If you’re anything like me, the last thing you care about once boarding the plane is the nutritional value of the airplane food.
For me, it’s about getting that first cocktail of the holiday and thinking about all the exciting places I’m about to travel to… But there is no better way to start a trip by not consuming hundreds of unnecessary calories in order to look great in a bikini once you get there.
If you’ve ever wondered why plane food always tastes bad, it’s because you’re not experiencing the full flavour of the meal. Firstly, the pressurisation of the cabin dries out the nose which affects your taste buds. The altitude and changes in pressure also weaken your taste buds by up to two thirds which explains why airlines tend to salt and spice food heavily.
To have a hot meal in the skies is a blessing, it seems. Food safety standards require all meals to be cooked on the ground first. They are then blast chilled and refrigerated. As, for obvious reasons, open-flame grills and ovens aren’t allows on commercial aircraft, convection ovens are instead used to blow hot, dry air over the food.
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University says, “Airlines have a problem with food on board. The packaging, freezing, drying and storage are hard on flavor at any altitude, let alone 30,000 feet.”
Even after all this freezing/un-freezing action, the nutritional quality can still be lacking, but some airlines are doing it better than others. A recent survey by the Diet Detective found Virgin ties with Air Canada for the healthiest airline food. Averaging 360.75 calories per meal/snack box, Virgin also offers a “travel light” menu that allows travellers to pick a lighter meal option. Although their snacks aren’t that healthy, their meals include an arugula and roasted pear salad, and a chicken protein platter that has hummus, whole wheat pita, sliced grilled chicken breast, cage free hard boiled egg, carrots, celery, cucumber, grape tomatoes, smoked Gouda, cheddar and Muenster cheese, accompanied by green grapes – yum. Air Canada meals have an average of 330.95 calories, but they come in second because of their limited options and high calorie snacks. For most airlines you’re looking at around 400 calories per meal, and a somewhat tasteless meal at that.
Even if you eat before you leave home, with transit time, you’re looking at an additional few hours of travel time and if you’re hungry, you’re going to want to chow down on anything regardless of nutritional content. So here are The Newsroom’s tips for staying healthy while traveling.
Stock up on water
Obviously you can’t bring a water bottle through security but once you’re in the airport, grab a litre bottle and make sure you drink it on the flight. Dehydration will affect your hunger and jet lag is one of the main reasons you won’t feel 100 per cent while flying, so drink up!
Limit your alcohol intake
Alcohol affects the body more at a higher altitude and while perhaps one glass with your meal is okay, any more and you’ll arrive at your destination either very tipsy or with a hangover from hell.
Bring your own snacks
Things like dried fruit, soy chips and fruit – think low calorie, high fibre snacks. Nuts are also a great source of protein as a snack.
Being overtired only increases your hunger, so try to rest as much as you can while traveling.
Try and squeeze in a jog or walk once you reach your destination – to kick start your metabolism again! – Benedicte Earl
Top photo from Ian Fuller’s Flickr photostream