As a self-professed foodie, the one thing I hate about travelling is plane food. Sure, I know it’s not popular with most people, but I honestly hate it so much I sometimes would rather starve! Since I travel a lot for work and live in Australia (ie far away from everything), this means I spend quite a few hours in the air. And over the years I’ve discovered little tips and ideas on how to make the gastronomic delight of flying just a little more pleasant to avoid any belly aches or hangriness.
Firstly, some fun facts about airplane food – they load it with salt as your taste buds are depleted at such a high altitude. This is why you often end up bloated and extremely thirsty. As there is no space on a plane to cook, all airplane food is cooked, chilled and then reheated before serving. This is why the texture and flavours often seem a little “off”. Certain foods reheat better than others, so if given a choice go for something saucy like a curry or pasta over a piece of meat. If all the main meal options seem a little questionable, loads up on the sides (salad, fruit, crackers etc) and don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant if there are any leftover snacks once they’ve finished service.
Hydration is key
Dehydration is killer on the plane, and often the source of most of your inflight discomfort – it contributes not only to dry skin and eyes, but can also give you a nasty headache and bloating too. I start hydrating before I even get on the plane, trying to drink a cup or 2 of water before boarding and then I maintain that every half hour. I’ve had problems getting water bottles onto planes before (mainly at Hong Kong airport which is frustrating as I bought them after security!) but you are allowed to bring an empty water bottle onto the plane and you can ask the flight attendant to refill it for you.
And yes, I know alcohol is free and yes I know you get drunker quicker when at a high altitude. But if you want to feel refreshed when you land, then please try and avoid alcohol! It’s also recommended you limit your coffee and caffeinated tea intake as they are diuretics and can dehydrate you.
I am an obsessive peppermint tea drinker, and will always stash a few bags with me in my carry on luggage so I only need to ask for cups of hot water on the flight. This also contributes to my fluid intake and I find peppermint helps settle any stomach wobbles or bloating if the airplane food isn’t agreeing with me.
Opt for the special meal
I dislike eating meat on planes – the texture really throws me off and I have this unfounded paranoia that it will give me food poisoning (unlikely, I know). So after spending many years leaving half my meal uneaten, I have recently started ordering the vegetarian meal and find I can eat (and enjoy) a lot more of it.
A friend of mine with a delicate tummy always swears by ordering the “bland meal” if it’s available on your flight. It doesn’t sounds particularly appetising but it is free from spices, garlic and onions and is also low in salt and fat. So it’s perfect if you have IBS or are on a restricted diet. Plus another advantage of ordering a special meal is that you get served first!
Pack smart snacks
Whilst it’s tempting to buy all the naughty treats before you board, put down the Mars Bars and Twisties and try and purchase or pre-pack a few healthier options. My favourites include nuts, fruit and homemade protein balls or muesli bars which I bring in ziplock bags. I also sometimes bring along some cheese, bread and cured meats to make myself a more substantial meal. And don’t worry, I am no angel – I always bring a treat or two along as well!
I highly suggest you don’t bring onboard a banana or you’ll get a lot of stern looks from fellow passengers. Those things really can smell, especially in a confined space.
And after spending the majority of this post complaining about plane food, I have to give a shout out to Jetstar’s ham and cheese toastie sandwich – it’s delicious!
What’s your approach to eating whilst in the air? Do you like plane food?