May. 8. 2015
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

What better timing to talk about healthy travels than now when I’m personally traveling next week to San Francisco for my 2-week photo shoot for the cookbook… EEEEEK!!!! Nonetheless, it’s not all about me here, so many of you have been requesting how to travel healthfully this time of year since so many of you are taking spring and summer vacations, flights, and road trips. Here’s the ultimate guide for traveling healthy via plane including my favorite things to bring, food to take, important steps to take, what to pack in your carry on, and more products that keep me completely sane in the stress of traveling. I hope it helps you, globetrotters!


1. Hydration. Not only do I think it’s imperative to keep your body hydrated, but also our skin! No one wants to come off a plane looking like they’ve been without water for days with low energy, digestive issues, cracked skin, and dry lips. Keep a water bottle filled at all times, my favorite one to travel with and use daily is the sleek S’well bottle because they’re functional as they are sexy (if water bottles can be) or use any that have a filtration system already in them.

2. Prep your skin. Exfoliate with a good body scrub, try my DIY coconut body scrub, the day before and heavily moisturize every night before your travels. My favorite simple way to do this is with oil, coconut oil, or other body oils in my pick list here. Moisturizing your body with oil is the best thing you can do!

3. Meditate. Speaking of hydration earlier, skip the alcohol! I know it can be tempting especially if flying makes you nervous, to have a drink or two to calm yourself and rest. In actuality, skip out on the dehydrating alcohol and opt for a hot chamomile tea, tunes, and a 5-minute meditation. I know this is going to sound really silly, but I’m not a huge fan of flying especially the take off so, I close my eyes and do a couple rounds of deep breathing and meditation sending out good vibes until I’m up in the air. After that, it’s smooth sailing…or should I say, flying?

4. Move around. As much as possible move around, walk to the bathroom or just stand up for 5 minutes and get your circulation moving. Calf raises can help push blood flow up and down the body and just stretch it out.

5. International flying and jet lag: I always keep my watch on home time zone, but my phone will naturally shift to the new time zone. During the flight is the only time where I change my watch to the time zone where I’m flying, this helps me mentally prepare and start to shift into the new schedule, then once I’ve landed I put my watch back in Nashville time!

6. Go all natural! As much as wearing make-up and doing hair can be fun, to be honest, I’m quite lazy when it comes to getting done up all glamourous. I’d much rather wear no make up or use 5 items or less and wear my hair completely natural wavy or in a braid. Super simple and no fuss. You’ll look beautiful regardless and won’t have to worry about carrying make-up or doing touch ups!


Let’s face it, airplane and airport food is subpar at best, therefore I highly recommend bringing your own food with you as much as possible. Granted, I know that some international flights are much longer, but I promise you the more you can pack ahead of time with your own healthy snacks the more your body will absolutely LOVE you for it later.

Try these recipes: Maple Banana Nut Granola | Energy Trail Mix | Spirulina Energy Globes | fresh fruit | vegetable sticks | Aloha Daily Greens packets (can be mixed with water)  | Bare Blends Bare Berries (can be mixed with water) | Plant-based protein powder (can be mixed with water) | Massaged Kale Salad for your lunch with hemp seeds, beans, nutritional yeast, etc. | Chewy Superfood Hemp Protein Bars | Sunny Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins | Carrot Cake Tahini Pancakes– sans the tahini drizzle for obvious messy reasons | Chia Fresca or just bring some chia seeds with you to add with water, keeps you hydrated so well!

Mindful tip: Don’t play into boredom eating. Flying can be long, exhausting, and down right boring, but eating your way to instant gratification or to “do” something with your time is futile and can actually make you feel worse once you’ve landed. Traveling already takes a toll on many of our digestive systems, with the change in hydration, bathroom breaks, sleep schedulings, etc.; most get thrown off and mindlessly eating will only make it worse. Treat your body with respect and use this as a time for rest and relaxation versus getting caught up in the stresses of traveling.


This is the make or break it moment here.Regardless of the bag you have, try to pack your carry-on with as much as you possibly can, sometimes you may even get away with just having that as your entire travel bag versus checking bags with extra “fluff” and stuff you might not use! Until I recently discovered this bag from a small company called Minaal, I literally was the worst carry-on packer…ever. I’d pack useless things and not utilize the space as effectively as I could and always would be fumbling around to find something. I’m genuinely obsessed with this bag and won’t travel anywhere without it now. Super sleek looking as much as it is functional.


The tote/bag/purse you bring with you should hold the things that you’re going to be reaching for most frequently instead of getting our your carry-on the entire time.

Items to pack in a tote: magazines, books, sketch pad or journal, games/word puzzles, iPad with movies and headphones to watch or listen to music with, a head pillow, cozy large sweater that can double as a blanket, socks, and your food/snacks! Trust me on the socks thing, you have no idea how cozy instantly taking off you shoes and putting on shoes can make you feel…I’m all about comfort when traveling



Granted, as much as I want to look amazing flying and have that total “I woke up like this” effortless put-together vibe going on, it’s much more important for me to be comfortable. Here’s my favorite way to get the best of both worlds!

  • Slip on loafer: you have to take on and off your shoes for security, why not make your life easier and they’re comfortable. My favorites Madewell | Everlane | Nisolo
  • Poncho, blazer, leather jacket, or oversized sweater: If blazers aren’t your thang, opt for a cozy oversize sweater than can double as a blanket. My favorites: Everlane | Madewell | Zara
  • Leggings: If I could live in leggings I might. Black leggings are totally comfortable yet chic when paired with cute shoes and top layers. It also allows me flexibility when I meditate on the plane in lotus pose…I’m kidding. My favorites: Lululemon
  • Shirt or tank: I personally opt for a loose fitting tee or a tank where I can layer sweaters and jackets on for warmth. My favorites: Everlane | Gap


  • Aesop Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Wash: I don’t think an explanation is needed to how dirty our hands can get while traveling, this is heaven! Although expensive, it’s worth it!
  • Naturally Calm powdered mix: perfect for those of you who ever have issues sleeping, dealing with stress on the body, or constipation while traveling. Take a serving of this during the day, but especially before bedtime. Trust me, you’ll sleep like a rock and your digestion will be in motion like normal.
  • Vitamin C + zinc. Traveling can be very hard on our immune systems with all the stress, being close quarters with others, and encountering germs. Keep your immune system strong and healthy while traveling. My favorites: Whole food powders like Organic Bursts Baobab | zinc lozenges
  • Tea: Peppermint tea, ginger tea, detox tea, and chamomile tea. All great for soothing digestion, combating nausea, or calming respectively. Nonetheless, this are all great options instead of soda offered, simply ask for hot water!
  • Essential oils: my favorites are calming lavender, invigorating grapefruit, soothing peppermint especially for tension headaches or migraines, and oil of oregano to combat possible stomach bugs.
  • Books/reading materials
  • Eye mask
  • Head and neck pillow
  • Bagu: Just in case you need a random bag for trash, extra things, it easily folds up in a really small pouch


Other resources I have a hunch you’ll love:

In other news…

The other day, I was part of a fun Cinco de Mayo segment at the local news station here in Nashville! It was my first television experience and it was a lot of fun and a great experience. Check it out HERE. Thanks for having me, WSMV team!

xx McKel