eventually the pilots had everyone deplane well after midnight in a small Montana town with nothing but a small gas station open at 12:30 a..m. on Christmas morning.

Needless to say we’re starving! We persuaded our hotel shuttle driver to go out of the way so we could swing by the only gas station open.

We grabbed safe junk food like chips and salsa and headed to our hotel. Talk about a serious mom fail, y’all.

Never again will I travel without our brown bag packed full of dried fruit, bars, and some kind of safe chocolate.

Because if anything goes crazy and you’re on the tarmac for awhile trust me– you wanna make sure you have semi-sweet dairy free chocolate packed!

a brown bag on an airplane tray table

7 tips for flying with food allergies

  • always plan ahead; make your TSA approved snack and meal list days before your flight and pack food the day before. You don’t want to be grabbing snacks as you’re running out the door. It just won’t end well and you’ll most likely get hungry and frustrated on your flight.
  • stay away from too many peanut and tree nuts foods. If you’ve packed mostly snacks with peanuts or tree nuts, then the worst thing you can hear announced on your flight is that it will be a peanut or tree nut free flight. I always try to make a note of packing snacks or meals that for the majority are peanut and tree nut free.
  • always be prepared for delays by packing extra snacks… plenty more snacks than you think you’ll need because you can always bring the extras home. And I would rather have extra food in my carry-on than being hangry on a flight or even worse… having hangry kids. You never know when you’ll be stranded in an airport overnight, sitting on the tarmac for hours, or running to catch your next flight and not have time to grab terminal food.
  • fly with a favorite. This isn’t the time to pack all veggies and rice cakes unless that’s what you’d normally eat. Always pack one fun and exciting snack especially if you’re traveling with kids.
  • include a return flight snack bag, always! See my highlights above on this important tip.
  • if you’re traveling internationally, phone the airline to request in-flight gluten and dairy free meals; however I’ve heard so many horror stories about passengers not receiving their gluten free and vegan meals. It seems really risky. Again I’d pack an abundance of extra food in case your safe airline meal doesn’t make its way onto the plane.
  • invest in TSA Precheck. This was the best travel investment we made for our family. If you fly even once a year, I’d recommend this perk. The TSA Precheck line and staff are much more lenient with your packed food. They very, very rarely look at or test the food in our coolers with their testing strips. And you zip easy-peasy through security.
A picture that says, "Don't fly hungry."

lastly

How many times have you had to sprint from one terminal to another without time to use the restroom, let alone grab a bite to eat so you could catch a flight?

This happened to me not so long ago just before a long flight to Hawaii. I was so thankful I had packed extra snacks!

It’s worth noting you never know if you’ll be offered a safe airline snack or have time to find something in the terminal.

We can’t control airport or airline food, but we can control what we pack. Planning ahead is key to eating well and flying well.

And speaking of planning ahead, be sure to check out my food travel guides. You’ll notice I offer safe food suggestions for several cities, and I’m adding to this list often.

Pinning this best TSA approved snacks post is a must. You never know when you might need it.

And do me a favor — please give me a 5 star rating if you found these suggestions helpful. Let me know in the comments what other snacks you like to pack.

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Eat well, feel well and travel well,

Jill

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8 Comments

  • Donna February 27, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    Was wondering how you are able to get through TSA with the blue ice packs? I’ve tried to use in the past for cheese snacks, sandwiches & probiotics that needed to be “refrigerated”, but was told nothing with gels. I have also tried to use the soft ones when my knees are swollen & not allowed to carry those neither.

    Reply
    • Jill March 1, 2021 at 8:40 pm

      I’m so glad you reached out. The blue ice packs we use are solid when frozen, not a gel that can be moved. We’ve never had a problem in over hundreds of flights. Are your ice packs 100 frozen solid or a moveable cold gel? Mayeb that is the difference. And what kind of “soft ones” are you referring too? I’d love to help more with more information. Thanks! Jill

      Reply
  • Lindsey November 15, 2020 at 6:10 am

    I had no clue you could do this. I’m traveling in March and I’m so worried there won’t be many food options for my girls at the all inclusive resort. I’m going to be packing ALL the snacks. I just came across your page and I’m so excited to make some fun treats for my
    girls, especially those sugar cookies!

    Reply
    • Jill November 16, 2020 at 10:18 am

      I am so glad this post was helpful. We travel so often and wouldn’t survive without these tips. I will also be posting a guide to flying with a checked cooler in December. I’m not sure if you’ll be flying within the continental US to your resort, but if so, it may be helpful as well. Follow me on my social media pages and you’ll see when it’s released. Lastly, if you’ve signed up for my emails you’ll soon be seeing an email outlining the current state of traveling, what to expect in regards to food on the place and at airports. Happy flying! Jill

      Reply
  • Twana Greenler March 10, 2020 at 12:36 am

    Hiya, I am really glad I have found this information. Nowadays bloggers publish only about gossip and internet stuff and this is really annoying. A good website with exciting content, this is what I need. Thanks for making this web-site, and I’ll be visiting again. Do you do newsletters by email?

    Reply
    • Jill March 27, 2020 at 7:24 pm

      Thank you for reaching out Twana. I appreciate your encouraging feedback. And I am working on setting up my newsletters now. Take care, Jill

      Reply
  • White Label SEO February 1, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Awesome post! Keep up the great work! 🙂

    Reply
    • Jill February 1, 2020 at 8:31 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m excited you found this helpful.

      Reply

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