When you’ve put a lot of work into maintaining a low carb diet, you don’t want to be forced to eat high-carb meals when travelling. Finding low-carb options for travel can be even more challenging for flight attendants and anyone who regularly travels for work.
Planning ahead is the best way to travel on a low carb diet. Bringing your own low carb snacks is always the safest choice. However, you can also check your airline, hotel or restaurant menu options ahead of time, as they may have a lower-carb meal option.
Wondering what the best low-carb snacks are to bring on a flight or road trip? There are plenty of travel-friendly foods you can pack, as well as other steps you can take to ensure you don’t fall off the wagon.
If you have questions about low carb travel, you’ll find the answers here.
This low-carb travel guide includes:
Top tips for staying low-carb on vacation
Best low carb and keto travel snacks
Which airlines have low carb meals
Best airplane meals for low carb & keto diets
Low carb fast food while travelling
You’ll also learn some tips to keep your hunger at bay if you’re about to embark on a long haul flight, and what to eat at the airport.
Read on to learn everything you need for your next trip!
8 Essential Tips to Eat Low Carb While Travelling
Travelling can be stressful enough - you have to worry about checking in on time, dealing with luggage and the fears around the actual flight. Trying to stick to a low-carb diet on the go is one more thing to worry about, but it doesn’t have to ruin your vacation. With the right planning, it’s possible to stick to a restricted carb or keto diet when flying.
Here are our best tips to eat low carb while travelling:
1. Have a Meal Before You Fly - It’s a good strategy to have a meal just before you leave if you’re on a low carb diet. This will stop you getting hungry on the plane where there are limited options available. As long as your flight isn’t a long-haul, there’s a chance you can avoid needing to eat in the air.
2. Research Your Airport Dining Options - You can prepare for your journey by finding out what restaurants there are in the airport. It may be necessary if you have a layover, so check the airport’s website for dining options. It’s easier to customise your meal when ordering from an airport outlet than it is on board the plane.
3. Order the Lowest-Carb Meal Option - Depending on what’s available on the plane, try to choose something with a high-protein and low-carb portion, like chicken or fish. If your airline does have a lower-carb or diabetic-friendly special meal, this can be a better option than the standard meal.
4. Try to Stay Hydrated - If you remain hydrated, then you’re less likely to feel hungry, as well as ensuring you’ll feel fresher after the flight. Consider bringing a low carb electrolyte supplement to keep your levels up, especially if you’re not likely to eat much.
5. Bring Plenty of Snacks - Food outlets can be limited in airports, especially if you’re stuck on one side of security or the other. Bring enough snacks to eat at the airport, on the flight, and in case of flight delays. Just check that they’re allowed through security before you turn up, or you may have to toss them out.
6. Consider Intermittent Fasting - If you’re already familiar with intermittent fasting, consider timing your flight during your fasting window. It isn’t the best idea to start fasting for the first time on vacation, but if this is something you’ve tried, it may be useful - especially if you have a red eye flight.
7. Use Bulletproof Coffee to Ward Off Hunger - Bulletproof or coffee is just coffee with added fat, like coconut oil or butter. This healthy fat boost can help suppress the production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which reduces your appetite. Since liquids and gels are limited on international flights, consider sugar free coffee sachets or powdered keto creamer. If you’re not a fan of coffee, consider bringing sugar free hot chocolate mix and requesting hot water and milk.
8. Bring Your Own Low Carb Sweetener - While airlines may have a sweetener option on the coffee trolley, there’s no guarantee they’ll have your preferred type. If you want to enjoy a coffee or tea, bring your own low carb sweetener on the flight. A handy portable option is Sukrin Mini Sweetener Tablets, perfectly sized for travel.
10 Best Low Carb Travel Snacks
Long-haul flights and road trips will test anyone, especially those on a low carb diet. It’s not so easy to pick up a quick meal at the roadside rest stop! However, with a bit of planning and preparation, you can avoid the stress of worrying about what you’re going to eat.
Here are 10 ideas for low carb snacks for airplane travel or road trips:
1. Beef Jerky or Biltong
Beef jerky is generally low carb, but this can vary between brands depending on what’s added. Some brands aren’t as healthy as others, and can contain a lot of sugar and flavourings. This is why you can’t depend on beef jerky provided as an on-board snack, and it’s safest to bring your own.
Note that meat products are commonly restricted by customs, and meat may need to be specifically declared if you take jerky off the plane with you.
2. Low Carb Protein Bars
There are plenty of low carb protein bars available in health food stores and supermarkets. Make sure you check the labels to make sure they really fit your macros, as many products advertised as low carb may not be low enough for a restricted carb or keto diet. However, protein bars are one of the most filling and substantial travel snacks, as well as convenient to bring.
If you’d prefer to avoid store-bought options, you can also make your own keto granola bars. This gives you the chance to customise the ingredients - just make sure everything you include is okay to bring to your destination, or be prepared to throw away leftovers.
3. Nuts, Seeds & Nut Butter
Nuts are generally fantastic for a low carb diet, and especially for keto, since most have a high fat and protein content. Stick to lower carb nuts such as almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans and walnuts for the best macro ratio. Sunflower seeds are also a good choice.
This includes peanut butter and almond butter, but if you’re travelling on an international flight, be aware these pastes are only allowed in small quantities. Consider making your own snacks using nut butter instead, such as healthy peanut butter cups which double as fat bombs to keep you feeling full.
You can eat many types of cheese on a low carb diet, including cheddar, goat cheese, blue cheese and Gouda.
Avoid cottage cheese, processed cheese, and low fat cheese if you’re on a keto diet. You’ll also want to skip any soft cheese that might be considered a liquid or paste (for international flights). For a more complete meal, bring some low carb bread or crackers. Keep in mind that airlines won’t refrigerate any food you bring with you, so this may be a better option for short flights.
5. Vegetables or Veggie Chips
Cut and prepare some vegetables that are low in carbs, such as asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, lettuce, spinach and zucchini. For longer flights, consider dried vegetable chips, as long as they don’t have higher-carb seasonings on them.
Kale is one of the most nutritious snacks you can have on a low carb diet. Admittedly, it isn’t the most filling meal, but it may help resist the urge to indulge in other typical in-flight snacks. If you’re not keen to make your own kale chips, there are store-bought options too, like Back to Basics Kale Chips.
6. Low Carb Granola
Traditional granola isn’t suitable for a low-carb diet, so avoid granola that has oats, dried fruit, or other items that are high in carbs. Consider bringing store-bought or homemade low carb granola, since it’s suitable for snacking or eating with milk at breakfast time.
7. Low Carb Chips and Crackers
Not all chips are created equal! When you’re on a low carb diet, you’ll want to avoid the standard wheat crackers or rice crackers and stick with high-fat, low carb ingredients. Preparing your own low carb crackers is the best option, but you can also find store-bought and pre-packed options too.
8. Low Carb Protein Shakes
You can certainly have low carb protein powder and protein shakes - just make sure they fit your overall nutritional needs. This can be a great space-saving option when packing your carry-on, as you can bring protein powder on a flight without restrictions in Australia, and add water or milk during the flight.
9. Low Carb Chocolate Bars
Everyone loves to have a sweet snack while enjoying some in-flight entertainment. If this sounds familiar, come prepared with your own low carb chocolate bars to avoid temptation! Made with low carb sweeteners, these treats give you all the comfort of the real thing without the carbohydrate count.
10. Low Carb Cookies
Low-carb cookies typically use ingredients like almond flour to create healthier versions of our favourite flavours. Convenient pre-packaged options are available, like Justine’s Cookies, available in a range of fun flavours. If you’d prefer to bake your own, my favourite recipes are keto ANZAC biscuits or lemon and white chocolate cookies.
Bringing Low Carb Snacks on a Plane
Beef jerky, low-carb protein bars and prepared diced vegetables are some of the best low-carb snacks to bring on a plane because they are easy to carry, aren’t messy to eat and are tasty. Nuts, nut butter and low-carb granola are other popular options for travellers on a keto diet.
However, before you start packing your lunch box, there are a few things to consider:
1. Check which food products your airline permits
Before you take any of the snack options onboard, check your airline’s website to see what foods they permit on board. This will ensure that you won’t have to throw away your only sustenance before embarking on your flight. That wouldn’t be fun on a short-haul flight, and it would be even worse on a long-haul flight.
2. Understand restrictions on liquids, powders and gels
You’ll need to consider regulations on liquids, powders and gels for international flights, or domestic flights departing from an international terminal.
Organic powders (which includes food) are exempt from restrictions in Australia, but you’ll still want to avoid bringing any snacks that are considered liquids or gels. This means that low carb protein powder would be permitted, but a pre-mixed shake wouldn’t be allowed through customs.
Watch out for anything in semi-liquid form, such as sauces, milk, nut butters, soft cheeses, and foods stored in liquid (such as canned tuna). If you bring any of these on an international flight, they must be in quantities under 100ml and 100g, and kept in your clear plastic bag.
If you can demonstrate a medical need for an exemption - such as bringing a doctor’s letter for a meal replacement drink - you may be able to bring larger quantities of liquids or gels. However, just explaining they’re medically necessary for your diet won’t be enough without documentation.
Note that different countries have different regulations on liquids, powders and gels when flying. Be sure to check what’s permitted in each country you plan to travel through.
3. Be aware of customs restrictions & declare any food
Most long-haul flights pass through international waters, and bringing food through customs on arrival tends to be a bigger problem. It’s a good idea to check what foods you’re allowed to bring into another country, or be prepared to dispose of any leftover food prior to going through customs on the other end. Be sure to declare any food you’re still carrying, as even accidental breaches or failure to declare food items can incur heavy fines.
4. Keep potential food allergies in mind
When bringing your own peanut or tree nut products on a flight, be aware that you may be asked not to eat them if you’re seated near a passenger with a severe food allergy. This is rare, but you may want to bring a few snack options with you just in case.
5. Avoid anything that needs refrigeration
When packing low-carb snacks for a flight, sticking to packaged or shelf-stable foods is the safest policy. Bringing leftovers from last night’s roast can seem like a good low carb option, but airlines won’t typically refrigerate or heat passengers’ own food on board.
If you’re flying domestically, you may be able to bring some ice bricks and an insulated bag to keep food cool.
However, ice packs contain liquid or gel, so these aren’t permitted on international flights unless they’re needed for documented medical requirements (such as cooling medicines or medically necessary food items).
Even for shorter domestic flights, you never know when your flight might be delayed or rebooked entirely. That’s why shelf-stable snacks are the best option to ensure your food will keep for the entire journey.
What Are the Best In-Flight Meals on a Low Carb Diet?
Most airlines offer special meals for dietary requirements on long-haul flights. While this typically includes vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, few airlines across the globe currently offer a low-carb meal choice on board.
Instead you’ll need to consider which of the available special meal options may work best for you. Of course, you can always take your chances with the standard meals available, hoping there’ll be a protein portion you can separate from the rest. This strategy can work if you’re served some roast chicken or beef, but if you’re stuck with a choice between risotto and pasta, you may be out of options.
If your budget extends to travelling in a premium cabin, such as Business or First Class travel, you may have more options to customise your meal. Some airlines also allow premium travellers to order from the menu in advance, giving you more certainty about what you’ll be served on the flight.
Here are some special dietary meal options to consider for low carb or keto diets:
Low Fat/Low Cholesterol Meal or Low Calorie Meal: Both tend to be lower in processed carbohydrates and sugars than a standard meal. To make this keto-friendly, stick with the meat and lower-carb vegetables and bring some high-fat snacks with you.
Gluten Intolerant Meal: Ordering this may help you avoid bread and pasta dishes, though it may still include rice or high-carb gluten free bread. If you’re prepared to leave any rice or high-carb vegetables on the plate, this may give you the best chance of enjoying the low-carb portion.
Raw Vegetable Meal: If you have a good understanding of which vegetables are lower in carbs, you may be able to eat part of this meal. As vegetarian meals can often include carbs like rice or noodles, this will be your best option if you’re low-carb and need to avoid meat.
Diabetic Meal: May also be suitable because they include little to no added sugar. However, it’s important to note that low in sugar doesn’t always mean low carb. Some airlines restrict the carb count in diabetic meals, but this isn’t a given. These meals also may contain sugar substitutes - and not all sweeteners are low in carbs.
Raw Vegetarian Meal: If offered, this dietary meal choice is a bit of a gamble. You may end up with some lower-carb vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots or broccoli, but there’s also a chance you’ll get starchy high-carb fruit and veg as well. If you’re vegetarian or vegan as well as keto, though, this will be your best bet to avoid carb-loaded rice and noodle dishes.
If you want to take your pick from the regular on-board menu, sitting towards the front of the plane can be an advantage. Most in-flight meals are served from front to back, so this ensures you won’t be left with the pasta option by the time the flight attendants reach you.
Shorter flights are more likely to serve a simple snack, and you may not get much choice in what you receive. If you have the chance to order your on-board snacks from a menu, stick to nuts or unsweetened beef jerky if it’s available. Avoid biscuits, crackers and dried fruit - many common ‘healthy’ snacks like apricots, sultanas and dates are high in carbs.
Of course, if you’re enjoying a drink on board, stick to lower carb wines - dry white wines are usually the safest choice.
Which Airlines Have Low Carb & Keto Meals?
Here’s what you should consider for some major international airlines when travelling on a low carb diet:
Qantas doesn't offer a low carb dietary required meal option, but does accommodate for diabetic friendly and gluten free meals. The diabetic-friendly meal claims to be more ‘nutritionally balanced’ than the standard meal, as well as being lower in sugar. If you want to increase your chances of finding low carb food, this may be a slightly better choice.
Qantas offers a selection of snacks for short flights, as well as meals for flights over 3.5 hours. If bringing your own food, note that Qantas does not refrigerate or heat passengers' food.
Business and First Class passengers have the opportunity to customise their meal selections with Qantas, with meals such as steamed and seared fish on the menu.
Special dietary meals can be requested on Virgin Australia long-haul flights, but there’s no keto or low carb option. Consider the Low Fat/Low Cholesterol/Low Calorie meals for a lower carb count, or a Gluten Intolerant meal to avoid white bread and pasta. Virgin Australia also offers a raw vegetable meal.
From the on-board snacks menu, even the Morish Premium Savoury Nibbles with mixed nuts contains high-carb pretzels and cashews, so bringing your own snacks is the best bet. In a pinch, stick with the almonds and macadamias or nibble the cheese from the Mainland Cheese and Crackers.
Jetstar doesn’t include food and drink on their Starter fares, giving you the option to purchase on-board or pre-purchase food. For domestic and short-haul flights, the lowest carb option is the green pitted olives and Hans Salami Strikers. The MunchMe seed & nut clusters are higher-carb than you’d expect, since they contain rice malt syrup and sugar, but aren’t as bad as other options in a pinch.
Jetstar’s international menu is limited for Economy fliers, and all meals are carb-heavy. While the menu has some gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options, there are no special dietary meal requests on Jetstar flights, so be prepared to bring your own food.
If you have a business class Jetstar ticket, you’re more likely to find something on the menu you can eat. Dinner options include braised lamb shank, roast chicken and shiitake glazed salmon.
Domestic Air New Zealand flights only offer drinks and snacks, with little information on what might be served. If flying domestically, bringing your own food on board is the safest choice. Air New Zealand explicitly welcomes passengers to bring their own food on board if there isn’t a suitable dietary option for their needs.
For international flights, Air New Zealand does not have a specific low carb or keto option, but does allow you to request a special meal up to 24 hours before departure.
Air New Zealand’s gluten intolerant meal option focuses on salad, fruit, fish, lean meats, vegetables, dairy products and rice. The other viable option is the diabetic meal, which contains low or no added sugar.
As usual, Premium Economy passengers are more likely to find suitable meals on the menu. This includes more gourmet options like roast chicken, slow-cooked beef and fish meals - all with a protein element. The sample menu for Business Premier flights includes duck breast, char siu pork and beef fillet.
However, early-morning Economy passengers on Air New Zealand are still in luck - breakfast options in all classes are more promising, with scrambled eggs and sausage on offer.
Singapore Airlines allows passengers in Suites, First, Business or Premium Economy Class to pre-book their main course ahead of time. All passengers can also preview the In Flight Menu up to eight days in advance, which will give you time to plan out the lowest-carb meal order.
Singapore Airlines does offer special meals for dietary requirements. Be sure to book at least 48 hours prior to departure to be safe, as the required time can vary between destinations.
Uniquely, Singapore Airlines does offer a Seafood Meal which is composed of 100% seafood, including fish. If you’re looking for a low-carb option, this may be the best choice, though a Gluten Intolerant Meal is also available if you’d prefer something else.
Emirates can accommodate many special meal requests on flights over two hours, but has little to accommodate keto or low carb travellers.
The Diabetic Meal avoids white bread, white pasta and sweets, but may include whole grain breads and cereals.
Similarly, the Gluten Friendly Meal can include gluten-free bread as well as rice and other starchy foods, so it isn’t likely to be low-carb.
First class dining options include more gourmet (and low-carb) proteins such as Australian angus beef and pan-seared salmon. Notable on the premium economy menu is a breakfast ‘cold plate’ with grilled chicken, air-dried beef and several cheese options.
Even Economy passengers may have a better-than-average low-carb choice flying with Emirates, as grilled chicken with sides seems to feature prominently on their menus.
United Airlines offers limited meal choices for dietary restrictions. You’ll need to choose from Vegetarian, Asian Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Kosher and Vegan options - none of which are particularly low in carbs.
United doesn’t share much information about their hot in-flight meals, even for premium cabins, so it’s difficult to tell what will be available in advance. However, sources say that United Airlines is expanding its meal pre-order options for premium cabins and domestic flights over 1500 miles.
For shorter flights (anything under 500 miles) snacks are available to purchase on board. The SkinnyDipped® Dark Chocolate Cocoa Almonds contain maple sugar, so don’t be fooled into thinking they’re low in carbs! With no added sugar or sweetener, the Anthem Peppered Beef Jerky is the best keto snack choice on a United Flight.
Alternatively, share one of the snack boxes with your travelling companions and stick to the cheese, meat and olives.
For flights over 1500 miles, you can try eating the burger patty, bacon and cheese from the Beer Cheese Pretzel Burger or order the Cheese & Fruit Tray, avoiding the crackers.
Long-haul meals served on United include staples like butter chicken with rice or vegetable pasta, with a sandwich for the mid-flight snack. Ordering the Gluten-Free meal may be more likely to include lower-carb items on the tray, including simple chicken served with tomato sauce and veggies.
Delta Airlines only offers special meals on international flights and First Class domestic flights. WIth no low-carb option, the closest alternatives are the Low Fat/Low Cholesterol/Low Calorie meal (containing lean meat and low-sugar foods) or the Gluten Intolerant meal.
Domestic routes over 900 miles offer Flight Fuel snack boxes, with one ‘healthier’ option including hummus, nuts and fruit, and another carb-loaded option full of chips and sweets. For flights over 1500 miles, Flight Fuel plates can be ordered, with the choice of ‘fruit and cheese’ or ‘chicken salad sandwich’.
Delta One and First Class customers are offered a range of seasonal local cuisine depending on their route. This includes some reliable protein choices, from seafood to short ribs and chicken salad.
Unlike other airlines, American Airlines lists their Diabetic meal as ‘suitable for carbohydrate controlled requests’ alongside reduced sugar, hyperglycemic, hypoglycemic requirements. This makes American Airlines one of the less difficult choices for low carb airline meals. Note that this option is available on most domestic flights which serve a full meal in First class, as well as international destinations.
American Airlines publishes little information about its menus, but Premium cabin passengers can pre-order meals up to 30 days before their flight. Premium dining options include nuts and charcuterie, as well as gourmet ingredients like short rib and salads.
Main Cabin tickets include snacks and a hot meal on longer flights, but there’s no menu published.
Passengers on Easyjet who want a lower-carb option can purchase it from their inflight menu. The Tapas Seleccion snack box includes chorizo or salchichon sausage, ham and tomato tapenade, or you can stick with Olly’s Garlic & Basil Olives.
How Do You Eat Low Carb Fast Food When Travelling?
While there may be limited keto options depending on the airport or destination, look for restaurants with proteins such as grilled chicken, as well as salad outlets.
Airport dining options are limited at the best of times. It’s even harder when you’re on a low carb diet, but there are low carb and keto takeaway options with the right strategy in mind.
At many restaurants, you may be able to customise your meal - think eating the burger patty without the bun. Most of the time, you’ll be able to order something with a meat portion, even if it isn’t the best value.
Chicken restaurants like Nandos and Oporto are the most flexible (and cost-effective) when sticking to proteins. If there’s a Subway outlet, choose a salad and customise your order to contain only keto-friendly vegetables.
Mexican restaurants can also offer good low-carb options, such as a burrito bowl without the rice.
Otherwise, convenience stores and mini supermarkets in the airport may have low carb snacks like nuts. As with plane meals, your best bet is to bring your own food with you.
What Can I Have for Low Carb Breakfast While Travelling?
The best low carb breakfasts on vacation will depend on your amenities, like whether you have a fridge or cooler with you.
Some filling low carb travel breakfasts include:
Bacon or sausages
Low carb protein shakes
Low carb bread
Low carb protein bars
Almond flour muffins
These nutritious low carb breakfasts will keep your energy levels up for a day of exploring!
Is It Okay to ‘Cheat’ on a Low-Carb Diet When Travelling?
There are pros and cons to maintaining your low carb eating plan during a holiday. For some people, vacations can be a welcome break from restrictive meals. If it suits your goals and lifestyle, it’s okay to give yourself that flexibility and eat the foods you enjoy.
On the downside, ‘cheating’ on a long-term diet can be detrimental for some people, especially when it kicks off cravings again. If you’ve struggled to reduce or eliminate sugar and carbs from your diet, you might feel better sticking to it even on vacation.
There’s also a middle ground: making some higher-carb choices to reduce stress during the trip, while still minimising carbs when possible.
Remember, there’s no such thing as ‘cheating’ on a diet - you’re free to make the choices that are best for your physical and mental wellbeing.
How Do You Eat Keto When Travelling for Work?
Whenever you’re travelling on a keto diet, plan ahead and take your own snacks for flights. If your business trip requires dining out, call the venue in advance and ask about low-carb options. For instance, if a steak comes with fries, can you replace them with a side salad? Most restaurants can easily accommodate simple swaps.
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Always check the product label regarding allergens and other health needs. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website is strictly at your own risk. For any medical advice regarding diet and nutrition, or before changing your diet drastically, always consult a doctor or nutritionist.