Flying With Food

PREPARATION

I wrote this post while on a Delta flight to Atlanta. Final destination: Costa Rica for a 6-day vacay with my good friend, and fellow figure competitor, Barb.

It’s November, off-season. My MOST IMPORTANT off-season, I’m prepping for Nationals next August, and my chance at that much coveted IFBB pro card. What THAT means is: this off-season is all about hard work and focus.

Okay, what I’m trying to get at is – there’s no time to slack, even on holiday.

But that’s not the only reason I brought my own food. Not only is airport/airplane food usually carb loaded junk – yes, even their “healthy options” – it’s also expensive.

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So, I checked and double-checked airline allowance, prepped my meals, and crossed my fingers through customs. Here’s what went down…

FOOD

The night before my flight, I prepared:

  • a ziplock bag full of celery,
  • a ziplock bag with 3 large pineapple rings, sprinkled with cinnamon,
  • a tiny snap-lid container containing 4 tablespoons of PB2 (Link) to dip my celery in. You aren’t allowed to bring jellies, jams, butters, etc. But you are allowed to bring powdered peanut butter to mix with water while in-flight 😉
  • 2 cups of large rolled oats (dry) to mix with hot water while in-flight,
  • almonds,
  • 6oz pre-cooked flank steak, mixed with 2 cups chopped steamed asparagus, in one snap-lid container, and
  • 6oz pre-cooked chicken breast, mixed with 2 cups chopped steams green beans, in one snap-lid container
I packed it all in a small Lululemon bag ('Cause we all know I ❤️ Lulu).

I packed it all in a small Lululemon bag (‘Cause we all know I ❤️ Lulu).

The above food was to get me through to Costa Rica. Once there, Barb and I rented a small villa, which allowed us to shop locally and cook our own meals.

CUSTOMS

As I went through check-in I noticed, on the Customs Declaration Card, that I had to declare vegetables, fruit, meats, etc.

I had a small panic. I thought I would have to dump my food. I asked the lady at the check-in desk and she said it wasn’t allowed. I mentioned Barb (who flew out two days before me) got through with her meals. The lady said she likely didn’t declare them, then hinted that if they were in my bag and they (Customs Officers) didn’t notice, well… I took the hint, ticked the “No” boxes, for “Nothing to Declare”.

A little uneasy in my new role as “International food smuggler” I moved on to Customs.

While waiting in the massive line, I had another small panic. Other travellers were giving away their apples, oranges and bananas. At first I thought they were trying to make some quick cash, then realized they didn’t want to waste their food and were giving to those in need.

Trying to get rid of the evidence (and clearly not as generous), I quickly wolfed down my pineapple and shoved the oats, almonds and PB2 to the bottom of my shoulder bag. The guilt starting to grow inside me. I had the bag of celery in my hand, and was left with the two containers full of meat. I decided to throw the celery away before going through the gate that led to the customs area. Despite still carrying meats and vegetables, my declaration card still had the “No” boxes ticked.

Now, I’ve been known to watch the TV show, Border Patrol; flashes of travellers getting shamed for not declaring foods permeated my brain and tugged at my guilt senses. I decided I would attempt to appeal to the Customs agent’s human side, declare my food, and inform them the reasons why. I scratched out “No”, and ticked the “Yes” boxes. It made me look even more guilty. Regardless, I went forth through the queue of people and held my head high.

I explained rather quickly, as one would who is clearly guilty of the most heinous of all crimes, food smuggling, that I was carrying a container of cooked chicken and green beans, and another with cooked flank steak and asparagus. I felt as if I had just confessed to having C8 strapped to my body. The Customs Officer eyed me strangely and asked why on earth I had so much food. I explained that I was travelling through to Costa Rica, I was a figure competitor on a very strict diet, and added: I’m sorry. I didn’t know what for, but I felt it needed to be said. I think I also started to explain that the vegetables likely came from the States to begin with… She just laughed at me and said that the food was fine to bring in.

Really? After all that worry? Someone really should explain that to the check-in desk employees.

I mourned the loss of my celery.

FLIGHT TO ATLANTA

The first leg of my journey was a two hour flight from Toronto to Atlanta. I grabbed a plastic fork from the Starbuck’s by the gate. Once on the plane, I ordered a glass of water and had my first meal: 3oz flank steak, 1 cup asparagus. I wanted to keep my meals lighter than what I would normally eat. The rest of the steak I would eat later.

Flank steak & Asparagus

Flank steak & Asparagus

I also treated myself to their delicious coffee biscuits! If you followed me through Bonaire, you would recall I have a penchant for biscuits while on holiday.

Mmmm... Delta biscuits. They really ARE delicious!

Mmmm… Delta biscuits. They really ARE delicious!

My second meal would have been celery dipped in PB2. However, we already know what happened to my celery. Instead, I had also packed several protein powder samplers.

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I added a tablespoon of the PB2 with some chocolate protein, bought a bottle of water at the Atlanta airport, threw on the lid, shook to my heart’s delight, and made a small mess in the process.

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FLIGHT TO COSTA RICA

The next leg of my trip was a three and a half hour flight from Atlanta to Liberia, Costa Rica.

It was about the time I took my seat that the water and my morning coffee started working it’s magic. I think the Captain forgot to switch off the seatbelt sign, because an hour into the flight, I didn’t care that it was still on – and, to be honest, at that point I couldn’t care less that the flight attendant was shooting daggers at me as I walked up the aisle – there was a tsunami developing in my bladder. Besides I’m an international food smuggler, don’t cha know!?

Bladder taken care of, it was about time for meal #3. I dug in my bag for the chicken and green beans. I ate 3oz of chicken and about a cup of green beans.

I slept a little, read a little, listened to some classic Cypress Hill and crushed some candy (I’m currently addicted to Candy Crush Saga, ARGH!?!!?) Eventually, it was time for meal #4. Again, this likely would have been more celery and 10 almonds. Instead, I finished off the rest of my flank steak and asparagus and ate 10 almonds.

Chicken and candy crush - great combo!

Chicken and candy crush – great combo!

A WEEK OF CLEAN EATING

I finally made it to Costa Rica. And, after an hour long drive from Liberia Airport to Tamarindo, I was finally united with my best friend!

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While we allowed ourselves a few alcoholic drinks, we cooked for ourselves and ate a LOAD of fresh fish, vegetables and fruit.

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Fresh caught ahi tuna steak bought at a local farmer’s market

Barb enjoying a fresh salmon salad with fresh organic salsa

Barb enjoying a fresh salmon salad with fresh organic salsa

A GOOD CAUSE

If I’ve kept your attention this far, please keep reading…

At the same time I was flying out of Toronto, so was my good friend James Ligas. He was with a team from Global Medic, heading out to typhoon ravaged areas of the Philippines. Their purpose is to provide clean drinking water and aid to victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

I also volunteer with Global Medic. They are a non-profit organization that gives 100% of donations to disaster relief around the world.

If you can/want to help out, donations can be made here.

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