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The Definitive Fodor’s List of Trader Joe’s Snacks to Bring on a Plane (And What Definitely Not To Bring)

What makes a good plane snack? Very specific criteria, actually.

Welcome to the plane.

First of all, it’s important to provide yourself with as much comfort as possible on a plane because you are entering a situation of discomfort. Unless you are a lord who flies in the front-half and better part of the plane (and in that case: I bow down to you), planes are uncomfortable and you are entirely responsible for making this situation a more pleasant one for yourself.

The number one thing that brings me comfort–maybe in the whole world–is walking into a Trader Joe’s. No matter the location, you can certainly expect the exact same thing–but variations of the same thing to keep it interesting. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Trader Joe’s snacks instantly bring comfort when flying on a plane. I know I will be taken care of, and don’t have to fret over whatever (probably fine) rogue snack I will be given during the duration of my flight from the flight attendants.

Planes are uncomfortable and you are entirely responsible for making this situation a more pleasant one for yourself.

I’m sure as hell not going to rely on the airline to keep my stomach glad during my million-hour flight to wherever. I come equipped with the best snacks possible, as my whole personal item. Here’s what’s in my bag.

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Some of these are fine! PHOTO: Corinna Haselmayer / Shutterstock
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The Good List

Ah, wonderful dry snacks–the most simple of the snacks. They’re not messy (usually), and you can bring them through airport security without too much of an issue (just take them out of your bag, or risk delay!). Trader Joe’s is filled with many a dry snack–so which are the best for plane riding? Our criteria are this: light, yet tasty, and filling, yet easy to snack on. The below array of snacks are a combination of all of these things (just don’t eat everything all at once–or try not to, I guess. You can–it’s your life).

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Barbeque Popped Ridges

Let us start with a basic, shall we? Trader Joe’s cracker and chip snack options are hard to beat. They’re cheap, they’re tasty, and none of them are really all that terrible for you. It is these three components that are, arguably, the core requirements for a good snack–and TJ’s comes through. This particular snack is that grey area between a chip and a cracker–it’s called a pop (or a “crisp”). In case you are unaware, pop (or crisp) is basically a healthier and lighter version that an old fashioned chip–which can go either really great or very poorly, depending on the brand. These rounded little barbecue friends check out (and they’re a new item, which, honestly, just makes them a shiny and fun choice–who doesn’t love a new thing?).

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Omega Trek Mix

You can’t go wrong with most bagged nuts and trail mix options at Trader Joe’s, but this one takes the number one spot. The trail mix contains 31 percent of the suggested daily value intake of omega-3s; it’s just sweet enough and will leave you feeling like you made a good decision about what you’ve just put in your mouth, which is important on a plane as you’re stuck with yourself and your own thoughts for several to many hours at a time. Plus, with only eight grams of sugar per serving, you won’t be bouncing off the plane walls (hypothetically but also hopefully not literally).

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Fiberful Granola Bars

You could grab any of the TJ’s granola bars and they’d make a decent plane snack for your journey, but why not be proactive about your future comfort levels and choose one with a decent amount of fiber? It’s simply a fact that travel causes upset in the digestive system for many, so if you’re going to eat the sweet little treat that is a chocolate chip granola bar, go for this one and know that you made the right decision–you will thank yourself later.

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Good Ol’ Regular Fruit

You can’t bring every single fruit on a flight and expect to eat it comfortably, but you cannot go wrong with the following. Blackberries are easy to eat and won’t go bad (or smell) over a few hours. An apple is a solid plane fruit choice, as long as you don’t have a fear of biting into things because maybe you had braces as a child and have been afraid, for some reason, to eat unsliced apples ever since. By far, however, the best and most reliable fruit to bring onto a plane is the banana. The banana comes in its own packaging, is simple to eat, and is full of potassium you’ll need to stay happy while flying (yes, that’s right, I just explained bananas to you–get over it!).

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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An Array of Protein Bars That Aren’t Terrible

Protein bars are tricky, in that most of them are very disgusting. However, the options at Trader Joe’s challenge this notion. First up, we have the Think Thin bars–these taste like pure, wonderful chocolate, and keep you full for quite a while. Remember to check the ingredients–although these are tasty, I’ve known them to cause a stomachache in some sensitive friends. Another option is the RX bars, which contain the fewest and most natural ingredients–always a treat, in my opinion (coconut chocolate is the best flavor, and this cannot be argued). Another fine choice is the new kid on the block– the “One” protein bar, coming in flavors like “glazed doughnut,” “birthday cake,” and, of course, “chocolate chip cookie dough.”

Disclaimer: Please don’t tell me that you think protein bars of the dessert flavor kind are disgusting–I know many people think this! I, however, like them and endorse them as a good plane snack.

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Bambas Peanut Snacks

What even is this? A peanut form of the Cheeto? The answer is: Yes. Although this might sound strange at first mention, these little puffs are oddly delicious and a formidable airplane snack. They’re not messy, they’re sweet without being too sweet, and best of all–the serving size is 40 pieces. You can eat 40 (forty) of these bad boys and the carb count is still relatively low, so you won’t feel all full and crappy afterward, while also having to sit still for many hours.

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Inner Peas

I credit this particular product, specifically the name, as one of the first times I was able to express emotions in public without fearing embarrassment. “Contemplate Inner Peas,” it says–and I did. And I will be honest with you–I cried, right there in the store. This is not a joke. This bag of dried peas made me so happy, I sobbed. Don’t make fun of me! Anyways, this is a really good on-the-go snack for any plane ride–these little pea snacks are tasty, and they are vegetables–two good things–and most importantly, for your flight comfort, they are not messy to consume.

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Natural Turkey Jerky

TJ’s turkey jerky is a solid snack option–high protein, low fat, and (unlike other forms of jerky sold elsewhere) no preservatives, nitrates, or GMOs. Also, straight up, this jerky is incredibly delicious and very soft and won’t tear your mouth up–most of the time. The risk we take when buying this jerky is that, sometimes, the whole bag is weirdly hard, and you’ll know if you have purchased one of these abominations in the first bite. If you do–it’s okay. It’s still actually pretty good.

INSIDER TIPDon’t eat too much of this at once or risk becoming uncomfortably full and sick for many hours. It is very easy to eat the whole bag, but you’d be wise to break it up over a day (or in this case, a flight).

 

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Crispy Crunchy Broccoli Florets

It’s hard to eat healthy on a plane sometimes, and it’s especially hard to get your veggies in. However, everyone needs their veggie servings, and the side dish of weird green beans served to you with your airline dinner will not suffice! Enter: the crispy crunchy broccoli florets. These babies are vacuum-fried, resulting in a lower fat content and almost no greasy residue–perfect for plane snacking. You won’t cause a mess, and you’ll feel good because you just ate broccoli. Excellent job!

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Norwegian Crispbread

Ah, Norwegian crispbread–a low carb, straight up fascinating and large cracker. At first bite, you might think, “What the hell is this? It’s weird,” and that is a completely normal reaction. However, the more bites you take, the more you will find yourself thinking, “Wait. Do I like this?” followed by, “Wow, I think I actually like this,” followed by, “This is the weirdest cracker but I love this cracker.” At an all-time low of six grams of carbs per cracker (!!), you can have a couple to get your bread fix in without feeling like you just shoved a whole loaf of bread into your mouth while on a plane.

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Joe Joe’s Slims

Everyone knows the Joe-Joe: It’s Trader Joe’s answer to the Oreo, but somehow…better? Also, it’s extremely rich–snacking on many of these at once, although delicious, will ultimately make you feel not so great, especially if you’re forced to sit in one place for an extended period of time after consumption. However, we have a solution to this problem: introducing, the Joe-Joe’s Slims. They are thinner, lighter, and easier-snacking versions of the Joe-Joe, enabling you to meet your chocolate fix without feeling like you just poured a cup of sugar down your throat.

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No corn! You will not bring corn! PHOTO: Roman Tiraspolsky / Shutterstock
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Whatever You Do, Don’t Bring These

I like to refer to the following treats as “tricks.” It seems like they would be good snacks to bring–however, they harbor a nasty secret, in that they are shockingly a mess to eat, or are extremely smelly, or worse: both. While I definitely endorse the following snacks as good snacks to buy and enjoy, they are on the Do Not Fly With list.

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PHOTO: jreika / Shuterstock
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Salmon Jerky

I don’t know if you’ve ever made the mistake of opening up a bag of salmon jerky while in the presence of literally any other person, but it is a horrible experience. This is not just because it is smelly and, honestly, offensive to anyone not expecting to smell it. Mostly, I am a firm believer of not caring about what other people think or letting it affect your choices, however, that is unless it affects the wellbeing of those around you in a harmful way–in which this snack totally does. It is downright aggressive to open a bag of salmon jerky in a contained area, and especially one where everyone is basically tied down to a seat (aka plane). Not only will it negatively affect fellow passengers, but you have to smell it, too, man. And honestly? You’re not going to want to smell it for very long. If you open this bag and don’t immediately close it, or put it in a cupboard, or, frankly, chuck it far away from you, you will smell the salmon jerky for multiple hours. For the love of god, don’t do this to yourself, let alone anyone else.

It is downright aggressive to open a bag of salmon jerky in a contained area, and especially one where everyone is basically tied down to a seat (aka plane).

 

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PHOTO: Gordon Warlow / Shutterstock
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All Genres of Fish

I feel like this goes without saying, but after going on about a dry form of fish for many sentences, I am obligated to also let you know that it is never okay to bring fish on a plane under any circumstance. The only exception is, of course, if you are on a very specific diet where you absolutely must eat fish every couple of hours, for your health, for some reason–I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know why this would be possible, but I cannot rule it out because, as I said, I’m not a doctor and I don’t know every health condition. There–no one is allowed to get mad at me about this. I  have properly explained myself. Moving on.

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Antipasto Vegetables

This might sound dramatic, but I cannot stress this enough: These vegetables are insane. Merely beginning to open the container will absolutely result in oil getting everywhere–and I mean everywhere. Although these tasty vegetables are stored in the thinnest, least intimidating packaging ever, it’s amazing how much oil is actually in there. It may not seem like a lot by sight, but the moment you tear open the package, a sea of olive oil will descend on you, and my friend, that is not something that will be coming out of your clothes easily. Do not bring these on, or near, a plane, and honestly, only eat them when you definitely have access to several napkins and/or a large towel you don’t mind throwing away.

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Babybel Cheese and Other Fresh Snacks

Look–you can bring these on a plane as a snack, technically, and it could go entirely fine–as long as you eat it right away. However, what will probably happen is that it will be buried underneath other things and you will forget about it entirely–and chaos will ensue. Either you’ll wonder what that horrible smell is for hours after getting off the plane (it’s cheese in your purse) or you’ll remember ON the plane but it’s too late, except you’ll still  think, “Ah, it’s probably still good,” open it, and release a horrendous scent of warm cheese and/or salami into the air of the enclosed flying tube you are jetting across the world in (or worse–you’ll still eat it out of pure shame and become ill). Better to be safe than sorry and save the cheese for another time.

INSIDER TIPIf you truly can’t fly without cheese, just purchase one of the airline’s cheese plates for $7.95 or something.

 

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Seasoned Kale Chips

I already feel as though I am betraying a friend merely by writing these words, but bringing these kale chips on a plane is a bad idea. They are delicious, and one of my personal favorite snacks–but the parmesan cheese crumbs are a beast to deal with. They are MESSY. These little crumbs will get everywhere, no matter how hard you try to keep them in check. Simply by removing the chips from the bag, they will be all over your hands, and then on your clothes, and then? Who knows. You will be a parmesan monster, chained to an airplane seat. Please–save yourself this mess.

INSIDER TIPWhen you first begin eating these “chips”, it may seem as though you’re in the clear and can avoid a mess–however, those are merely the top layer of larger chips–once the bag begins to diminish, the pieces will become smaller and will certainly start slipping through your fingers.

 

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Candied Ginger Pieces

Dried fruits are usually a good option for plane snacking, but these little ginger candies–albeit very good–are straight up annoying as hell to eat. They are STICKY. Unless you have a hefty supply of wet naps, you’re going to be irritated upon dining upon them. Also, they’re PACKED full of sugar, and you know what? You don’t need that right now.

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Roasted Gorgonzola Crackers

Most of the cracker options at TJ’s are excellent plane snacks–except these bad boys. I feel like I am betraying yet another loved one, but the gorgonzola cheese dust attached to these crackers seem to mold themselves to your fingers as you snack. When you’re not on a plane, this is usually fine, because you can just wash your hands. However, when flying, getting up to wash the cheese dust off your hands multiple times (because you’ll probably want to eat some, do something else, and then eat some more) is extremely inconvenient. Keep these wonderful crackers at home, where you can messily eat them in peace.

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PHOTO: Carl Yu
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Organic Fruit Wraps

Honestly, there’s nothing technically wrong with bringing these onto a plane as a snack–they’re just straight up worthless. There’s a ton of sugar, a ton of carbs (for such a tiny item), and 0 protein–eating this thing will probably just make you more hungry. Again, technically, it’s fine! But come on–save the useless calories for better things, at the place you’re going to. Don’t eat these! Here is my reasoning: I hate them!