Pack This Portable, Filling Breakfast for Your Next Flight

published Sep 5, 2019
Travel-Style Protein Oats
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Credit: Kelsey Ogletree

I travel a lot for my job — and I love to take the earliest flights available. (My philosophy is, the earlier you are, the less likely you’ll be delayed.) That means, however, that I’m often eating my first meal of the day on the go — as well as any days I’m actually traveling.

As tempting as that cranberry-orange scone tucked inside every Starbucks pastry case looks, I know eating one won’t give me enough energy to hit the ground running, or keep me satisfied until lunch. In fact it’s surprisingly difficult to find something that is fast, portable, and filling when I’m away from home. That’s why I’ve started to bring my own breakfast with me. Here’s my recipe for the easiest, cheapest, healthiest breakfast to pack for a flight. I’ve been using it for at least five years now, and it’s never let me down.

The beauty is, this recipe has only three ingredients: rolled oats, protein powder, and cinnamon. To make it, you just add hot water (available at the airport and most hotel rooms). If I know I’ll be gone five days, I measure out the ingredients into five individual sandwich bags, set one aside in my carry-on, and pack the rest in my suitcase. And what’s better, they’re almost infinitely upgradable: Stir in a little fresh fruit or squeeze an individual nut butter pack on, and it’s even better.

Just the protein oatmeal mix, or “proats,” has between 25 to 30 grams of satiating protein (rolled oats have about 5 grams per 1/2 cup, and the rest depends on what kind of protein you use, but most powders have 20 to 25 grams per scoop). That’s more than enough to keep you full.

Ready to give up your fast-food breakfast for something better in every way? Here’s how to make it.

Travel-Style Protein Oats

Prep time 5 minutes

Serves 1

Nutritional Info


  • 1 scoop

    vanilla protein powder

  • 1/2 cup

    whole rolled oats

  • Cinnamon to taste


  • 1

    resealable sandwich bag


  1. Place one scoop protein powder, 1/3 cup oats and a few shakes of cinnamon into a bag. Repeat process for each bag. If you're making multiple bags, put them all together in a quart-size zip-top bag to keep them together. These can travel safely in your carry-on or checked suitcase. 

  2. Get through TSA security and head for a coffee shop.

  3. Ask for a double cup of hot water and a spoon. They'll usually give it to you at no charge, although it doesn’t hurt to order a coffee, too.

  4. Carefully separate the cups and pour your protein oats mixture into the empty one. Then, pour a little hot water over the top of the oats and stir. Add only a few tablespoons at a time; you don't want it to get runny. The texture should be thick, but not dry, resembling oatmeal cookie dough.

  5. When you reach the desired texture and the oats are no longer dry, replace the lid on the cup and let it sit for a few minutes. 

  6. For extra staying power and a serving of healthy fats, add a scoop of nut butter on top. Starbucks sells Justin's nut butters in individual squeeze packs, or you can buy your own from brands like RX (the vanilla almond butter is especially perfect here) or Julie’s Real.

What to Know If You Make Protein Oats

  1. Experiment with protein powders: Not all of them blend well, and some turn your oatmeal into watery mush. Whey protein tends to work best. Quest’s Vanilla Milkshake protein powder is my go-to. You can also experiment with other flavors, such as chocolate or strawberry.
  2. Use only whole rolled oats: Instant oats will become slimy. You need the full oat to absorb the water and mix well with the protein. Use certified gluten-free oats (and protein powder) for a gluten-free breakfast.
  3. Be sure to ask for a double cup: Baristas may look at you funny at first when you ask for a double-cup of hot water, but you’ll need the extra cup for mixing the oats. (Plus, that water is hot — the extra cup helps.)
  4. Use quality sandwich bags: Splurge on a name-brand bag (or, better yet, buy a reusable bag!) to ensure a quality seal — or double up. The last thing you want is a white powdery substance covering everything inside your carry-on while you go through security. 
  5. Pack your own spoon: You can ask for one at a coffee shop or on your flight, but it’s a big pain if they’re out or don’t have any available. Keep it easy by packing your own spoon. You can even put it right inside the bag with your mix to keep things sanitary.
  6. Don’t skip the toppings: Nut butters squeezed over hot vanilla oatmeal basically make your breakfast taste like a cookie in a cup. If you have a nut allergy, try sunflower butter. You can also pack fruit, such as raspberries or blueberries, in a separate bag to top your oats.
  7. Ward off stares: Yes, people will probably gaze your way with puzzled looks on their faces as you’re trying not to make a mess mixing up your breakfast at the gate. When this happens, just smile and act natural — and share the recipe, if they ask. (They should really be thanking you for not bringing on a steaming bag of egg sandwiches on board.)