Consider yourself the seasoned flyer? Well you should probably get acquainted with the most common airline foods which are unassumingly bad for your health.
It’s a trap we’ve all experienced with so much time, so many enticing options and so little to do at 10,000 feet. Falling into the delectable trappings of airline food is easy as staring deeply into a custard-filled blueberry muffin.
“I’ve met a lot of people that won’t eat airline food full stop and instead will take their own little packed lunches or dinners.” – Tobie Puttock
But we digress. If you were following a strict diet when you were on land, stuffing your face with whatever the flight attendant drops in front of you is one of the worst ideas.
I went with the hot dog omelet for this mornings inflight breakfast. Air Kenya does not fuck around pic.twitter.com/UFjZFV2m
— Casey Neistat (@CaseyNeistat) February 5, 2012
Here are five of the most common perpetrators of the worst airline foods for your health.
Pasta, Bread Rolls & Carbs
What you fear on land is worse in the air. On long haul flights your lack of physical movement means that your digestive system isn’t processing food through the intestinal tract as quickly as it should.
When you fuel your body with energy-rich carbs such as pasta, bread rolls, noodles or rice, you’re inviting your body to be bloated for the next ten hours or more. This engages a flow on effect where you end up leaving the long-haul flight feeling tired and sluggish on top of jet lag.
Salted Pretzels & Nuts
They say great things come in small packages, but not this bad boy. Those little salted packets of pretzels and nuts often handed out as a light snack are anything but.
They are high in sodium (salt) and when ingested, it absorbs the body’s fluids and stays there to leave you feeling bloated, dehydrated and thirsty. They’re also made from carbs which offers minimal nutritional value. Pair that with the dry air of an airplane cabin and it’s the perfect formula for a sleepless flight.
Fruity Snack Bars
Oh look, a heathy fruity snack bar…wrong. Whilst nuts and seeds are good on their own, the snack bars often offered by airlines come with a glazed coating of sugar and more of it to hold the seeds and nuts together.
It’s essentially a chocolate bar hidden in seeds which offers little nutritional value. These can also affect your blood sugar levels causing you to have mood swings – not ideal on a 20+ hour flight unless you want to go viral on social media.
Coffee might be the first order of the day on land but in a plane it’ll simply make you want to go to the toilet more. It also dehydrates the body and accelerates it with the help of a dry cabin.
Drink it at the wrong time and it could also mess up your sleeping patterns and throw off your body clock entirely. Tread carefully with caffeine as extra milk could also upset your stomach to cause flatulence and multiple bathroom visits.
Who doesn’t love a glass of bubbly upon seating? The only issue here is weighing up how you want to feel on the flight compared to your five minutes of bliss.
Alcohol has a bigger effect on the human body at altitude alongside dehydration. You’ve already got to battle jet lag, dry air and indigestion, so don’t make it harder for your body to cope during those long flights.
The solution to airline food behaving badly is essentially prevention. Replace carbs like pasta, bread and rice with protein like fish, chicken and beef.
Instead of a fruit bar, have actual fresh fruit (if offered) or go for vegetable sticks which are packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre.
“These days as I am super busy and have a family, I don’t say no to much and instead sink into the seat and enjoy a movie and a beer, pretzels or whatever comes.” – Tobie Puttock
Australian celebrity chef Tobie Puttock who is known as Jamie Oliver’s right hand man says that at one point in his career, he wouldn’t touch airline food at all and instead took his own lunch or dinners.
“These people are generally the ultra flyers,” admits Puttock. He’s also realistic about the situation though.
“I think I went through that stage actually. These days as I am super busy and have a family, I don’t say no to much and instead sink into the seat and enjoy a movie and a beer, pretzels or whatever comes.”
“The guidelines on airline food preparation is the strictest so I wouldn’t worry too much about becoming ill from certain foods.”
“The main thing for me is be sensible. If you have endless meetings when you land then lay off the booze and coffee and get some sleep.”
Puttock could be speaking from his own experience though.
You might never eat airline food again after seeing this pic.twitter.com/EC6RSLbvPy
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 24, 2018
I have always suspected the poor and unhealthy options you get on planes… Stop eating airline food
— SuperHands (@SuperHand) April 24, 2018
Recently in the States, the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) investigated Gate Gourmet Inc., the world’s largest airline catering company over a string of health issues at one of the company’s main production kitchens in Kentucky. The findings led to the FDA downgrading the catering company’s status from approved to provisional.
These are violations that the FDA discovered:
- The firm failed to exclude pests from their food plant to protect against contamination of food
- Evidence of apparent cockroach activity and lack of effective measures to exclude cockroaches and other pests from the manufacturing and processing areas was observed during the inspection on November 29, 2017 and consisted of the following:
- One apparent live cockroach was observed on the interior side of the oven door located in the hot production kitchen and one apparent live cockroach was observed on the floor beneath the mechanical flight-type dishwashing machine (Machine #1) in the dishwashing room.
- Dead apparent nymph and adult cockroaches too numerous to count were observed inside the storage compartment to the four-burner gas range in the hot preparation kitchen. Additionally, multiple dead apparent nymph and adult cockroaches were on floors near drains and behind cooking equipment in the hot preparation kitchen and on glue traps in the employee cafeteria.
- Unsealed water pipe penetrations with heavy apparent cockroach fecal markings were observed in the wall underneath the 3-compartment pot wash sink in the hot preparation kitchen.
- Non-operational cooking equipment, which could serve as harborage sites for pests, were located along the cookline in the hot preparation kitchen. These pieces of equipment had apparent old food and grease deposits throughout.
It was only back in November 2017 that Gate Gourmet had also discovered a bacteria known as Listeria in its kitchen at LAX airport alongside several of its partnered airlines including Virgin Australia and Delta.
Given the broader details, there’s only really one real conclusion: Choose your airline grub wisely.